Zookeeping Interpreter

Expected Dates
January 14, 2020 to November 10, 2020
Bear Mountain State Park, NYS OPRHP
Position ID

This position requires that you become enrolled in AmeriCorps.  If you are selected for this program please be sure to accept AmeriCorps during the SCA offer process.  No travel allowance will be offered for this position even if it is stated on your confirmation of acceptance.

SCA Hudson Valley AmeriCorps partners with State and non-profit agencies to address the conservation needs of the Hudson River Watershed region. Corps members are placed at individual host sites, where service activities range from providing environmental education to underserved youth, to restoring streambanks along the Hudson River, and beyond. Members join together regularly for trainings, service projects, or other events.

This position is located in Bear Mountain, NY which is located roughly 3 miles south of Highland Falls. 

Purpose of the Program: This position spans both our education and zookeeping programs. The Trailside Education Program seeks to bring visitors into meaningful contact with the plants, animals, geology, and history of the Hudson Highlands, specifically what can be found along the trails of Bear Mountain and Harriman State Parks. It is our goal to foster in all visitors a greater understanding, appreciation, and respect for the natural world. We achieve this goal through informal education for individuals and families; guided tours for schools and other groups; special events open to the public; a summer day program for children entering grades 1-8; and topical presentations in spring, summer and fall. The Trailside Zookeeping Program, which is integral to education and the visitor experience, provides husbandry for our local injured and non-releasable wildlife housed along Trailside’s nature trail, as well as live fish, reptiles, and amphibians (most non-releasable) in one of the museums. The zookeepers feed, maintain, and care for the live animal collection. Given that many of the animals have permanent injuries, this care includes careful observation and monitoring of animal health. It is a shared goal of the Zookeeping and Education Programs for the live animals at Trailside to serve as ambassadors for their kind in our effort to educate our visitors about the natural world and our role as responsible stewards.

Community Needs that the Program Serves: Bear Mountain State Park receives over a million visitors annually and, conservatively, one in ten of these visitors, or 100,000, explore Trailside’s nature trail, animal exhibits, and museums. As an affordable destination within an hour’s drive of the New York metro region, Trailside serves a diverse audience, including many patrons from underserved communities. The facility is designed for a self-directed experience. Visitors are guided by directional signage through a sequence of exhibits, displays, and museums. However, this experience is greatly enhanced through direct engagement of the public by trained staff. These personal interactions and the ensuing exchange of information, add tremendously to the Trailside experience. This type of interactive education resonates especially well when paired with staff conducting active animal care or demonstrations. Working with the zookeeping and education staff, the Zookeeping Interpreter is needed to expand our capacity for direct interactions with our diverse audience, to more fully realize our educational goals.

Values and Standards of the Program: SCA’s mission is to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of the environment and communities by engaging young people in hands-on service to the land. 

AmeriCorps Member Duties and Responsibilities: The live animal exhibits at Trailside provide a valuable tool for engaging the public about local wildlife and nature in State Parks. The importance of the animals to Trailside patrons was made clear in visitor surveys conducted in 2012, during which they cited the animals as the most memorable part of their visit. Many also expressed a longing to know more about the animals.
The Zookeeping Interpreter position is designed to address this need. Through our orientation and training, the Zookeeping Interpreter will learn important tools and skills for both zookeeping and environmental interpretation. The ZI will work with the Zookeepers, Educator, and other staff to enhance the interpretive experience for patrons of Trailside. The Zookeeping Interpreter will directly interact with the public through small impromptu “teaching moments” at the exhibits and more formal live animal presentations. The ZI will receive hands-on experience in animal care and husbandry combined with ongoing training in education and interpretation. The Zookeeping Interpreter will also assist Trailside staff and other interns with ongoing volunteer projects, including restoration of the Trailside grounds to a native plant community and general upkeep of the facilities.

How the AmeriCorps Member’s Role Aligns with the Organization: The AmeriCorps Member will be an integral member of the Trailside Education and Zookeeping Programs, allowing for expanded animal care, live animal education programs, reaching larger audiences and additional programming that would otherwise be impossible.

Performance Goals for the AmeriCorps Member:
            Goal 1: Provide interpretation for the thousands of students that visit in spring and fall.
            Goal 2: Become proficient in handling education animals for programs.
            Goal 3: Develop lesson plans for summer day program, public programs and special events.     

List any specific qualifications for AmeriCorps member (i.e. must be of a certain age):
  • Valid Driver’s License for three years prior to start date 
  • Ability to pass a background check

Skills: Comfort and enjoyment interacting with people of all ages, especially children. Must be comfortable working with animals. Prior experience at a zoo, animal hospital, or similar facility is desired, though not a pre-requisite. Must be detail oriented, self-motivated, dependable, and have excellent communication skills.      

Knowledge: General knowledge of local flora and fauna is desired.      

All Hudson Valley Corps members receive a taxable $200/week living allowance
Upon successful completion of the term, members receive a taxable Full-time Segal Education Award through AmeriCorps.
Student loan forbearance and interest repayments for federal student loan through AmeriCorps.
Eligible for free health insurance
Eligible for childcare assistance through AmeriCorps

Training Opportunities:
All Hudson Valley Corps members receive Wilderness First Aid, CPR, Hudson River Citizen Science curricula, Trail Skills, Project WILD curricula, and professional development. Optional trainings include Leave No Trace, American Canoe Association Quick Start Your Canoe, and other opportunities that arise.


  • No
Main Area of Focus
Visitor Services and Site Operations
Education, Training & Skills Expected
some coursework or experience
some coursework or experience
some coursework or experience
Working with Animals
some experience
Public Speaking
some experience
Working with Children
some experience