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Lincoln Park Zoo

Director of Horticulture

Lincoln Park Zoo inspires communities to create environments where wildlife will thrive in our urbanizing world. The zoo is a leader in local and global conservation, animal care and welfare, learning, and science. A historic Chicago landmark founded in 1868, the not-for-profit Lincoln Park Zoo, is a privately-managed, member-supported organization and is free and open 365 days a year.




The Department of Animal Care and Horticulture is an integrated team that cares for the animals and plants that live at the Lincoln Park Zoo.


The Director of Horticulture is a front-line position requiring a strong combination of horticultural expertise and administrative skills. This position requires, at times, that the director work side-by-side in the garden with other horticulture staff and volunteers. The director is responsible for coordinating the maintenance, planning, and continued development of the zoo’s display gardens, arboretum, and Nature Boardwalk landscape.  The director provides horticultural expertise to enhance animal habitats, collaborates with learning and community engagement programs, and supports staff scientists on relevant conservation and research initiatives. The director ensures that zoo grounds are maintained in accordance with AZA and Arbnet accreditation standards, relevant regulations, and fiscal considerations, and ensures horticultural goals align with the zoo’s strategic plan.




  • Direct the maintenance, planning, and continued development of Nature Boardwalk, arboretum and gardens, interiorscapes of zoo buildings and animal habitats.
  • Set long and short-term priorities for team and individual work.
  • Mentor horticulture staff to set individual goals and encourage continued growth of horticultural skills and expertise.
  • Lead horticulture committee meetings consisting of zoo board and community members.
  • Ensure the implementation of the Lincoln Park Zoo Landscape Standards on facilities and capital landscape projects.
  • Ensure that plant acquisitions align with the organizational mission, educational priorities and aesthetic goals outlined in the Lincoln Park Zoo Garden and Plant Accessions Policy.
  • Maintain arboretum accreditation and continue to develop specialized plant focal areas (North American native hydrangea, ninebark, and herbaceous hardy hibiscus).
  • Work closely with the Director of Veterinary Services, Nutrition Manager, and animal area Curators to continue enhancing the browse program and ensure plant-animal safety on zoo grounds.
  • Oversee the maintenance of the plant records system, mapping of plant locations, and labeling of plant materials on zoo grounds.
  • Prepare and implement the annual budget for the horticulture program.
  • Oversee the design of seasonal displays including winter holiday greens, bulbs, early spring and summer annuals.
  • Bid out and secure contracts for horticulture services as necessary, Serve as the main organizational contact for horticulture contractors.
  • Act as liaison with other zoo departments to efficiently direct horticulture efforts to supporting programmatic and operational needs.
  • Develop individual and group volunteer opportunities in collaboration with the Director of Volunteer Services.
  • Create a positive work environment where horticulture staff, interns and volunteers feel supported and valued.
  • Assist Development Department in preparing funding proposals for horticulture projects.
  • Represent zoo in meetings and interaction with current and potential donors, partners and other stakeholders.
  • Act as liaison with outside garden groups.
  • Lead tours of the zoo’s gardens on an as-requested basis.




  • Coordinate interdepartmental projects with other teams such as facilities, animal care, and urban wildlife.
  • Prepare plant list and sometimes illustrations of future garden opportunities
  • Other duties as assigned
  • Perform horticultural maintenance tasks such as planting, pruning, weeding mulching, edging and watering.




  • Advanced knowledge of plant taxa and cultural needs.
  • Advanced knowledge of appropriate gardening techniques and practices.
  • Thorough knowledge of and ability to communicate and be understood in verbal and written business English.
  • Facility in public speaking and moderating groups of people.
  • Ability to facilitate program delivery to diverse audiences.
  • Ability to effect and enforce safe work practices
  • Ability to respond calmly and productively in emergency situations be they human or animal
  • Ability to understand and carry out oral and written directions 
  • Ability to organize tasks and time to ensure timely completion of all projects
  • Ability to interact courteously and respectfully with supervisors, fellow employees, volunteers, zoo visitors and general public
  • Ability to operate electric cart




Minimum of BS/BA from an accredited institution required (advanced degree preferred) with a focus on horticulture, plant science, landscape architecture, natural resources management, forestry or another related field.




Must have a minimum of 4 years’ experience working a public garden or parks setting. Must have supervisory skills and experience in team leadership.





Ability to lift on frequent basis up to 75 lbs. Ability to remain on feet for long periods of time. Ability to frequently bend, stoop, reach and climb. Ability to safely and effectively utilize the program tools and equipment. Ability to move about on sometimes slippery, muddy surfaces.

Ability to work in all weather conditions. Ability to work on uneven terrain. No allergy to plants or animals which may interfere with the ability to work.




Must be able to adapt to and embrace change in a fast paced and dynamic work environment.

Must be able to respond and report to the zoo immediately in horticulture related emergencies.

Available to work special events that may occur outside of regular work schedule as assigned.

Must be willing and able to perform duties of other divisions as directed and be available for “stand-by” work on a predetermined basis or in response to an emergency.

Must have valid driver’s license with good driving record.     

Able to work flex schedule seasonally.       


Lincoln Park Zoo is committed to an environment that is inclusive and welcoming. We celebrate the diverse qualities, perspectives, values and experiences of all people. For Wildlife. For All.

How to Apply

Apply Here!

Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 N. Clark St Chicago
Chicago, IL 60614

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