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Shedd Aquarium

Senior Director Animal Behavior and Training

Shedd Aquarium illustrates a commitment to optimal animal care and welfare, and impactful public engagement with animals, with an “animals first” approach where individuals and groups exhibit natural behaviors encouraged through innovative behavioral training and enrichment. A Senior Director of Animal Behavior and Training (SDABT) provides broad oversight of the Aquarium’s current and future needs in the context of animal behavior and training. Working in collaboration with the Senior Directors of Animal Operations and Habitats, and Animal Care and Sustainability, the VP of Animal Health, and the CAOO, the SDABT leads the Animal Care Team across all taxa in assessing, planning, and executing training to achieve health, welfare, enrichment, and sustainability goals.

The SDABT uses a focus on behavioral training to create optimal conditions for Shedd’s animals, and, to spark audiences’ compassion, curiosity, and conservation through impactful observations and encounters. This position contributes to collection planning, record keeping, breeding and animal transfers to maximize opportunities for optimal animal health, behavior, and habitat development.  Partnering with the Animals’ leadership team the SDABT examines and leads solutions using behavioral training for reproduction, public programming, and rescue and rehabilitation. With partners in habitat, health, and sustainability leadership the SDABT assesses training and welfare needs, holding requirements, essential life support including diets, and opportunities for research and development. 

The SDABT oversees leadership positions for the Oceanarium team which includes marine mammals, penguins, and ambassador animals engaged in public encounters.  In addition to collaboration with the Animal Care & Science leadership the SDABT works closely with Environmental Quality, Facilities, Guest Experiences, Development, HR, Learning and Community, Planning and Design, Events, and Finance to integrate and elevate animal behavior and training goals across One Shedd while supporting all areas of operations.

The SDABT ensures compliance with all accreditation and regulatory/permitting requirements for departmental operations including full support of the aquarium’s SCUBA diving program as directed by the Dive Program Manager. This position oversees management and communication of, and actively engages in sustainability goal development and recommendations, with partners within AZA’s relevant Taxon Advisory Groups and among partners in the aquarium community.

The SDABT serves in a leadership capacity on the aquarium’s Leadership Forum Team and works to facilitate inter-departmental planning and implementation of strategies to meet institutional objectives and initiatives. This position helps represent Shedd’s role in animal behavior and training within our aquarium and in the broader professional community.

Specifically, the SDABT oversees and organizes the collection of mammals and birds involved in public programming. This position, in addition, oversees the behavioral training of all taxa in all programs and exhibits. The SDABT, implements up-to-date husbandry practices, oversees department leadership team , publicly represents the organization and its programs, develops staff training programs, maintains affiliations with professional organizations, has knowledge of life support systems, and assures departmental compliance with laws to provide support to the Animal Behavior and Training Department at Shedd Aquarium.

The SDABT works to develop and empower their leaders along with their teams.  They are able to apply a philosophy of positive reinforcement for the animals and team under their supervision. 


Duties & Responsibiltiies:

  • Demonstrate commitment to Shedd’s vision, mission, and values. 
  • Lead training protocol for proactive medical care for all animals in Shedd’s care, with an initial priority focus on mammalian and avian species. 
  • Lead training protocol to elicit, encourage, and facilitate natural behaviors for all animals in Shedd’s care.
  • Lead and oversee animal welfare assessments reflecting proactive and reactive responses to medical conditions and concerns.
  • Oversee training protocol for research, rescue, and rehabilitation for all animals in Shedd’s care.
  • Oversee reproductive management of cetaceans including training for assisted reproductive technology and planning/executing recommended animal transports.
  • Support transfer and breeding programs around the organization’s needs and apply appropriate training protocol
  • Work with national and international breeding and conservation programs when appropriate. 
  • Oversee the implementation of up-to-date husbandry practices and maintain a strong use of positive operant conditioning principles in the day-to-day care and training of all animals.
  • Develop, implement, and direct strategies for the Oceanarium team to maintain and grow behaviors aligned with Shedd’s mission and vision.
  • Oversee the selection, training, development, management and growth of the Oceanarium team.
  • Provide leadership for their skilled group of professionals that inspires growth, trust and collaboration.
  • Develop, recommend, and advocate for salary actions, growth, modification of duties and care of the Oceanarium team.
  • Formulate policy and direction for the successful operation of the department, including its physical, animal, and human resources, in a manner to promote the health and well-being of the animals and people.
  • Plan and manage all activities of the department through administration of an approved budget and its control.
  • Publicly represent Shedd and its programs - particularly regarding marine mammal issues.  This includes overseeing the development and execution of presentations; serving as an aquarium spokesperson for high-profile issues in the media and elsewhere in conjunction with Shedd’s communication experts.
  • Develop and implement a staff training program to build better welfare and sustainability through excellent husbandry, operant conditioning, public speaking, advanced operant conditioning application, and communication. 
  • Support the goals and objectives of professional organizations (AZA, IMATA, IAAM, etc.) as they relate to the aquarium and support team participation in these organizations.
  • Evaluate and recommend participation in research and conservation initiatives aligned with Shedd’s mission and vision.
  • Maintain a familiarity and basic working knowledge of life support systems, water quality parameters, and veterinary protocols.
  • Assure departmental compliance with all International, Federal, and Local laws.  This includes maintaining permits, regular reporting, inspection compliance, inter-facility exchanges, and various interactions with government agencies, including (but not limited to) the USDA, NMFS, US Fish & Wildlife, D.F.O., etc.
  • Performs other duties as assigned.

Experience Required

Qualifications: Education & Experience: Minimum of a Bachelor’s degree (in marine sciences, biology, zoology or related) and several years of full-time experience OR 10+ years of equivalent experience in animal care at an accredited zoo or aquarium with a focus on aquatic animals, with five of the years spent in a management role. Preferred: SCUBA certification, minimum Open Water An advanced knowledge of caring for a wide taxa of aquatic species Knowledge of regulatory requirements for maintaining a living collection Knowledge of record keeping requirements for regulatory and industry organizations, including animal transfers Good communication, leadership, and personnel management skills are essential. We strongly encourage people of color, LGBTQ+ community, veterans and active duty military, parents, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from all cultural backgrounds to apply. Shedd Aquarium is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes everyone to our team. If you need a reasonable accommodation at any point in the application or interview process, please let us know. In your application, please feel free to select which pronouns you use (For example – she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs).

How to Apply

Shedd Aquarium
Chicago, IL 60605

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