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Niabi Zoological Park

Curator of Conservation and Education

DEPARTMENT:                        Niabi Zoo – Zoo Programs & Special Events

SUPERVISOR:                         Zoo Director, Assistant Zoo Director

FLSA:                                        Non-Exempt



This position contributes to the success of Niabi Zoo by developing and administering a progressive education program, coordinating education-oriented special events and activities, coordinating the volunteer and internship programs, overseeing staff training and education, providing exceptional guest experiences, and contributions to conservation and science. This position is responsible for participating in and overseeing tasks performed by the Education Center staff and volunteers, and ensuring quality of work performed. This position receives assignments from the Zoo Director and Assistant Zoo Director, who define objectives, priorities, and deadlines, and assist with unusual situations that do not have a clear precedent.


Zoo Education Assistants, Zoo Volunteers


Must be capable of regular and predictable attendance at a specified location in order to perform assigned tasks.

Performs administrative and management work in planning, organizing staff, and directing the operations of the Conservation & Education department.

  • Monitors department operations in order to identify and evaluate the effectiveness of departmental operations, programs, or problems that need to be addressed.
  • Solicits input from the Zoo Director, Assistant Director, department heads, staff, and other facilities regarding the implications, effects, and development of new policies, procedures, and programs.
  • Analyzes, approves, and directs the implementation of department policies, procedures, and programs consistent with the philosophical direction and mission of the institution.
  • Communicates all necessary information to appropriate staff using email, hand-held radios, etc.
  • Works closely with the Zoo Director and Assistant Zoo Director to implement a long-range staff training and education plan that is inclusive of both safety training and continuing education opportunities.
  • Responsible for the creation of monthly work schedules for all Conservation & Education Department positions.
  • Provides direction and goals for all Conservation & Education Department positions by defining job duties, requirements, and standards of performance and communicating those requirements to employees and Zoo Administration.
  • Evaluates departmental employee performance and counsels employees concerning strengths and weaknesses, recommending and overseeing disciplinary action to improve unsatisfactory performance as needed.

Directly supervises all education programming.

  • Develops curricula and messaging for all zoo education programming and signage, including regular updates with the most up-to-date sciences and facts.
  • Trains Zoo Educators on developed curricula, instruction methods, zoo information, and other relevant information.
  • Coordinates with Assistant Zoo Director and Animal Handler II positions to develop consistent education messaging for outreach education programs and “keeper chats”.
  • Initiates, develops, and supervises the creation and publishing of education materials, teacher’s guides, educational brochures, and curriculum materials.
  • Collects and correlates data relative to zoo education operations, specimen characteristics, animal artifacts, magazine articles, books, periodicals, photographs and slides, videotapes and other pertinent materials.
  • Schedules outreach education programming and coordinates with Zoo Educators to ensure clear communication and effective education presentations.

Coordinates and develops the Zoo’s conservation activities and programs.

  • Oversees the Zoo’s involvement and support of both in situ and ex situ conservation efforts.
  • Investigates new opportunities to further expand the Zoo’s role in conservation on local, regional, national, and global scale.
  • Manages the Quarters for Conservation program, ensuring the timely and prudent investment of the Zoo’s financial conservation contributions.
  • Develops and implements a program of environmentally responsible practices within daily zoo operations.
  • Coordinates and leads both the Zoo’s Conservation Committee and Green Team through regular meetings and effective communication.

Directly supervises zoo staff training and education.

  • Oversees the training of all full-time, part-time, and seasonal staff positions in all aspects of zoo policy, safety-related education, and ongoing staff development through continued education opportunities.
  • Develops and administers curricula on training topics.
  • Coordinates with other department heads to ensure thorough and accurate training of their respective staff members.
  • Develops and implements a training and education plan for all zoo employees.
  • Plans and schedules staff development opportunities, such as conferences and hands-on experience at other facilities, in coordination with respective department heads.
  • Ensures necessary training and drills are conducted regularly and as needed.
  • Maintains records of all training, education, and safety drills.

Manages all zoo volunteer activities

  • Recruits and retains a vibrant and diverse volunteer corp.
  • Trains and educates volunteers on relevant zoo curricula and safety policies as appropriate.
  • Schedules and coordinates all volunteer activity within the Zoo and its related functions.
  • Develops and manages an engaging volunteer recognition program.

Represents the zoo and promotes its interests externally, including but not limited to representation with the AZA, to local, national, and international conservation groups, the academic community, and the media.

  • Represents the zoo’s position and interests in animal conservation and other issues in a well-informed, positive, and responsive manner.
  • Keeps abreast of trends, information, and emerging issues related to areas of responsibility.
  • Represents the zoo to external visitors, Board members, donors, media, visiting colleagues, etc.
  • Establishes and maintains working relationships with a variety of agencies including Western Illinois University, Augustana College, St. Ambrose University, and local school districts.
  • Provides zoological expertise and programming for community groups such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4H, Kiwanis, and Quad City Conservation Alliance.


Education, Experience, & License Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree in biology, zoology, education, or related field from an accredited college or university.  Strong background in conservation initiatives or programming is preferred.
  • Minimum three (3) years’ experience involving the education and training of guests, staff, and volunteers in a zoological institution, aquarium, museum, or related facility.
  • Possession of an appropriate, valid driver’s license.


  • Knowledge of the principles, practices, and methods of education employed in modern municipal zoo operations.
  • Knowledge in the principles and practices involved in modern instructional techniques for a variety of age ranges and education levels.
  • Ability to learn and willingness to adhere to Rock Island County Forest Preserve District standards and codes, practices, policies and procedures.
  • Ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships with staff, Niabi Zoological Society board members, Rock Island County Forest Preserve District representatives, volunteers, dignitaries, and the public.
  • Ability to be an effective decision-maker and problem-solver.
  • Ability to plan, assign, and direct the training and education activities of a large group of diverse employees.
  • Ability to identify needs for staff development programs and to establish and implement effective employee relations.
  • Strong interpersonal and communications skills, including verbal, written, and listening skills.
  • Strong observation, analytical, and organizational skills and abilities.
  • Proficiency in MS Office applications (word processing and database management) essential.
  • Strong interest in/commitment to conservation, animals, and the natural world.
  • Must be flexible, cooperative, and able to adapt easily to shifting priorities.
  • Must be willing to irregular hours, nights, weekends, and holidays and willing to be on call to respond to emergency incidents as needed.

This description is intended to indicate the kinds of tasks and levels of work difficulty required of the position given this title and shall not be construed as declaring what the specific duties and responsibilities of any particular position shall be. It is not intended to limit or in any way modify the right of management to assign, direct, and control the work of employees under supervision. The listing of duties and responsibilities shall not be held to exclude other duties not mentioned that are of similar kind or level of difficulty.



How to Apply

Must complete Rock Island County Forest Preserve District Employment Application Please submit application, cover letter and resume to: Rock Island County Forest Preserve District Attn: Human Resources Office, President Kai Swanson 1504 3rd Avenue Rock Island, IL 61201 Or email to Or fax to (309) 558-3587

Niabi Zoological Park
Coal Valley, IL

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