North American river otter
Bring Back Bison

Let's bring bison back to our Zoo!

American Trail Keeper Internship

The National Zoo provides the opportunity for interns to gain experience in the zoo keeping field by participating in daily animal keeper activities, which include husbandry, nutrition, enrichment, training, and visitor education. American Trail is seeking applicants for the summer 2014 semester internship. This area houses a diverse pinniped collection, wolves, river otters, beavers, and birds.

American Trail keeper and sea lion


  • Assist animal keepers with feeding animals, cleaning animal and non-animal areas, diet preparation, behavioral observations, and other various tasks under supervision.
  • Provide formal and informal interpretive educational programs for visitors.
  • Help design and implement animal enrichment programs.
  • Learn and follow animal/keeper safety guidelines, operations, and polices.
  • Develop an educational or research project to complete during the internship.


  • Must be at least a junior in college.
  • Must have or currently be pursuing a bachelor’s degree in a related field.
  • Must have strong communication skills.
  • Must be able to work in a team environment with staff, other interns, and a variety of volunteers.
  • Must be willing to work outdoors in all weather conditions.
  • Must be flexible and have a good sense of humor.
  • Must be in good physical condition, able to stand, stoop, climb, and lift at least 50 pounds.
  • Must be comfortable with public speaking on and off microphone.
  • Must be fingerprinted and pass a background check.
  • Must have a negative TB test.
  • Strong preference will be given to candidates with direct animal experience, a sincere interest in the field of zoo keeping, and who are comfortable snorkeling in a wetsuit (not provided) to clean pools.

Term of Appointment/Application Deadlines

A three and a half month internship is available for summer 2014 (May 1 through August 15). Reasonable exceptions may be made in order to coordinate with university schedules.

Applications must be submitted by March 8, 2014.


This is an unpaid internship. College credit is offered if desired; intern is responsible for obtaining necessary approvals from their university. Intern will be responsible for all transportation costs and personal health insurance.


The intern will make his or her own housing arrangements in the Washington, D.C. area. Parking is not provided to National Zoo interns. Public transportation is strongly suggested and readily available in the D.C. area.

To Apply

Go to www.si.edu/ofi and select “Apply” from the list on the left. Click the link “Smithsonian On Line Academic Appointment System (SOLAA) and then “New to SOLAA? Create an Account.”

When you complete the information to create an account, you will get a screen where you select the type of appointment you are interested in. You will select “Internship.” Then you will select the unit you are interested in, “National Zoological Park.” Then you will select the Program you are interested in, “National Zoological Park Internship Program.”

Finally, once you begin completing the application, you will indicate the Project (= to department) you are interested in, “Rock Creek – American Trail.” Your application is considered complete when you hit “Submit” and when your references have been received (your SOLAA submitted application and references must be received by the deadline as noted above). Information that will be requested (in SOLAA) includes:

  • Basic personal information
  • Professional resume
  • College or university and current academic status
  • Degrees held or expected
  • Transcripts (unofficial or official)
  • Two letters of reference (One must be from a current or a former supervisor)
  • A cover letter specifically stating why you are interested in an internship in American Trail at the National Zoo, and any prior animal experience, as well as what you hope to get out of this internship (learning and skill objectives)

For additional information

Email Chelsea Grubb regarding the American Trail internship. Phones calls will NOT be accepted.