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American Trail Keeper Internship

This internship has closed. To see open and upcoming opportunities, visit the internships page.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo provides the opportunity for interns to gain experience in the zookeeping field by participating in a curriculum and skill based internship within the American Trail unit. This area houses a diverse pinniped collection, wolves, river otters, beavers and birds. Interns participate in daily animal keeper duties, which include, but are not limited to, husbandry, nutrition, enrichment, training, and visitor education. Interns also complete assigned readings and tests, as well as a core project based on their interests and the needs of the unit. American Trail is seeking applicants for the Summer 2018 internship.

Learning Objectives: 

The intern's duties and responsibilities include:

  • Assisting animal keepers with feeding animals, cleaning animal and non-animal areas, diet preparation, training sessions, behavioral observations and other various tasks under supervision.
  • Providing formal and informal interpretive educational programs for visitors with and without the use of a microphone.
  • Helping design and implement animal enrichment programs.
  • Learning and following animal/staff safety protocols, operations and policies.
  • Developing and completing an educational or research project.
  • Must be at least a junior in college and currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in a life science or related field.
  • Must be available NO LESS THAN 40 hours a week, including ALL weekends and holidays.
  • Must have strong communication and decision making 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 and current tetanus vaccination.
  • Strong preference is given to candidates with direct animal experience, a sincere interest in a career in the field of zookeeping and have worked with a diverse set of taxa (or have the desire to do so).
This is an unpaid internship. College credit is offered if desired; intern is responsible for obtaining necessary approvals from their university. The intern will be responsible for all transportation costs and personal health insurance. Uniform shirts, jackets and coats are provided. Interns must provide their own khaki pants/shorts and closed toe shoes.
Washington DC
The intern will make his or her own housing arrangements in the Washington, D.C., area.
The Smithsonian's National Zoo and the Smithsonian Institution do not provide free parking to interns.
Term of appointment: 

A three and a half month internship is available from roughly May 1 to Sept. 1. Start and end dates are flexible in order to accommodate university and personal schedules.

Application deadline(s): 
Thursday, March 15, 2018
Internship Category: 
Animal Programs
How to Apply: 

To apply, go to: https://solaa.si.edu/solaa/SOLAAHome.html Then select "New to SOLAA? Create Account Here". After creating an account, select “Internship” under type of appointment. For unit, select “National Zoological Park” and for program select “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 deadlines as noted above). In order for your application to be complete, you must submit ALL of the following:

  • Professional resume
  • A one-page statement of your interest in pursuing this position. The statement should mention relevant experience, career goals, your reasons for wanting this internship, and what you hope to gain from the experience. Your statement is very important during application evaluations.
  • College or university and current academic status
  • Degrees held or expected
  • TWO letters of reference (One must be from a current or a former supervisor)


Email the internship contact regarding the American Trail internship. Phones calls will not be accepted.