The zoo is open! All visitors will require free entry passes and be required to follow safety measures. Free timed-entry Asia Trail/Panda Passes are required for the giant panda viewing.

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American Trail Education Interpreters

  • A North American river otter climbing over a snowy log

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is recruiting volunteers to serve as interpreters on American Trail, home to 10 species native to North America, including seals, sea lions, bald eagles, beavers and wolves. Interpreters are front-line educators who play a central role in enhancing the experience of Zoo guests by sharing animal and conservation stories, answering questions, and engaging guests with biological objects and artifacts.

Interpreters will learn about natural history, conservation, the care and training needed to maintain our animals, and the tools and techniques needed to communicate effectively with guests. Please note that volunteers do not have direct contact or interaction with exhibit species.

Volunteers must be able to commit to at least one year interpreting on American Trail. Volunteers will be scheduled for three, 3-hour shifts each month, and are also asked to participate in monthly evening meetings and assist with occasional special events. Volunteer shifts are available seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1-4 p.m.

Age Range: 




Special qualifications: 

Candidates should have a strong interest in American Trail species and the Zoo, as well as the desire and ability to speak with a diverse audience of guests. American Trail is a popular exhibit for family visitors and can be crowded. Volunteers should have a tolerance for working outdoors in a range of weather conditions including heat, cold and rain.


Training consists of both classroom and online sessions beginning in late February. You must be able to attend all three of the Saturday in-person training dates: Feb. 23, March 2 and March 9.


Washington DC





Contact phone: 


Additional information: 

If accepted into the program, volunteers must pass a Smithsonian background check, complete training, become a FONZ member in their first year of volunteering, and pay an orientation fee that covers the cost of a uniform polo shirt and name tag. 

*Options are available for individuals for whom the orientation and membership fees may not be manageable.