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Asia Trail Education Interpreters

  • clouded leopard

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is seeking volunteers to serve as education interpreters on Asia Trail, home to the iconic giant pandas as well as sloth bears, red pandas, Asian small-clawed otters, fishing cats, and clouded leopards. The exhibit is a popular destination for Zoo visitors, and families love to visit and learn about the animals along the trail.

Education interpreters play an important role in enhancing the experience of Zoo visitors by interacting with the public, answering questions, and sharing objects or artifacts such as animal skulls, pelts, and other items. Education interpreters speak with visitors about the animals, their natural history, ecology, conservation issues affecting them today, and how to save species; creating a more interesting and enjoyable experience for our visitors.

Volunteers do not have direct contact or interaction with any animals.

Please Note: During the holidays, the program supervisor will not be directly available. Interviews will be scheduled on Jan. 3, 4 and 5, and candidates must be able to come in for an interview one of those three days. Please contact the program supervisor at houghsm@si.edu with any questions, and she will respond as soon as possible.

Age Range: 
Special qualifications: 
A strong interest in the species on Asia Trail and the Zoo, as well as the desire and ability to speak with a wide variety of people. Asia Trail is virtually all outdoors, so volunteers should be comfortable walking and working in a range of weather conditions. In order to be considered, you must be able to make a year’s commitment to the program, and must be able to commit to three 3-hour shifts each month. This program runs year-round. Days of the week are flexible. Shift times are 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. You must also be able to attend monthly evening meetings, and support exhibit-related special events.

Training for this program is comprised of both classroom and online sessions beginning in early January.  Volunteers must be able to attend all in-person training dates.

During training, volunteers will learn about the species along Asia Trail, the individual histories of the animals, conservation efforts, and Zoo management of exhibit species.  Volunteers will also learn techniques for sharing this information with visitors in a largely conversational manner.

Washington DC
Contact phone: 
Additional information: 

Each program has an application and interview process. Once accepted, volunteers must pass a Smithsonian background check, complete initial training, become a FONZ member in their first year of volunteering, and pay the orientation/training fee (includes volunteer shirt and name badge). Options are available for individuals for whom the fees and membership may not be manageable, please inquire with the Program's Supervisor for available options.