Curator of Birds and Mammals; The Seattle Aquarium

Job Title: 
Curator of Birds and Mammals
Job Location: 
Seattle, Washington
Full-Time - Permanent

About the Seattle Aquarium:

We’re noted for our collaborative, communicative and team-oriented working environment. Our values, developed in conjunction with our staff, include commitments to adopting and promoting sustainable practices, creating awe-inspiring experiences, constantly learning and improving, fostering an inclusive community, maintaining scientific credibility through evidence-based practices and honoring our unique place by using our location and history as a lens for larger understanding.

Proudly accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, we’re the eighth-largest aquarium in the U.S. by attendance and we welcome over 850,000 people through our front doors each year. Guided by our mission of Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment, we’ve developed a master plan to substantially increase in size and impact by opening a new exhibit building, the Ocean Pavilion. Our current annual budget is $18 million.

See the Seattle Aquarium in action:

Octopus release

Ocean Pavilion

Live sea otter cam


Life Sciences department:

The curator of birds and mammals is responsible for leading the animal care staff and managing the husbandry of the Seattle Aquarium’s bird and mammal collection. The current animal collection includes sea otters, harbor seals, northern fur seals, North American river otters, a variety of alcid and shorebird species, and a small number of fish and invertebrate species that inhabit the bird exhibits. This position oversees a department of nine full-time employees and five part-time employees and is responsible for a budget of approximately $1,100,000.

The role:

To provide leadership and management for the Bird and Mammal (BAM) team at the Seattle Aquarium, in line with the Aquarium’s mission statement and S.A.L.I.S.H. values. Provide responsibility for the day-to-day operations, management and employee development programs of the BAM team; work collaboratively with all other departments at the Aquarium for effective and successful planning, construction and maintenance of exhibits; and enhance practices and opportunities for animal training, husbandry and veterinary programs, public encounters, presentations and media relations. This is a hands-on position and includes working directly with the animals on a regular basis. Duties include but are not limited to:

Planning and organizing:

  • Collaborate proactively and effectively with others, including peers, superiors, subordinates, suppliers and customers to achieve organizational and performance goals and the overall success of the Aquarium.
  • Directly supervise the associate curator of birds and mammals (ACBM) while indirectly supervising the BAM team.
  • Provide leadership for the ACBM to manage and coordinate the training and development of all BAM staff, ensuring the animals are cared for in a manner consistent with departmental protocols.
  • Establish and revise performance standards for the BAM team.
  • Provide oversight and final review to the ACBM regarding staff annual goals and performance evaluations.
  • Develop and manage the annual budget of the BAM team.
  • Act as life science lead, manager on duty, and as a member of the emergency response team as assigned.
  • Collaborate with the Facilities department to manage departmental exhibit quality standards through regular maintenance. Monitor departmental maintenance programs to ensure clean and safe working conditions, clean exhibits and healthy animal environments.

Animal husbandry:

  • Perform as needed all regular husbandry duties associated with the care and welfare of the bird and mammal collection, including but not limited to animal feeding and training, exhibit cleaning, record keeping, delivering medications, enrichment, etc.
  • Mentor and maintain successful animal training (operant conditioning) and husbandry programs as part of a comprehensive animal welfare program.
  • Promote a current knowledge of trends, practices and procedures of modern animal training procedures.
  • Have a high level of species knowledge and mentor employees to ensure meaningful and accurate observations, data collection and interpretation.
  • Ensure a plan for ongoing behavioral enrichment programs is in line with the Aquarium-wide animal enrichment plan.
  • Work directly with the senior veterinarian to achieve optimum bird and mammal health. Be actively involved in all medical cases, including the logistics of performing diagnostic tests and implementation of treatment plans.
  • Ensure compliance with USDA/APHIS regulations.
  • Ensure accreditation standards of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) are understood and maintained. Adapting standard operating protocols when needed in response to change (or leading change) in the AZA standards.
  • Provide curatorial oversight to the chairpersons of the Seattle Aquarium animal welfare committee and animal enrichment committee as necessary to ensure compliance with AZA guidelines.
  • Ensure Seattle Aquarium compliance with Regional Collection Plan goals and activities of all appropriate AZA Taxon Advisory Groups.
  • Oversee planning and implementation of activities associated with the acquisition or disposition of animals to include pertinent documentation and communication plans (transport plans, records, airline regulatory compliance, local and federal permits, etc.).

Additional responsibilities:

  • Directly supervise the bird and mammal staff when the ACBM is not present (monitor schedules, approve time sheets, monitor all daily tasks, review record keeping, etc.).
  • Work with the visitor engagement staff to develop content and messaging for all pertinent programming.
  • Review bird-and-mammal-related content generated within other departments to ensure accuracy and act as a subject matter expert to external sources as required.
  • Represent the Bird and Mammal department as an active member of the event oversight committee and research committee.
  • Manage procurement of the Aquarium’s frozen seafood inventory and oversee on-site and off-site cold storage. Ensure all seafood meets appropriate sustainability and quality standards.
  • Work directly with the staff veterinarian to ensure diets and food-handling guidelines meet or exceed standards established by AZA and USDA/APHIS.
  • Provide operational management through regular meetings and discussions. Participate in problem-solving and the setting of direction, mission and operational philosophies.
  • Collaborate with Life Sciences leadership in revisions and implementation of the Institutional Collection Plan.
  • Work directly with the ACBM and the safety and security manager to schedule and review safety drills as required by AZA.
  • Collaborate with other Aquarium departments as a subject matter expert by participating as needed in VIP tours, media interviews and philanthropy events, and editing bird-and-mammal-related articles or other marketing collateral.
  • Represent the Seattle Aquarium with the highest professional standards with like-minded professional organizations when attending conferences or serving in other committee roles within these organizations.
  • Uphold Seattle Aquarium’s S.A.L.I.S.H. values to foster an inclusive community for staff, guests and all who engage with the Life Sciences team.
  • Perform other duties as assigned.

Skills, abilities and other requirements:     

  • Strong interpersonal, collaboration and leadership skills. Actively listens to others and can express ideas, directions and expectations in an accurate, clear and organized manner. Relates to and works with others in ways that draw out the positive potential of differences.
  • Possess organizational skills, be self-motivated and have excellent oral and written communication skills. Is positive and willing to take action to meet changing business requirements. Continuously facilitates the acceptance and implementation of change within the workplace.
  • Must possess a high level of species knowledge and extensive experience and proficiency with operant conditioning training techniques.
  • Must be comfortable communicating and presenting in front of large groups and to the media.
  • Strong computer skills to use various computer software products, including Microsoft Office, Outlook, ZIMS, and/or Tracks.
  • Have a clear understanding of basic aquatic life-support systems.
  • Ability to handle a variety of situations, including those that may be complicated or challenging, with grace, empathy and a sense of humor, in line with our S.A.L.I.S.H. values. Identifies and analyzes routine problems proactively; generates and evaluates alternatives to develop an appropriate course of action within established constraints.

Working conditions:

  • Must have or be able to obtain a Washington state driver’s license.
  • Requires handling, working with or exposure to large, potentially dangerous animals, animal diseases, feces and toxic chemicals.
  • Occasionally required to lift more than 50 pounds.
  • Must be able to be on feet six or more hours a day and be physically active through a variety of physical motions.
  • Required to work outdoors year-round, near water, on wet and slippery surfaces and at heights.
  • Possess coordination and dexterity necessary to ascend and descend rocky exhibits with animals still on display.
  • Must be willing to work evenings, nights, weekends and holidays and be available on 24-hour emergency call.
  • Ability to use fall-restraint equipment, respirators and other appropriate safety gear.
  • Ability to work in confined spaces.
  • While performing the duties of this job, the employee is required to stand, walk, sit, climb stairs and ladders, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, talk, hear, smell and visually see the animals and exhibits to ensure animal health and exhibit cleanliness.
  • Specific vision abilities include close vision, distance vision, color and peripheral vision, depth perception and the ability to adjust focus.
  • Must be able to swim.

Education and experience:

  • A./B.S. degree in biology or related field, or equivalent experience and record of publications.
  • Eight or more years’ experience demonstrating levels of increased responsibility involving the care and husbandry of marine animals, preferably at an AZA accredited aquarium or zoo.
  • A minimum of two years’ supervisory or management experience, preferably at an aquarium or zoo.

Salary and benefits:

This role is budgeted at $75,000–$85,000 plus participation in annual variable pay program. This role is eligible for the Seattle Aquarium’s comprehensive benefits package, which includes medical, vision, dental (subsidized dependent coverage also available), HRA, FSA, 403b retirement fund with employer matching funds, life insurance, short- and long-term disability, subsidized transit (ORCA) pass, Aquarium Family Plus membership and generous paid time off.

Please note that all jobs are automatically removed once the application deadline passes. Jobs without a deadline are automatically removed after 30 days.