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Da Vinci Science Center Lead Otter Keeper and Animal Care Manager in Allentown, Pennsylvania

General Description

The Lead Otter Keeper and Animal Care Manager will be responsible for care and some oversight of animals displayed in the Da Vinci Science Center's Lehigh River Watershed Exhibit, scheduled to open to the public in May of 2024. Native wildlife will be exhibited in a collection including North American river otters, freshwater fish, turtles, and non-venomous snakes upon opening, with the planned additions of amphibians and an education ambassador collection after opening.


Under the supervision of the Director of Environmental Science and Living Collections, this position will help to develop SOPs for this collection and help to plan the on-time opening of this exhibit.  Primary responsibilities of this position after opening include leading animal care, enrichment, and training efforts, supervising animal care technicians, and helping to develop and lead interpretive programming for visitors.  


This is a full-time position working a minimum of 40 hours per week, including occasional evening, weekend, and holiday work, and possible infrequent overnight stay in times of severe inclement weather.


*Animal training references are required.



Pre-opening tasks

·         Work with Director of Environmental Science and Living Collections (Dir. ES & LC) to review, modify, and/or develop standard operating procedures and policies related to animal care, including:

o    General animal care, animal facility, and record keeping policies

o    Science based and nutritionally complete animal diet plans

o    Animal training procedures

o    Enrichment plans, enrichment approval and evaluation forms

o    Animal healthcare and health assessment plans

o    Contingency plans and emergency protocols

o    LSS and other animal facility cleaning and maintenance protocols

o    Water quality testing procedure

·         Work with education staff and Dir. ES & LC to develop animal and conservation related public programs (special events, live science shows, etc.) and reserved programs (summer camps, school group workshops, science clubs, etc.).

·         Work with Dir. ES & LC to acquire additional animals if needed.

·         Work with Dir. ES & LC to source and acquire animal food, enrichment items, medical and safety equipment, enclosure/exhibit furnishings, back of house equipment/furnishings, and any other necessary materials.

·         Set up and furnish exhibits with substrate, hides, water/food bowls, enrichment items, decor, etc.


Responsibilities after opening- Animal Care

·         Serve as lead animal care staff and perform daily diet prep and feeding of collection.

·         Oversee, plan, and execute enrichment for all collection animals, and incorporate environmental enrichment into feeding and program routines.

·         Serve as lead animal trainer, with emphasis on developing a best-in-class otter training program.

o    apply appropriate training techniques as described in the Science Center's Animal Training Manual to train a variety of medical, husbandry, and enrichment behaviors and work through behavioral challenges.

·         Oversee and perform daily exhibit and holding area cleaning and maintenance, including shifting animals for cleaning.

·         Monitor animal behavior, health and well-being, and perform health assessments daily; report and document abnormalities.

·         Monitor visitor interactions and survey exhibit daily to ensure animal and visitor safety.

·         Monitor environmental conditions of enclosures/exhibits.

·         Perform minor medical care, coordinate veterinary care.

·         Be "on call" when not at work in case of animal or facility related emergencies (animal escapes or injuries, staff/visitor injuries caused by animals, facility malfunctions, and other emergencies)

·         Maintain detailed, thorough records of all of the above, review daily reports filed by other animal care staff.

·         Manage animal record-keeping software.


Staff Oversight

·         Train and monitor other animal care staff on policies and protocols, feeding, cleaning, enrichment, training, and recordkeeping tasks.

·         Develop and lead contingency/emergency plan drills.

·         Supervise, manage, and evaluate animal care technician(s).

·         Maintain an excellent line of communication with Dir. ES & LC, facilities staff, and animal care staff to  ensure that all exhibits, animals, and life support systems are in good order, and that all problems are reported in a timely manner. 

·         Maintain a safe work environment for assigned staff and a safe living environment for animals.

·         Work with Dir of ES & LC to develop and maintain an animal care schedule facilitating care 365 days/year.


Life Support Systems

·         Perform water quality testing as planned.

·         Monitor and perform routine maintenance on LSS systems, animal habitats and back-of- house equipment.

·         Collaborate with the Facilities Department to maintain all systems and equipment.

·         Perform water changes, adjust water levels, clean filters, replace filter substrate, etc. as needed.


Other responsibilities

·         Attend trainings and workshops to enhance skills and knowledge and stay up-to-date on best animal care practices.

·         Prepare and present public and reserved programs to visitors, possibly including keeper talks, enrichment demonstrations, and offsite programming related to wildlife and conservation in the Lehigh River Watershed

·         Assist with exhibit creation, design, or modification as necessary.  

·         Serve as an in-house expert on native wildlif