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What is it like to intern at Woodland Park Zoo?

Posted by Daphne Matter, ZooCorps Intern

Editor's note: This post was written by our lovely ZooCorps Communications Intern, Daphen Matter. Daphne is a high school student who spent the majority of her summer with the social media and communications team at Woodland Park Zoo. We were very lucky to get to know Daphne and all of our outstanding 2018 ZooCorps interns. Thanks to this crew of amazing teens, our summer was very productive and educational, for us and them!

ZooCorps is Woodland Park Zoo’s teen volunteer program that gives students the chance to connect with animals, conservation topics, and the public. Teens build leadership skills by engaging with zoo guests, participating in citizen science opportunities, developing useful job skills, and increasing their knowledge of animals and their habitats through the ZooCorps program.

After a competitive process of applications and interviews, 17 of these ZooCorps volunteers were selected for the ZooCorps summer internship. This position is an opportunity to broaden student perspective and learning in a conservation related career by exposure to the diverse jobs that exist at the zoo in the Animal Management, Communications, Education, Horticulture, and Sustainability departments.

Lili (Commissary) and Daphne (Communications) at the turtle release as part of Woodland Park Zoo’s Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project

As the ZooCorps Communications Intern, I helped the zoo interact with its thousands of followers on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter by creating stories and content, taking photos and video, and helping to develop new projects that engage and inspire online audiences to take action for wildlife conservation.

I believe my internship was valuable because of the increasing relevance of social media in our society. Engaging with an audience through a screen, although it does have its challenges, lets us reach a far wider audience than face to face communication and amplifies our messages globally.

For example, my main project was working on Woodland Park Zoo’s plastic free campaign. With Seattle's city-wide straw ban beginning in July, along with an increasing need for change in the way we use plastics, this summer was the perfect time to launch our campaign. During the Plastic Free for Me Challenge, we created many social media posts to promote reducing consumption of single use plastics, and the total reach of all our Plastic Free July posts was 331,000 people! This shows just how important social media is to connect with a large audience. This internship not only taught me skills that will help further my career, but I can use them to have a bigger impact doing my part to stand up for wildlife.

Every ZooCorps internship experience is uniqueworking with many departments and units throughout the zoo and with a wide variety of responsibilities. From running sustainability campaigns to conservation projects to working directly with the animals, here’s a glimpse of some of the other interns’ experiences:

What is the most important thing you have learned?
“I’ve learned how interconnected the zoo keeper world is and that it is never too early to start networking.” –Dana (Australasia)

“How to critically look at a space and identify areas that need improvement.” –Mahala (Horticulture)

“I have become close friends with Microsoft Excel and learned how to present and understand data.” –Madeleine (Sustainability)

Madeleine (Sustainability) at the Cedar River Watershed to learn about Seattle’s drinking water and the zoo’s water bottle refill stations.

Why did you choose to do this internship/why is it important?
“I chose to do this internship because I wanted to learn about animal behavior and training. This unit is so important to the zoo because it emphasizes how important animal choice is when working in zoos or with animals in general.” –Alyssa (Ambassador Animals)

“We wanted to do this internship because the Northern Trail is our favorite section of the zoo and helping the animals native to the Pacific Northwest is important to us.” –Kendall and Oliver (Northern Trail)

Alyssa and Makaela (Ambassador Animals) with some new friends.

Oliver (Northern trail) recording wolf observation data.

What is your favorite thing about your internship?
“It has helped me decide that I want to pursue a career in this field!” –Alyssa (Ambassador Animals)

“Being able to finish a job and immediately see improvement directly coming from my actions.” –Mahala (Horticulture)

“Releasing the butterflies once they’ve emerged!” –Mia (Silverspot Butterflies)
Taking out the trash may not be the favorite part of Cole and Mia’s internship (Silverspot Butterflies), but they sure do smile through every bit of it!
Fun Fact?
“There is always drama in the bird world.” –Dana (Australasia)

“Vanilla is a kind of orchid” –Mahala (Horticulture)

“Yams have almost exactly the same nutritional value as bananas, but with less sugar”
 –Aleah (Commissary)

“’Fluoride crusts over your third eye’” –Madeleine (Sustainability, a unique comment from a visitor received while conducting a survey about drinking water)

“The wolves’ favorite perfume is Chanel No. 5, but the snow leopards prefer Obsession by Calvin Klein.” –Kendall and Oliver (Northern Trail, indeed some of the animals receive new scents as enrichment.)

A cockatiel being fed by our resident bird enthusiast Cole (Silverspot Butterflies) in Willawong Station.

My favorite part of this experience has been seeing all the support, commitment, passion, and enthusiasm for conservation that our online audience brings to the table. I have learned so much about what makes a post successful and the amount of effort that goes into every detail of it, and seeing our audience respond so well to content I created or helped create made me so glad. I had never realized how much dedication there was in the community!
Madeleine (Sustainability) and Daphne (Communications) earned their own stickers by participating in Plastic Free July!
All ZooCorps interns are passionate about conservation (it’s pretty much a job requirement working at a place like Woodland Park Zoo) and are committed to taking action for wildlife. Especially with the state of our environment declining so rapidly, we now need conservation efforts more than ever. This internship is important because it gives students some of the experience and skills we will need as we pursue conservation related careers and to be leaders in working towards saving our planet.
Group shot of all ZooCorps summer interns at the ZooCorps Intern Project Fair!
To learn more about ZooCorps, and how you can get involved, visit