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Celebrating National Volunteer Week!

Posted by Sarah Bruemmer, Learning & Innovation Woodland Park Zoo
Photos by Woodland Park Zoo

Volunteers are at the heart of Woodland Park Zoo’s mission to save wildlife and inspire everyone to make conservation a priority in their lives. Each one of our roughly 600 volunteers supports the zoo in positive, meaningful ways by donating their time, expertise, and passion to support our most critical needs – from horticulture and animal care to special events and education. During National Volunteer Week, April 18-24, we celebrate the power of volunteers to make a difference and the extraordinary individuals who are fostering a broad social movement for conservation at Woodland Park Zoo and beyond.

As much as we would love to showcase all of the individuals who make up our dedicated volunteer community, we simply cannot do so in a single blog post! However, we did ask several volunteers to share some memories and highlights of their experiences at Woodland Park Zoo. The following stories illustrate just how indispensable our volunteer community is to creating tangible social change in our region––each and every one of our volunteers uniquely inspires and empowers others in the community to take conservation action and join our mission. Thank you for all you do volunteers!

Rose garden in full beauty mode! Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.


Carol joined the Volunteer Program in 2018, and almost immediately after her initial training, began her journey as a horticulture volunteer in Woodland Park Zoo’s Rose Garden. Here she assists Horticulture staff––rain or shine––in maintaining the 2.5-acre garden which includes nearly 3,000 roses!

Carol’s interest in the zoo started early. “The zoo is a place I remember as a child coming to, going on rides in the park, and being with my family. It was especially a favorite place of my mother’s to come.”

The experience that really motivated her to become a volunteer was several years ago during a visit to the zoo with her son. “While there have been many good times, one visit sticks out in my mind that made me so grateful for the zoo’s volunteers. When my son was about 4, we used to come to the zoo weekly. During one of our excursions there was a crazy flash storm that came out of nowhere…The rain was coming down in buckets, and we needed to run for cover. Luckily we were close to the African Savanna so we ducked inside the school house and just watched the showers, thunder and lightning as they hit the savanna. Although it was a pretty cool experience for me, there was a lovely volunteer there that made a nervous little boy feel much better than his nothing-to-worry-about-here, cavalier mother did!”

Carol (very back, center) and other zoo volunteers celebrate being back at the zoo earlier this year by holding up signs reading: “New Zoo” Ambassador. This is the name of the new volunteer role we have opened up on zoo grounds where volunteers help guests adjust to the “new” zoo experience since our July 2020 reopening.

Carol’s service does not stop at the Rose Garden! Recently, she returned as a “new zoo” ambassador to assist with our reopening efforts by helping guests navigate the new one-way paths and safety guidelines. Earlier this year, Carol also participated in a virtual birth watch to pilot online animal observation volunteer opportunities. During this time Carol and other zoo volunteers remotely monitored gorilla Nadiri during her birth window to collect data and look for any telltale signs of behavioral changes that might indicate the onset of labor.

Little Kitoko is daily inspiration for staff and volunteers alike! Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

When asked if her volunteer experience matched her initial expectations: “Being a zoo volunteer has been so much more than I expected. There are really great opportunities here. Where else can you watch a whole gorilla troop during a birth watch behind the scenes. To see where they sleep and how they interact with each other when they aren’t out in their yard…That was amazing.”

Carol has taken what she has learned from the zoo to encourage her family to participate in conservation in whatever small ways they can. She explained, “A few summers ago, we did Plastic Free July. It was a competition with other zoos and aquariums around the country. That was a turning point for me, and my family. Since then, we have learned how to make food that we used to buy prepped and packaged in plastic from scratch. No more plastic bottles, if it can be helped. Recycling correctly, but also really cutting down on anything that isn’t sustainably produced.”

Carol, thank you for being a part of and adding to the zoo’s social movement for conservation. We couldn’t do it without volunteers like you!

Linda and Hartmut 

Husband and wife Hartmut and Linda joined the zoo’s Volunteer Program at different times and for different reasons. Linda joined in 2010 after a zoo volunteer shared some intriguing stories with her about their work with orangutans. Since then, Linda has taken advantage of all that the Volunteer Program has to offer––she is a docent, a mentor to new volunteers, a sighted guide for blind and low vision guests, helps with amphibian monitoring during the summer with her husband Hartmut, and more!

When we asked Hartmut to share what motivated him to volunteer: “The urge to volunteer came along slowly for me.” He explained how Linda and he were avid travelers, and that many volunteer opportunities were structured such that their travels would have been interrupted. In 2015, he joined the Amphibian Monitoring Program as a community science volunteer. “The monitoring played naturally into my interest in all things nature and the great outdoors. You do something useful, you meet interesting people (of all ages, children included who came along with their parents), you explore interesting places. A total win-win.”

Zoo volunteers (left to right) Elaine, Hartmut and Linda, out in the field monitoring for amphibians. 

A year later, Hartmut decided to get more involved and joined the official Volunteer Program. “As Linda had been a zoo volunteer for a few years, it was natural for me to volunteer at the zoo, too. I had time to spare, I love animals, and I like doing useful things. Being on zoo grounds as a volunteer also lets you meet people you wouldn't otherwise.”

A photo of a Northern Pacific Tree Frog egg mass uploaded by Hartmut and his team to the Amphibians of Washington project on iNaturalist.

As amphibian monitoring volunteers, Linda and Hartmut contribute to local amphibian conservation by monitoring a wetland site in our region of western Washington to determine if amphibians are there. That could include finding evidence of any part of their lifecycle, from egg masses or larvae to spotting an adult animal. They then log their data in the Amphibians of Washington project on iNaturalist, which helps us understand where our local amphibians are—and aren’t—breeding across the region.

Learn more about the amphibians in our area and how you can participate in the City Nature Challenge with iNaturalist right now!

When asked about their favorite memory as zoo volunteers, Hartmut recalled their training to become sighted guides for the blind and low vision guests. “I never thought that I could feel comfortable guiding a blind, total stranger through a place like our zoo.” As sighted guides, Linda and Hartmut are prepared to assist with navigation, connect guests with tactile experiences, read signage, and provide auditory context about the exhibits and the animals in them. (Please note: To protect your health and promote at least six feet of social distance, we regret that the zoo is not able to provide sighted guides at this time.)

Linda and Hartmut both agree that they have gotten more than they expected out of the volunteer experience. For Linda, Woodland Park Zoo is her “happy place.” And the impact on her life has been significant, “I am now totally committed to saving species of all kinds and I love to talk to whomever will listen to me about how important zoos are.” The same can be said for Hartmut as well. “Volunteering at the zoo has become an important, meaningful part of my life. Having it go away [during the temporary closure] was a blow of course. And so Linda and I were happy to return as soon as that was feasible.”

Thank you Linda and Hartmut for all you do for the zoo, our community, and wildlife conservation!

A marbled teal floats gracefully through the temperate wetlands. Photo by volunteer photographer Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.


“Finding the zoo gave me a chance to support what I am most passionate about – creating a greener, better world.”

Kelsey is one of our newest zoo volunteers. In fact, she was in the middle of her volunteer training when the pandemic first began and the zoo announced its temporary closure last March! Despite this initial setback, Kelsey finished her onboarding training and officially became a zoo ambassador in November 2020, and we could not be more thrilled to have her as part of our zoo family.

She explained that she initially decided to volunteer because she “wanted to find a way to give back to our global community in a way that was exciting!” She felt by doing so she could “be a part of a movement forward in helping the world and helping animals.” An educator in her professional life, Kelsey’s goal to help the world has always been to “plant seeds – through education, awareness and opportunities.”

Kelsey helping zoo guests plant seeds and foster a connection with our red pandas.   

Kelsey is one of ~130 volunteers who has volunteered in-person since we first began our phased return of on-site volunteer opportunities last fall. So far, the things she enjoys most about volunteering are “getting to connect with so many people” and helping to “build connections between people and animals.” Lucky for Kelsey, and Woodland Park Zoo, she was “blown away at how fast volunteering felt so good,” and her days at the zoo are her favorite!

“Most people are looking for ways to do good, but it can all feel so daunting.” Kelsey’s role as a volunteer has helped her “build people up, and remind them that every little thing they do matters.”

As a zoo volunteer, she feels she is doing what she can “for people, for animals, and there are no words to describe the extent of this feeling.” 

“I cannot wait to get involved more and dedicate more time to volunteering in the future.”

Thank you for planting those seeds for conservation, Kelsey!

Taj appreciates all our volunteers! Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Happy National Volunteer Week!

We were able to highlight only a few of our wonderful volunteers here, but thank you to each and every zoo volunteer for the time, effort and love you give to Woodland Park Zoo. We miss you and look forward to the day when we can all be at the zoo together again safely!

To help slow the spread of COVID-19, most volunteer opportunities have been suspended since last March, though we recently brought back and modified a limited number of on-site positions. As a result, we will not be recruiting additional volunteers until early 2022. If you are interested in joining the Volunteer Program please visit in December 2021 for updates on when and how to get involved!