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Lead Keeper Aviculture

Audubon Aquarium
New Orleans, United States Posted: May 24 2023

This position is a working animal caregiver on the management track with strong leadership and communication skills and will be the point of contact for all part-time, intern, and volunteers within their respective department. In a working role, the lead will fill in as necessary for daily husbandry tasks. The lead keeper assists the curatorial team with management of the day- to- day section operation and oversight of keepers, aquarists, and trainers.  Should be able to lead meetings and act in the absence of the Curator. The Lead Keeper is expected to participate in all husbandry related management meetings as requested by the Director of Husbandry.

Essential Duties:
  • Perform routine husbandry- feed prescribed diets, monitor and report diet consumption, observe and report any health or behavioral abnormalities of all assigned animal specimens to immediate supervisor daily, assist hospital staff with health monitoring and assessment, follow all Standard Operating Procedures for assigned areas. Can function as point person in the absence of supervisory level staff. 
  • Provides a high standard of animal care.  Prioritizes preventative care and excellence in animal welfare and proposes measures for advancing care.   Participates in welfare assessments.  Assists the curator with organizing resources and oversight of staff to accomplish welfare-based goals.
  • Advanced knowledge and experience leading teams with modern aviculture techniques and practices in an AZA zoological setting (i.e., capture and restraint, incubation, breeding, hand-rearing).
  • The ability to serve as a mentor and resource to other staff.   Leads by example and provides guidance, and identifies resources needed to accomplish section goals. Can act as the point person for the department in absence of curator.
  • Possesses strong communication skills, including listening and thoughtful dialogue.  Assumes the role as communicator for the section when needed. 
  • Regularly proposes solutions to problems. Looks for creative and productive ways to address problems. 
  • A section leader taking ownership of short- and long-term animals management goals aimed at reducing stress, enhancing welfare, and advancing husbandry practices.  Has a positive impact on teambuilding and willingly participates in AZA programs (i.e., studbooks, committees, SSPs and TAGS).
  • Perform approved Behavioral Enrichment activities and create new enrichment based on the needs of the animal(s).
  • Has an advanced knowledge of operant conditioning techniques, use advanced knowledge to increase the quality of life of the collection. Offer training assistance and expertise to other staff.
  • Participation in professional development.  Willingly participates in AZA programs or other conservation- based initiatives.
  • Leads through effective communication and work with a team to provide consistency and advancement in animal care and welfare.  Assumes ownership of daily and big picture items without being told.  Assists with oversight of volunteers and interns. Develops creative and productive solutions to address problems.
  • Engages guests in pursuit of education and conservation goals.   This includes chats, tours, media appearances, ambassador animal programs, etc.  Able to represent Audubon Nature Institute with professionalism and in support of mission-oriented efforts.  Develops and evaluates educational content where needed.  
  • Demonstrated success using knowledge and influence to mentor and advance team members.  Ownership of a positive work environment and workplace morale.
  • Possesses strong communication skills.   Communicates successfully to individuals and teams with self- awareness, active listening and effective dialogue.   Able to have difficult conversations and give effective feedback.
  • Mentors and advances other team members.  Leads by example to create a positive work environment and strong workplace morale.
  • Perform all other duties as assigned.
  • Must be willing to work weekdays, weekends, and holidays.
To deliver on the Audubon mission, the Lead Bird Keeper will: 
Provide a guest experience of outstanding quality
  • Approach all encounters with employees and guests in a friendly, service-oriented manner.
  • Maintain the highest standards related to the day-to-day operations of the Husbandry Department.
  • Work evening, weekend, holiday hours - required.
  • Return telephone messages and e-mails in a timely fashion.
  • Handle problems in the workplace, including anticipating, preventing, identifying, and solving problems as necessary.
  • Identify and correct minor or routine maintenance problems in a timely manner and report other maintenance needs.
  • Interact positively with the public and co-workers.
  • Make decisions consistent with Audubon Nature Institute policies and procedures.
  • Assist with daily duties in all sections as required.
  • Be required to perform facility and exhibit maintenance, including but not limited to, trash and debris removal, floor cleaning, painting, building repair, horticultural duties, etc.
  • Establish and maintain effective, efficient and cooperative relationships with employees, senior administration, vendors and customers.
  • Maintain high standards of personal appearance and grooming, including proper uniform standards.
  • Comply at all times with Audubon Nature Institute standards and regulations to encourage safe and efficient operations.
  • Weave quality entertainment through the guest experience
  • Work within the guidelines and mission of the Audubon Nature Institute.
  • Convey information and ideas clearly.
  • Conduct behind-the-scenes tours for VIP’s, donors, and Audubon Education programs as scheduled.
  • Interact with the public to include on and off grounds educational and media presentations.
  • Develop and present educational programs as required.
  • Function as an interpreter and represent ANI as a spokesperson.
  • Compose animal and exhibit information for publication in the following: Audubon’s website, AZA’s website and other publications.
  • Operate a financially self-sufficient collection of museums and parks
  • Perform basic arithmetic functions and process financial information.
  • Strive to operate within budget limitations.
  • Manage time effectively to eliminate unnecessary overtime.
  • Enhance the care and survival of wildlife through research and conservation
  • Encourage and support Audubon programs.
  • Promote, participate in and oversee departmental research and conservation programs
  • Provide a guest experience of outstanding quality

The above-listed duties are general statements of required major duties and responsibilities performed on a regular and continuous basis.  They do not exclude other duties as assigned.

To deliver on the Audubon service promise, the Lead Bird Keeper will: 
  • Make eye contact with every customer encounter, smile at every person, offer friendly phrases and greetings.
  • Wear an identification badge.
  • Walk individual to destination instead of pointing; aid people who look confused.
  • Assume ownership of potential safety hazards (wipe-up spill, pick up trash).  Always have the camera-ready look.
  • Maintain positive attitude, pleasant tone of voice (remember it is not what you say, but how you say it).
  • Coach coworkers on service expectations.
  • Utilize the power of teamwork to give excellent service.
  • Know when to involve management.
  • Know the answers to questions or seek out the answers.
  • Utilize proper phone etiquette (answer phone within three rings, smile before answering call, ask for permission and wait for response before placing caller on hold).
  • Ensure work area is free of food, drink, socialization, and personal business.
  • Follow Dress Code Policy on clothing and grooming.
  • Keep unpleasant concerns behind closed doors (vent backstage).
  • Part-time employees, Interns, and volunteers
  • Minimum of five years of unpaid or paid experience in a zoological facility, public aquarium, wildlife facility, aviary, or similar facility with a focus on avian species OR, demonstrated and confirmed skill set, and knowledge required for the position is required. An AZA accredited public facility is preferred.
  • Minimum 1 year in a leadership/ supervisory role or demonstration of leadership and strong communication skills, both oral and written.
  • Possesses significant experience with modern aviculture techniques (breeding, rearing, and incubation) and mixed taxa including but not limited to mammals and reptiles. Has a skilled understanding of natural history, anatomy, behavior, and environmental parameters.  Experience with exhibit design and life support equipment is a plus.  
  • In-depth knowledge of and skill using operant conditioning techniques.  Has successfully trained husbandry/ veterinary behaviors and developed training plans/ solutions for behavioral goals.
  • Experience using ZIMS and/or TRACKS for records management and data analysis.

High School diploma (or equivalent) and a degree from a recognized college or university are required. College course work in zoology, biology, animal science or a related field is preferred; or an equivalent level of work experience and education as determined by the hiring authority.  

  • Must maintain a valid driver’s license.
  • SCUBA certification is a plus.
  • First Aid/ CPR is a plus.
If SCUBA certified, then the Lead Bird Keeper will need to demonstrate the ability to: 
  • swim efficiently at the surface,
  • swim efficiently underwater,
  • tow another diver while in full SCUBA gear,
  • tread water/float on the surface,
  • assemble, ditch and don SCUBA gear,
  • control of buoyancy using SCUBA,
  • clear SCUBA mask and swim without a mask underwater,
  • regulator skills – recover and clear, and breathe through free-flowing regulator, and
  • demonstrate comfort underwater in all conditions, stressful or otherwise.
 Software Requirements:  
  • Proven competency in the application of Microsoft Office Word, PowerPoint, and Excel computer programs is required.
  • Experience with Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS) is preferred.
 Machinery/Tools/Equipment Requirements:  
  • Basic knowledge of power tools is a plus.
Physical Requirements:
  • Performing strenuous, fast-paced work both indoors and outdoors.
  • Sitting or standing, bending, and stooping per OSHA regulations.
  • Heavy work involving lifting no more than 100 pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 50 pounds.
  • Must be able to swim.
Environmental/Working Conditions:
  • Maintain regular attendance in compliance with Audubon standards, as required by scheduling which may vary according to the needs of the organization.
  • Willingness to work weekends, holidays, irregular hours and be available based on special needs/circumstances on a 24-hour basis.
  • Willingness to work long hours between breaks or meals as required.
  • Willingness to work outdoors, lift heavy objects, and risk periodic exposure to fairly predictable and controllable hazards associated with wild animals and zoonotic diseases.
  • Maintain off-exhibit areas in a clean, organized and safe fashion.
  • Willingness to work under and handle stress in an appropriate manner.
  • May be exposed to high, medium, or low noise intensity.
  • May be exposed to extreme fluctuations in temperatures.
  • May be exposed to ozone.
  • Willingness to work around and handle raw seafood, including shellfish.
  • Oversee pest control efforts in section.
  • Willingness to serve on the Aquarium’s Hurricane Team if necessary.

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