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Supervisor, Sea Lions & Otters

John G Shedd Aquarium
Chicago, United States Posted: June 17, 2024

Shedd Aquarium illustrates a commitment to optimal animal care and welfare to facilitate impactful public engagement with wildlife. Our animals first approach has a foundation that individuals and groups of animals can exhibit natural behaviors encouraged through complex environmental design, innovative behavioral training, and enrichment.  

  • The Supervisor of Sea Lions and Otters, reports to Manager, Sea Lions and Otters and is responsible for assisting to leading a team of trainers in the daily husbandry, planning, and welfare of Shedd Aquarium’s collection of California Sea Lions as well as Northern and Southern Sea Otters. 
  • This Supervisor works closely with the Manager, Sea Lions, and Otters to ensure optimal care of the animals in the Oceanarium and compliance with all accreditation and regulatory requirements for departmental operations.
  • They assist the close collaboration with Animal Health, Environmental Quality, Facilities, and Dive Operations is required to ensure smooth and effective operations involving animals, staff, and habitats.
  • The Supervisor contributes to cross-departmental goals in collaboration with Conservation and Research and Animal Health Teams to advance in-situ and ex-situ research objectives as needed.
  • This Supervisor also works as assigned with other departments including Guest Relations, Learning, Events, Marketing, Development, etc. to provide access to animals and systems for public engagement.
  • The Supervisor, Sea Lions and Otters serves in a developmental leadership role in the Animal Care and Science Division and supports inter-departmental planning and implementation of strategies to meet institutional objectives and initiatives requiring support of the Animal Care Department and serves as an aquarium spokesperson as needed.   
  • To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential duty satisfactorily. 
  • The requirements listed below are representative of the necessary knowledge, skill and/or ability to perform the job. 
  • Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform essential functions.
  • Demonstrates commitment to Shedd's vision, mission, and values.
  • Assists the Manager with the selection, training, development, management, and growth of the Sea Lions and Otters Team.
  • Publicly represents Shedd and its programs – particularly on matters involving sea lions and sea otters. 
  • This includes assisting in the development and execution of presentations and serving as an aquarium spokesperson for high-profile issues in the media and elsewhere in conjunction with Shedd’s communication experts.  
  • Implements training protocols for proactive medical care for all animals under the care of the Sea Lions and Otters Team. 
  • Implements complex animal training assignments and assures their consistency through documented adherence to operant conditioning principles with a focus on positive reinforcement techniques.  
  • Maintains regular interactions with all the animals, training sessions, feedings, public presentations, and play sessions. 
  • Assists with all activities of the department through administration of inventory and purchasing. 
  • Collaborates with national and international breeding and conservation programs when appropriate.   
  • Implements up-to-date husbandry practices and applies the use of positive operant conditioning principles in the day-to-day care and training of all animals. 
  • Supports the goals and objectives of professional organizations (AZA, IMATA, IAAM, ALLSO, etc.) as they relate to the aquarium and supports team participation in these organizations.  
  • Supports the goals and objectives of professional organizations (AZA, IMATA, IAAM, ALLSO, etc.) as they relate to the aquarium and supports team participation in these organizations.  
  • Obtains a familiarity and basic working knowledge of life support systems, water quality parameters, and veterinary protocols.  
  • Recommends training protocols to elicit, encourage, and facilitate natural behaviors for all animals in Shedd’s care. 
  • Maintains compliance with animal welfare assessments reflecting proactive and reactive responses to medical conditions and concerns for animals under the care of the Sea Lion and Otter Team. 
  • Supports transfer and breeding programs around the organization’s needs and applies appropriate training protocols as assigned. 
  • Implements strategies for the Sea Lion and Otter Team to maintain and grow behaviors aligned with Shedd’s mission and vision.  
  • Implements a staff training program to build better welfare and sustainability through excellent husbandry, operant conditioning, public speaking, advanced operant conditioning application, and communication.   
  • Implements participation in research and conservation initiatives aligned with Shedd’s mission and vision. 
  • Maintains 80% of the time working hands-on with the team and animals to regularly fill training roles of the day.  
  • Demonstrates strong swimming skills and ability for the use of SCUBA to maintain aquatic animals, constructed habitats, and open water diving. 
  • Demonstrates ability to adjust the schedule on short notice to manage the needs of the animal populations and team.  Must work one weekend day as part of the normal schedule, and as needed evenings, early morning, and holidays. 
  • Supports other Oceanarium teams as requested. 
  • Obtains knowledge of all the primary animal groups cared for by the Oceanarium Team. 
  • Implement legal compliance measures such as tracking of respirator use, adherence to OSHA standards, etc. 
  • Works with other departments throughout the aquarium to meet strategic goals and objectives. 
  • Liaise with professional colleagues as a representative of the aquarium. 
  • Demonstrate constant innovation in animal care and sustainability. 
  • Performs other duties as assigned. 
Education & Experience: 
  • Minimum of a bachelor’s degree in marine sciences, biology, zoology, or related field (or demonstrated comparable knowledge) and 3+ years of experience in animal care at an accredited zoo or aquarium with a focus on the behavior of aquatic animals. 
  • Proven success in the care of aquatic animals, prioritizing sea lions and sea otter species husbandry, handling, and behavioral training experience. 
  • Knowledge of collection planning processes and awareness of sustainability priorities. 
  • Knowledge of life support systems, water quality parameters, and veterinary protocols.  
  • Knowledge of record-keeping requirements and experience with animal record software. 
  • Awareness of regulatory requirements for maintaining a living collection, including animal transport. 
  • Good communication, leadership, and personnel management skills are essential. 
  • Ability to execute department planning and strategy. 
  • Ability to understand and employ intermediate level accounting mathematics. 
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office programs. 
  • Proficiency in the use of animal management software such as TRACKs. 
  • Ability to learn multiple software applications for accounting, employee management, and interdepartmental business operations. 
  • Ability to evaluate and recommend behavioral solutions for optimal welfare and sustainability of animals in Shedd’s care.
  • Ability to plan for the development of animals in Shedd’s care for public engagement, sustainability, and research. 
  • Must possess a valid driver's license or can obtain one within 6 months from the start of employment. 
  • Must possess a valid passport or can obtain one within 6 months from the start of employment. 
  • Must possess a minimum of open water SCUBA certification. Employment is contingent upon passing a dive physical and check-out protocol administered by Shedd Aquarium's Dive Operations. 
Physical Readiness: 
  • The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job.
  • Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform essential functions. 
  • Lift up to 40 pounds  
  • Sit 
  • Stand 
  • Stoop 
  • Kneel 
  • Walk 
  • Swim  
  • Hear 
Working Environment: 
  • The work environment characteristics described here are representative of those an employee encounters while performing the essential functions of this job. 
This person may be exposed to: 
  • Water 
  • Heat 
  • Cold 
  • Hazardous Chemicals 
  • Low noise 
  • Moderate Noise 
  • Loud Noise 
  • We offer competitive compensation packages and opportunities for professional growth within our organization.
  • Medical Insurance
  • Vision and Dental Insurance
  • Accrued Paid Time Off
  • Paid Holidays
  • Life Insurance
  • Parental Leave
  • Employee Assistance Program
  • Employee discounts
Reasonable Accommodations:
  • Shedd Aquarium is committed to working with and providing reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities.
  • If you need reasonable accommodations for any part of the employment process, please email us at
  • We strongly encourage people of color, LGBTQ+ community, veterans and active duty military, parents, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from all cultural backgrounds to apply.
  • Shedd Aquarium is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes everyone to our team.

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