Conservation Research Apprentice

Position Description
The Brandywine Zoo manages several in-situ conservation programs in Delaware. The two primary programs are monitoring endangered American Kestrels and an Urban Wildlife Monitoring Program, which operates several smaller projects. Other additional projects may be added during the year, as time allows. This position annually starts and ends in January.

American Kestrel Monitoring: The American Kestrel is North America’s smallest falcon species. Since the 1960s, kestrels have seen a decline of 88% in their population and in 2013 they were listed as Endangered in Delaware. More research is necessary to determine the cause of decline in this small, insect-eating bird, but evidence suggests that pesticide accumulation, increased predation by more urban-adaptable raptors, as well as habitat loss may be primary factors.

The Brandywine Zoo is the program leader for the Delaware Kestrel Partnership, an American Kestrel nest box monitoring program that works with various nonprofit and governmental partners to study Kestrels in the state. Research apprentices will be responsible for the maintenance and monitoring of kestrel nest boxes across the state of Delaware, logging data, managing volunteer monitors, and following or creating research parameters. The goals of this research at this point in time is to identify Kestrel nesting activity and habitat selection in Delaware and Southeastern Pennsylvania, impact of habitat, urbanization and invasive species pressures, and other baseline information for future research.

Delaware Urban Wildlife Monitoring Programs: The Brandywine Zoo conducts various urban wildlife monitoring projects across New Castle County, DE and Southeastern Pennsylvania. These studies focus on urban wildlife in and around Wilmington Delaware using non-invasive monitoring techniques such as camera trapping, footprint tubes, and audio monitoring. Various projects take place in this program, including general surveys along a transect as part of the Urban Wildlife Information Network, annual surveys for eMammal’s Snapshot USA project, small mammal footprint surveys, scavenger succession studies, and urban carnivore ecology research. This position would be in charge of camera deployment and maintenance schedules, tagging/identifying photos in online database, and managing volunteers in the program. Additionally, developing and delivering wildlife conservation-focused school programming to middle and high school students will be part of the regular job duties of this position in 2020.

Other Projects: Other projects may be started over the course of the monitoring season, including monarch butterfly tagging and way station installations, launch the Zoo’s campaign to work with local businesses to eliminate single-use plastic straws and cutlery, conduct herptile surveys, bird-strike awareness campaigns, zoo animal behavior data collection, and more. Apprentices are required to develop and conduct a wildlife research a project of their own design as part of their year in the program.

Responsibilities & Requirements

  • At least 18 years old with valid driver’s license and reliable transportation to provide own transportation to field sites. This includes a large amount of off-road driving.
  • Provide proof of negative TB Test within the last 12 months before start date
  • Good physical condition: able to stand/walk for extended periods of time, kneel, crouch, and able to work in all weather conditions, able to lift up to 50 pounds
  • Must be fluent in the English language (verbal and written communication), able and willing to read and follow verbal and written work instructions and work independently
  • Overall GPA must be 2.5 or higher
  • Willing to assist with administrative, customer relations, and housekeeping tasks and possibly animal care; other duties as assigned
  • Ability to work independently to monitor and maintain nest box locations or urban wildlife lab locations. Installation and maintenance of Kestrel nest boxes (installing posts or attaching to buildings).
  • Delivery of on and off-site programming, in both formal and informal settings, about the Zoo’s wildlife monitoring projects.
  • Management of databases and records for wildlife projects.
  • Able to professionally represent the Brandywine Zoo in all interactions with visitors, staff, and other members of the community. Able to commit to upholding all Zoo safety and personnel policies, support the overall mission, follow protocols to prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases and maintain high levels of animal safety.
  • Time management and ability to work independently. This includes strong communication with Curator of Education and Conservation.
  • Ability to work weekend days and flexible hours as schedules dictate.
  • Complete a project of the intern’s own design (Demonstration of Learning), and approved by zoo staff, during the internship period


  • Research techniques; research methodology
  • Native bird and mammal identification; Plant identification
  • American Kestrel and mid-Atlantic mammal natural history knowledge
  • GIS and Google Earth applications
  • Use of appropriate equipment including but not limited to GPS, motion-sensored cameras, etc.
  • Educational program delivery/public speaking experience
  • Data recording, analysis, and presentation
  • The position is physically demanding at times, requiring outdoor work in a variety of temperatures and sometimes challenging conditions. Candidates must be able to climb a ladder, operate post-hole digger, and small engine equipment such as post auger.

Seasonal Breakdown: Winter (Jan-Mar)

  • Trail camera placement  and picture ID (year-round)
  • Small mammal track tube surveys
  • Kestrel Box preparation for season (cleaning and preparing for Kestrel use)
  • Familiarizing yourself with locations, property owners, and zoo standards
  • Meeting with people such as volunteers and landowners
  • Training Kestrel and Urban Wildlife volunteers
  • Kestrel roadside surveys
  • Adult kestrel trapping/banding (once nesting begins)
  • Begin launch of Single-Use Plastics campaign (make contact with local businesses)

Seasonal Breakdown: Spring (Apr-Jun) – busiest season

  • Ensuring every box is being monitored by volunteer or yourself
  • Start monitoring nest boxes
  • Trail camera deployment and photo tagging (ongoing)
  • Small mammal track tube surveys
  • Kestrel and coyote roadside surveys
  • Installation of monarch waystation at the zoo
  • Adult kestrel trapping/banding; Kestrel chick banding
  • Managing volunteer monitors
  • Launch of Single-Use Plastics campaign (Earth Day)

Seasonal Breakdown: Fall (Oct-Dec)

  • Fall maintenance of Kestrel boxes (cleaning them out) and installation of new boxes
  • Trail camera deployment and photo tagging (ongoing)
  • Monarch butterfly tagging
  • Possible visit to Cape May Raptor Banding Project
  • Kestrel and coyote roadside surveys
  • Annual reports for projects
  • Zoo animal behavioral data collection (as time allows)
  • Continue Single-Use Plastics campaign by adding more local partners


Training will include field introduction & protocols, field methods trainings, plus various online modules in the San Diego Zoo Global Academy. Apprentice will opportunistically be able to go out with other raptor researchers in the region. This has previously included visits to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, the Cape May Raptor Banding Station, and riding out with New Jersey Fish and Wildlife during their Kestrel banding season.

Required Time Commitment
12 months, 37.5 hours/week

Direct Supervisor
Curator of Education and Conservation

Shift Times
Variable shift times, this position is largely independent and responsible for managing monitoring work when most appropriate

A stipend of $400/month will be provided for the duration of the internship. Interns are not employees of the State of Delaware- they are considered volunteers and are not paid for their service. Interns may elect to receive a stipend to help cover expenses incurred during their volunteer intern service. The stipend is a fixed amount paid as a direct deposit into the Intern’s bank account.

Some housing is available, at no fee, for interns providing full-time hours (30 or more per week). If selected for housing, an intern will share a house, duplex or dorm facility with other interns.


  • Full access to the San Diego Zoo Global Academy course-list for the duration of the internship; certificate upon completion.
  • Networking opportunity and access to 180+ years of professional experience and knowledge via current zoo staff.
  • Potential training in numerous animal husbandry and zoo facility skills such as exhibit design and maintenance, animal nutrition, landscaping, small tool use, veterinary care, operant conditioning and public speaking.
  • Free access to all Delaware State Parks during internship or volunteer duration including Delaware Seashore and Fort Delaware.
  • Job shadow opportunities at nearby AZA zoos when scheduling permits.

Questions? Email