HORTICULTURE AS A CAREER
Everyone thinks of animals first when you mention a zoo, but have you ever thought of how much plants contribute to your zoo experience?
One can’t think about a stately giraffe without conjuring the tall acacia trees where it nibbles leaves, or a jaguar without imagining the leafy ferns where it silently stalks its prey. Woodland Park Zoo revolutionized animal exhibits by incorporating the landscape and flora where animals live in the wild into the actual exhibits. This not only makes for a more naturalistic environment for the animals, but also enhances the zoo visitor experience by teaching about the interdependence of animals, people and plants.
Woodland Park Zoo has thousands of plants and trees, both in animal exhibits and around the grounds. Knowledgeable horticulturist make sure they are healthy and help immerse visitors and animals in the environment.
Association of Zoological Horticulture
And it’s up to the zoo’s Horticultural staff to make the illusion reality. This hardworking team is integral to the success of the zoo’s exhibits by being involved from the very beginning, when designers and exhibit planners begin the process. Working in tandem with the zoo’s Animal Health Department, horticulturists scour plant lists to see what plants will mimic native habitats and be safe for the animal residents. Even in our mild climate, many tropical species of plants will not thrive, so horticulturists find plants that are look-alikes and approximate the look and feel of tropical plants.
The look isn’t confined inside the exhibits, but also extends to all the public areas of the zoo as well. The look-alike plants complete the “you-are-there” scenario of the different exhibit zones, from the palms in the Tropical Asia exhibit zone to the stunted evergreens and willows of the Northern Trail zone. Horticulture staff also plants and maintains the more formal garden elements at the zoo, from the historic, award-winning Rose Garden to the gorgeously vibrant and colorful flowerbeds in parking areas.
Zoo horticulture is a very specialized field that involves much more than just planting flowers. We invite you to view the Flash slideshow about “A Day with Zoo Horticulturists” to see the myriad of tasks these amazingly talented individuals perform every day here at the zoo!
ON THE CAREER TRACK
Internships, externships and job shadowing at the zoo
Hundreds of individuals contact Woodland Park Zoo every year asking about the possibility of internships or job shadowing in zoo keeping, animal health veterinary work, horticulture and other vocations. Due to the volume of requests, staffing and space limitations, we ordinarily are unable to honor most requests. However, intern opportunities occasionally arise in several areas. Learn more.