A zookeeper with a penguin and guests

Animal Support

Support Departments

Most zoos and aquariums are mini-cities that require other jobs to support the care of animals, such as water quality specialists, horticulturists, and design and engineering professionals. The physical structure of enclosures, amount and type of plants in each exhibit, and a clean, safe water supply are as important to the well-being of a park's animal collection as the right kind of food. Although these positions don't involve hands-on contact with animals, the people in these positions find great satisfaction through their indirect role in caring for animals.


The plants in a zoological park are more than decoration. They are carefully considered parts of the animals' habitats and sometimes provide a secondary source of food for the animals. The type of plants in and around each exhibit help visitors get an idea of what the animals' natural habitat is like, and often provide a way for shy animals to get a little privacy from time to time.

In addition to aiding the relationship between animals and plants, horticulturists are acting to save a number of endangered plant species through aggressive propagation and seed-saving.


Two gardeners planting flowers



Main job duties:

Responsible for the park's botanical or plant collection and its application to the animal collection, horticulturists plan botanical exhibits and assist with the design and development of new animal exhibits (by suggesting appropriate plants). A thorough knowledge of toxic plants is also important, since exhibit plants may be eaten or at least chewed by the animals.


A strong landscaping background, including maintenance and design.

Initial training:

Experience in landscape care and design; a thorough understanding of the park's geography.

Works closely with:

Curators, all animal departments, Operations department, and Design and Engineering department.


Horticulturists must be constantly aware of environmental factors, such as soil type, microclimates, seasons, and sun exposure, in order to maintain healthy landscapes. Often, weather conditions can be harsh, creating a more difficult work environment.


Water Quality

Clean, chemically balanced water at the right temperature is vital to maintaining healthy animals within an aquatic park. Water Quality staffmembers monitor and adjust seawater and freshwater systems throughout the park. Tests performed around the clock keep the quality at its peak 24 hours a day.

Water Quality Technician

Main job duties:

The main responsibilities of Water Quality Technicians include performing chemical tests on water samples from all aquatic animal exhibits, monitoring quality and clarity, and making any necessary adjustments in water temperature or chemistry. They also troubleshoot and maintain water quality equipment, keeping accurate records for preventative maintenance.


Graduate from program at an accredited community college in refrigeration, electricity, large bore engines, diesel mechanics, or engineering.

Initial training:

A water chemistry background and computer skills are helpful.

Works closely with:

Maintenance department, all animal care departments, and Design and Engineering department.


A Water Quality Technician must act quickly to fix broken pumps and filters, adjust unexplained changes in water chemistry, and ascertain factors that caused the change.




An aquarist samples water from an aquarium

Michael Tucker

Manager of Water Quality - SeaWorld of California



What was your first job?

It was nothing like what I'm doing now. I bought and sold aluminum of an industrial metal company.


What's your most unforgettable moment on the job?

Moving the killer whales from the old Shamu Stadium to the new one. I was, and still am, amazed and impressed at the high level of team spirit everyone had, and what an impressive thing we accomplished.


What are some of the things you learned in high school that you use now?

Definitely math. I remember thinking, "I'll never use this stuff." Boy, was I wrong! Calculators help, but you have to understand what you want to know and which numbers to use to find the answers.


Design & Engineering

Continually updating the park together and keeping it in great shape is the responsibility of this department. These people plan and design all park exhibits, with input from all curators.

Design architect

Main job duties:

A Design Architect concepts, creates, and develops plans while considering animal needs, human traffic flow, and keeper and animal safety. He/she weaves these components together in asthetically pleasing ways to create or redesign exhibits and show stadiums. Responsible for coordinating all the physical pieces (painting, graphics, signs, etc.) of all park projects, a Design Architect must also obtain permits and work with curators, government officials, contractors, and consultants.


Bachelor of Arts degree in Architectural Design or Engineering.

Initial training:

Five years experience as an architectural designer or draftsperson

Works closely with:

Veterinarians, curators, Education department, Water Quality department, Graphics department, Finance department, and administration .


A trainer interacts with an orca at the edge of a pool