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Wild Animals/I want to work with penguins.


Hello, this may be sort of a redundant question for you, but today I was at a zoo and went right to the penguins. I love penguins so much, they're my favorite animal and I collect pretty much everything even related to penguins. I want to work with penguins as a career and understand that volunteering would benefit me a lot in order to achieve my goal. But what's got me in a pickle is the type of classes I should take? It's my dream to work with them hands on and up close, so I'm not sure if there are specific classes/degrees I need in order to be able too. Hope you can help! Thanks!

Hi Kasey,

Thank you for contacting me with your question about pursuing a career working with penguins. There are a few approaches you can take in terms of your education. I have a BS degree in Veterinary Technology, as did several of my colleagues at the New England Aquarium. Other staff members had degrees in Biology, Marine Biology, or Zoology. If you are interested in studying the behavior of penguins, you'll want to look for colleges offering degrees in ethology or even psychology. To work in most zoos or aquariums, you will need a BS degree. To become a field researcher, you will need an advanced degree - either a Masters or Doctorates. You don't say how old you are - if you're still in high school, you'll want to focus on science courses.

This article has information about pursuing a career working with wildlife:

Here is a another website that has lots of great links to more information about zoo and aquarium and other animal careers:

There is a great school in California for people wanting to work with animals (primarily as a trainer) called Moorpark College and they have an excellent reputation. Here is a link to their website:

Here is a link to SeaWorld's page about becoming a trainer there:

This woman has a good page as well - if you scroll to the bottom of the page, she has several links to schools and training programs:

I also came across this place last year - I don't know anything about it (other than it is NOT an accredited school), but it's worth a look:

That being said, the best way to get your foot in the door at a zoo or aquarium (in addition to getting the proper education) is to become a volunteer or intern. This is extremely important. At the New England Aquarium, we hired 95% of our staff from our volunteer and intern pool. In addition to getting a BS degree, you will also need to get your scuba certification if you want to be hired as a staff member at most aquariums. I would start by contacting the zoos and aquariums in your area to see if they are looking for interns or volunteers. If you don't yet have any animal care experience, you can start off by volunteering in an animal hospital, kennel, farm, or shelter - any sort of work with animals will be very helpful in getting hired as a volunteer at a zoo or aquarium.

I hope this is of some help good luck in pursuing your dream of working with penguins!

All best,

Penguin expert and author of The Great Penguin Rescue

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Dyan deNapoli


I ONLY ANSWER QUESTIONS ABOUT PENGUINS. As a recognized penguin expert, I can authoritatively answer any questions about penguins - from biology, behavior, conservation, habitat or the impacts of global warming, to working in an aquarium setting and husbandry management etc. AGAIN, I ANSWER PENGUIN QUESTIONS ONLY - IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT OTHER ANIMALS, PLEASE ASK A DIFFERENT EXPERT. Thank you!


I was a Senior Penguin Aquarist at the New England Aquarium in Boston for nine years, where I co-managed a colony of seventy penguins. I have extensive experience hand-rearing penguin chicks, managing colony health, understanding penguin behavior, and educating the public about penguins. I've been the guest penguin expert on numerous television and radio shows in the US and abroad, have been the content reviewer for three books about penguins, and have spoken at national and international conferences. I have spoken at four TEDx conferences - my TEDx talk about the Treasure oil spill rescue is featured on the main TED website. It can been viewed at In the summer of 2000, I worked as a rehabilitation manager during the rescue of 40,000 African penguins from an oil spill. I wrote an award-winning book about this event, THE GREAT PENGUIN RESCUE, which Simon & Schuster published in October of 2010. In 2006, I founded an educational company called THE PENGUIN LADY, which is devoted to raising awareness and funding to help protect threatened and endangered penguin species. I provide on-site programs about penguins for children and adults, and donate a portion of the proceeds from every appearance to penguin rescue groups.

National Marine Educators Association (NMEA), Massachusetts Marine Educators Association (MMEA), Association of Zoos & Aquariums, International Zoo Educators Association, Author's Guild, International Women's Writing Guild, North Shore Women in Business (NSWIB), North Shore Business Forum, Mount Ida Veterinary Technology Accreditation Committee, Mensa International

On October 26, 2010, Simon & Schuster's Free Press imprint published THE GREAT PENGUIN RESCUE, a book that I wrote about the remarkable rescue of 40,000 penguins from the Treasure oil spill in South Africa. I worked as a rehabilitation supervisor during this historic event. More than 12,500 volunteers labored for three grueling months, after which 95% of the penguins were successfully released back into the wild. THE GREAT PENGUIN RESCUE has won several literary awards, and is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other stores and online retailers. I authored the Penguin chapter for Scholastic Publishing's New Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia (NBK) in 2008, which is also available online at Grolier. (Most libraries have free access to this database.) I wrote the feature cover story (about the Treasure oil spill rescue) for the January 2011 The Mensa Bulletin. A link to that article, title Rescued Treasure, is here: I've had several articles published online, as well as in Mused Literary Magazine. A paper that I wrote about the New England Aquarium's penguin outreach program was published in the AZA conference proceedings journal in 1998.

BS in Animal Science from Mount Ida College in 1996, AZA Conservation Education School - NC State University 1999, PADI Scuba certified in 1995

Awards and Honors
Distinguished Alumni Award from Mount Ida College in 2002 for outstanding contributions in the sciences - award given in recognition of work done as a rehabilitation manager during the rescue of 20,000 penguins from an oil spill in South Africa. Graduated Summa Cum Laude from Mount Ida College in 1996 - awarded for Exceptional Achievement in the Sciences at graduation ceremonies

Past/Present Clients
Numerous schools, colleges, libraries, museums, cruise ships, assisted living facilities, rotary clubs and more. I've been the onboard penguin expert/guest lecturer on nature cruises to the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica. I've also been the guest on numerous TV and radio programs, including CNN, BBC, CBC Radio-Canada, ABC Radio Australia. and Sierra Club Radio. If you wish to obtain specific names or locations, please contact me via e-mail or through my website at

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