How to become a wildlife education officer

Charlotte Daly educates the public on wildlife at Chester Zoo. 

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Charlotte Daly giving a talk at Chester Zoo

What does your role involve?

I’m part of an education team of conservationists who pass on our passion about wildlife and how to protect it to the zoo’s visitors. It’s a very diverse role that involves doing public talks about our different animals and running workshops to inform visitors of the zoo’s conservation work. 

How did you become an education officer?

I studied zoology and marine biology at undergraduate level, followed by a master’s degree in conservation. I did a lot of volunteering for various wildlife organisations and gained lots of experience and tips that would help when I applied for my current job. I took the usual route into the profession of building up my skills on seasonal contracts, until I was offered a permanent position.

What skills are needed for the job?

Widespread knowledge of zoology and conservation is essential for the role, teamed with a lot of passion for wildlife and knowlegde on how we can help protect it. We have to be adaptable as we could be talking to a group of children about penguins and our next conversation could be with an experienced herpetologist. 

What are the pros and cons of your role? 

I love being a part of that moment when people discover something they didn’t know about their favourite animals, whether it be parthenogenesis in komodo dragons or infrasonic communication in elephants. One of the most rewarding aspects on my job is inspiring people to pledge to make a small difference in the right direction, like buying sustainable palm oil products to reduce deforestation. People will protect what they love and if we can inspire people to love wildlife, we can encourage them to conserve it. On the other hand, working with animals, children and technology can be tricky! A big challenge is the huge variety of questions that we could be asked on daily basis.

What is your most memorable moment at work? 

While talking to a group of visitors about elephants and what they use their incredible trunks for, a young male elephant sucked up lots of water, casually walked to the edge of the enclosure and then squirted it at the visitors, giving them an unforgettable encounter! 

What advice would you give to an aspiring wildlife education officer?

Always build on your knowledge by volunteering for local wildlife groups. My volunteer experience provided me with essential skills, which I use daily, adding to my professional development and making my CV look great. Organisations that employ education officers and could provide volunteering opportunities include local wildlife trusts, museums, wildlife reserves, environmental organisations, and government-lead schemes, such as sustainable transport initiatives.

Find out more about Chester Zoo.

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