Volunteer at the Zoo

Volunteers are an integral component of Nashville Zoo.

They are dedicated individuals providing much of the manpower needed for daily operations, programs, special projects and events. From fundraising and education to Green Team initiatives and assisting animal staff, you (as a Zoo volunteer) can get involved at a level that fits your time and commitment ability. 

The Zoo’s volunteer programs are certified by Nashville’s Excellence in Volunteer Engagement (EVE) which recognizes high-quality volunteer management by nonprofit organizations. EVE is the first such certification effort in the nation and was created in 2011 by Mayor Dean’s office, Hands On Nashville and the Center for Non-Profit Management to recognize nonprofit agencies with effective volunteer programs and to encourage other organizations to join them in improving their volunteer opportunities so they can maximize their resources and provide the best quality services possible.

Please note: Nashville Zoo does not offer court-ordered community service as a volunteer opportunity.

Adult Volunteer Corps (ages 18+)

The Adult Volunteer Corps gives volunteers ages 18 and older the opportunity to experience a deeper level of involvement with the Zoo.

They have the privilege to volunteer alongside Zoo staff in areas throughout the Zoo and assist them with daily operations, animal care or special events. Volunteer involvement is divided into five service areas: 

  • Education - Visitor Interaction, Animal Care, Show Assistance, Program Assistance, Library Maintenance
  • Administrative - Special Events, Membership, Guest Services, Marketing, Development
  • Animal Care - Commissary (animal diet preparation), Historic Preservation, Birds, Mammals, Amphibians, Reptiles, Farm, etc.
  • Conservation Corps - Remove invasive plants and improve native growth areas, Mulching, Planting, Green Team initiatives
  • Master Gardeners - Maintain the historic gardens at the Croft home onsite at the Zoo. You can apply to become a volunteer gardener by completing this gardener-specific application.

Please note: Due to strict animal husbandry guidelines and safety issues, there is no animal contact or inside exhibit work with the animals in the Zoo. 

If you have questions, please contact the Volunteer Programs Manager at 615-833-1534 ext. 140 or volunteer@nashvillezoo.org. To apply for the Adult Volunteer Corps, please complete and return the Adult Volunteer Corps Application.

Docents (ages 18+) 

Pre-requisite: 6 months of volunteering as a member of our Adult Volunteer Corps. Additional training is required.

Docents are a dedicated group of volunteer educators who play a vital role in delivering informal education programs to Nashville Zoo visitors about conservation, the environment and our animals.

Docents help educate guests within the Zoo using animal artifacts at exhibits, assist the Education Department with programs and at special events, and participate in off-site events throughout Nashville. Docents are required to volunteer a minimum of 48 hours each year.

For more information, contact Chris Radek, Manager of Onsite Interpretation, at cradek@nashvillezoo.org or (615) 833-1534 ext. 146.

The docent application process is closed.

ZooTeens (age 13 to High School Senior)

The ZooTeen Program is for young adults age 13 to high school seniors passionate about animals and the environment. ZooTeens should have a desire to teach others about the Zoo, conservation, and the natural world, all while gaining valuable volunteer experience.

ZooTeen Assignments

Basic Level:
  • Zoo Interpretation - At stations throughout the Zoo, you and a partner will use animal artifacts and other resources to help education Zoo guests about our animal collection and conservation efforts.
Specialty Levels:
  • Croft Teens - Share the story of how Grassmere Farm became Nashville Zoo, and help take people back in time to frontier life in Middle Tennessee. As part of the Croft Teen program, you will create two artifact encounters where you choose an item from our historic collection, research it, and create a public presentation. You will also lead out-building tours and assist with open house tours throughout the day.
  • Counselors in Training (CIT) - Work alongside Summer Camp Staff to help monitor groups of children, lead activities, assist with set-up and clean-up, supervise games, and help with other camp activities. All the while gaining knowledge of wildlife and zoo careers, working with children in a classroom setting and building public speaking and leadership skills.
  • Animal Care (Returning ZooTeens who are age 15+ only) - Work with the Zoo’s keeper staff and learn how to care for exotic animals. Assist keepers with cleaning, feeding, enrichment and observations of the animal collection. Available areas include the avian, herpetology, aquatics, and mammal departments.
  • Assistant Instructor (Returning Zoo Teens only) - Ready to share your ZooTeen knowledge? We're looking for Assistant ZooTeen Instructors to research animal fact sheets and prepare interpretive materials. Being an Assistant Instructor is a great way to learn more about the Zoo and gain valuable leadership experience.

Program Requirements

March, April & May

Volunteer for one ZooTeen shift per month.

June & July

Volunteer one shift per week for at least 7 of 9 weeks, and volunteer for one full week of zoo camp.

August, September & October

Volunteer for one ZooTeen shift per month. Plus, in October volunteer for one “Boo at the Zoo” event shift.

How to Become a ZooTeen

The ZooTeen application process is now closed.

  1. Fill out an application
  2. Pay a one-time fee (which includes uniform)
  3. Attend all scheduled training sessions (see application for dates)

Apply Now

ZooTeen Scholarships

Through the generosity of Advanced Financial, Nashville Zoo will offer a limited number of scholarships for our ZooTeen program. Applicants must meet all application requirements, reside in Middle Tennessee, and state in their application essay that they are applying for the scholarship. Applicants attending Title I schools will take preference. Please note, transportation is not provided.

For more information, contact Chris Radek, Manager of Onsite Interpretation, at cradek@nashvillezoo.org or (615) 833-1534 ext. 146.

Participation in this program can be used to fulfill Capstone requirements.

Nashville Zoo thanks our Presenting Partner, Advance Financial, for helping to make this program possible.

Family Team Volunteers (ages 10+)

Family Team Volunteers work together to assist at special events, as Zoo greeters, or with conservation corps and animal area/enrichment. 

  • Zoo Greeters work in Guest Services assisting visitors as they enter the Zoo and informing them of any special activities taking place at the Zoo that day.
  • Conservation Corps - Remove invasive plants and improve native growth areas, mulching, planting, Green Team initiatives
  • Critter Encounters - volunteering in our Critter Encounters area involves interacting with visitors and some animal care.
  • Special Events opportunities - age requirements vary by event

In order to qualify for this program, prospective youth volunteers must be at least 10 years of age and be accompanied by a legal guardian or adult family member. One adult is required per child on each team.

If you would like more information about the Family Team Volunteer, send us a completed Family Team Volunteer application.

Group Volunteers

Is your company, college group or other organization looking for a fun and rewarding service project? Nashville Zoo's Volunteer Program can accommodate groups and organizations that are looking for an exciting place to volunteer. Opportunities include:

  • Special events and setting up for events
  • Preparing animal enrichment items
  • Landscaping and gardening projects
  • Conservation Corps - Remove invasive plants and improve native growth areas, mulching, planting, Green Team initiatives
  • Other special skill-based projects

If your group would like to participate in one of our group projects, please send us a complete Group Volunteer Application.

If you have any additional questions or would like more information, please contact the Volunteer Programs Manager at volunteer@nashvillezoo.org or (615) 833-1534 ext. 140.


Special Events Volunteers

Special Events volunteer opportunities welcome new friends to the Nashville Zoo family. Great for groups or individuals to help out periodically, and conveniently most events are held after work hours and on weekends. It’s a fun way to share a volunteer experience and meet other volunteers and staff. There are several opportunities throughout the year, including Eggstravaganzoo, Brew at the Zoo, Red White & Zoo, Ice Day, Boo at the Zoo, and others.

Volunteer at Boo at the Zoo

Volunteers help at treat stations, carnival games, hay ride and more!  All volunteers must be 17 and older.  These dates are available:  Friday 10/14, Saturday 10/15, Sunday 10/16, Friday 10/21, Saturday 10/22, Sunday 10/23, Thursday 10/27, Friday 10/28, Saturday 10/29, and Sunday 10/30.  There is one volunteer shift each night from 4:30 to 9:30pm. We encourage dressing in costume to make it fun. If have any questions about volunteering at this event, please email boovolunteers@nashvillezoo.org.

Sign up to volunteer