DHR Global – Position Specification Vice President, Conservation and Climate Initiatives, Woodland Park Zoo – Seattle, WA
Reporting To: President and Chief Executive Officer
Direct Reports: TKCP Director and Senior Conservation Scientist, Wildlife Conservation Administrator, Living Northwest Program Director, and Carnivore Conservation Specialist
Location: Seattle, WA
Woodland Park Zoo
Founded in 1899, the Woodland Park Zoo sits on 92 acres in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood of north central Seattle. Last year 1.3 million on-site visitors of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities engaged in deeply memorable experiences with 300 species of animals and with each other. Online visitors to Woodland Park Zoo’s website, zoo.org, now exceed annual on-site attendance. The surge of support for and engagement with Woodland Park Zoo during the pandemic reaffirmed the organization’s role as a science-based community resource, a safe place to visit, and an inclusive beacon of hope and respite. Its membership base is the largest of any cultural institution in the region.
Through the leadership of its current President, Alejandro Grajal, Ph.D., Woodland Park Zoo has articulated and committed to a new and necessary role for itself and all zoos: to save wildlife and inspire everyone to make conservation a priority in their lives. This repositions Woodland Park Zoo from a traditional role of a destination/educational organization toward a proactive conservation organization that embraces the increasingly rapid pace of societal, environmental, and technological change and its impact on our planet.
The zoo’s current Strategic Plan (through 2025) demonstrates its commitment to doing more to save wildlife and their habitats, including to continue bringing sustainable solutions to wildlife and habitats in the Pacific Northwest and around the world through its award-winning field conservation programs. Moreover, it strengthens the organization’s ambition to rethink and redefine Woodland Park Zoo and all zoos for the 21st century, to do no less than act, educate, innovate, and inspire to create a broad social movement for wildlife conservation. Key elements of the strategic plan’s conservation focus include:
- Increase local and global efforts to save endangered species and ecosystems through community-based fieldwork (actively engaging and partnering with members of the local community wherever conservation takes place) that blends professional conservation work, community action, and strategic and financial support.
- Encourage urgent and hopeful actions for saving species, bringing wildlife conservation to a relatable scale that invites and prompts action.
- Engage with Woodland Park Zoo’s communities to identify opportunities for personal and collective engagement in conservation solutions and empower their voices in meaningful conservation action.
- Activate visitors, community members, and partner organizations to create tangible social change for the environment in our region.
- Explore the frontiers of information technology applied to field conservation work, seeking to achieve solutions of significant scale through partnerships.
- Make fieldwork more visible and participatory through inspiring and informative examples of wildlife conservation efforts across the globe and inviting our community to join in scientific exploration.
- Create empowering educational experiences that engender a direct connection to local and global conservation issues and encourage personal and attainable actions with a positive impact on animals and habitats.
- Be an inclusive conservation leader, dedicated to advancing direct actions as well as broader social change. Engage and listen to underrepresented and underserved communities to design programs that bring equitable and just environmental solutions.
Scope and Responsibilities
The Vice President, Conservation and Climate Initiatives (VP) provides strategic direction and leadership for all conservation initiatives and programs related to the Woodland Park Zoo regionally and internationally. The VP will create synergies between field operations, partnerships, programs, and zoo experiences that support a social movement for wildlife conservation. To achieve this, the VP will identify and articulate needs and plans that explore ways to analyze conservation outcomes, create partnerships, engage emerging technologies, explore climate solutions and monitor research trends that increase the zoo’s conservation impact. He or she will develop and track measurable impacts for the conservation of certain globally significant conservation species and landscapes and will coordinate measurable outcomes for public engagement in conservation solutions.
In addition, the VP will build strong partnerships with other community-based organizations, conservation organizations, and academic partners. Collaborating with the President and executive team, the VP will proactively seek out revenues and resources that support conservation programs. He or she will also actively engage the Executive Leadership Team and the Board of Directors to support the goals of the strategic and operational plans.
- Strategically focus the zoo’s core conservation programs and partnerships internationally and regionally while advancing conservation solutions for certain globally significant species conservation areas, in partnership with other conservation organizations, professional networks, and academic institutions.
- Coordinate all wildlife conservation efforts with other zoo departments toward the creation of a social movement for conservation that includes field projects, the zoo visitor experience, coordination with learning and interpretation programs, storytelling, and social media.
- Support and strengthen our flagship programs in the Pacific Northwest that help conserve critical species and ecosystems in our own regional ecosystems, including Cascadia and Puget Sound, and actively nurture partnerships, support, and public recognition for this program.
- Support and strengthen our flagship Tree Kangaroo program in Papua New Guinea and actively explore additional partnerships, support, and public recognition for this program.
- Oversee and maintain our global network of Partners for Wildlife, securing funding, reciprocal recognition, and partner engagement. Articulate explicit climate and biodiversity outcomes for these partnerships in a way that increases their conservation impact.
- Provide strategic expansion for the program, in coordination with the Advancement Team and Business Operations, seeking funding and revenue solutions to support conservation initiatives, including private donors, institutional foundations, government agencies, multilateral funding organizations, and earned revenue options.
- Lead the identification and monitoring of measures of success for conservation initiatives that quantify the zoo’s conservation impact.
- Leads innovation through partnerships and linkages to technology solutions for biodiversity conservation. Explore carbon markets and other green investments as opportunities for climate change mitigation in support of biodiversity conservation.
- Coordinate with Animal Management curatorial staff and Animal Health staff to link conservation work and findings with activities and program needs of animal collection especially regarding AZA programs, such as SAFE, SSPs and TAGs.
- Work across all zoo departments to help develop messages, calls for action, and storytelling narratives that increase our conservation impact.
- Lead an effort to de-colonize conservation narratives by including traditionally underrepresented voices from tropical, southern, indigenous, and non-western perspectives.
- Advise the President & CEO, be an active player of the Executive Leadership Team, and communicate with appropriate board members regarding conservation activities and organizational positions on biodiversity conservation issues.
- Work with the Engagement Department to actively seek opportunities for public policy positions, lobbying activities, and public communications to advance conservation impact.
- Serve as the main liaison to the Conservation Committee of the Board of Directors. Advise the board on developing conservation policies and adopting policy position statements.
- Foster research either as independent projects or in partnerships with academic institutions. Disseminate or publish results of conservation science, practices, and impacts.
- Manage expenses, revenues, grants, and earned revenue programs to balance the Conservation Department’s annual budget.
- Support all deliverables and provisions of the Management Agreement with the City of Seattle.
- Develop a clear vision for conservation as the future of the organization. Maintain a long-term, big-picture view of the organization and identify the long-term, future needs and opportunities. Anticipate the evolution and future trends of our sector and how the organization must adapt to these changes to advance our mission.
- Work with the Executive Leadership Team to support a culture of excellence, innovation, and trust.
- Work with outside contractors and partners to develop cohesive, and measurable conservation programs with tangible results for wildlife and habitats.
- Direct, motivate and develop the Conservation Initiatives team members to design and implement programs, partnerships, and services to advance conservation success.
- Oversee and support time and budget accountability for grants, projects, and program compliance.
- Engage in professional societies or networks to foster strong relationships with key partner organizations, individuals, and stakeholders to harness support and enhance the zoo’s organizational impact on wildlife conservation and climate change mitigation. This may include (but is not limited to) IUCN, Species Survival Commission (SSC), CITES, GEF, bilateral and multilateral agencies, US Government, and Washington State agencies.
- Establish and maintain effective partnerships with Board members to foster a culture of collaboration, cooperation, and consultation. Prepare materials for the Board as needed.
- Stay abreast of important trends (including policy changes, technological, social, and economic) that could potentially impact the organization. Utilize external best practices and benchmark standards, monitor costs, and key trends in biodiversity conservation.
- Deep awareness of the organization and its core capabilities and vulnerabilities. Drive the zoo’s mission through the support of visionary conservation programs, creative revenue solutions, and outcome-based implementation.
- Support the zoo as a non-profit organization that receives public and private funding. Support the zoo’s business and earned revenue goals. Clearly communicate the organization’s vision and goals; excite, and energize people behind the vision and direction, building consensus and collaboration.
- Support all deliverables and provisions related to wildlife conservation as required by the Management Agreement with the City of Seattle.
- Leverage complex systems of people and processes, create connections between people, partners, and processes, and align them with vision and strategy. Manages the inclusion of potential new technologies and climate/carbon markets to enhance conservation impacts. Establish appropriate performance measures to ensure organizational success.
- Prepare and deliver employee performance evaluations, appropriate disciplinary actions, and documentation of excellent work performance to assure a mutual understanding of goals and progress towards ever-improving professional achievement.
Key Selection Criteria
- Graduate degree in biology, zoology, geography, conservation sciences, or related fields, (Ph.D., DVM, or Master), is highly preferred. Bachelor’s (B.A. or B.S.) degree in liberal arts or life sciences-related field from an accredited educational institution is required.
- Strong candidates should have at least fifteen (15) years of experience in conservation projects related to people, species, climate, or habitats. An equivalent combination of education and experience will be considered.
- At least five (5) years of direct supervisory and management experience with other professional staff.
- Demonstrated strong interpersonal and professional skills necessary to establish and maintain strong working relationships with zoo departments, staff members, board members, volunteers, and community organizations and individuals.
- Advanced knowledge of biodiversity conservation efforts and the latest scientific issues surrounding those efforts are required. Experience with conservation projects that provide positive conservation outcomes.
- Demonstrated success in building partnerships with individuals, local communities, academic partners, and others to develop and implement conservation initiatives.
- Demonstrated strong intercultural skills necessary to develop rapport with traditional and non-traditional audiences and partners.
- Demonstrated success in raising funds to support research and conservation projects.
- Proficiency in Microsoft Office products, particularly Word, Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams. Knowledge of and experience with project tracking practices and software.
- Research experience and a publication record in related fields.
- Experience reviewing and managing complex grants.
- Strong experience in electronic media, storytelling, or visual media to communicate conservation stories.
- Zoo, aquarium, or museum experience is preferred; however, experience is academic.
- Working knowledge of additional languages beyond American English is highly preferred.
- A Valid Washington State Driver’s License (or the ability to obtain one) is required.
Personal / Professional Attributes
- Ability to inspire, motivate, and marshal resources throughout the entire organization to advance Woodland Park Zoo’s conservation agenda.
- Serve as a positive example of a visible, transparent, and accessible executive, reflecting the zoo’s culture and values. Ability to identify and suggest changes that promote positive impacts with a lens for diversity and inclusion.
- A team-oriented approach and management skill-set. Ability to lead teams in solving problems, setting priorities, meeting deadlines, and implementing programs in a constantly changing environment.
- Ability to think strategically, creating competitive and breakthrough strategies and implementation plans organization-wide. Ability to make strategic decisions based on analysis, wisdom, experience, and judgment. Ability to evaluate and understand other people’s motivations, interests, and perceptions. Able to translate vision into planning and implementation, ensuring strategic vision comes alive through departmental operations, processes, and policies. Identify the need for change, envision change, and empower employees as champions of change culture. Provide clear vision and communication regarding change.
- Ability to work independently and as part of a team within diverse teams and environments while treating everyone with respect. Ability to listen, give and receive feedback in a productive and professional manner.
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills with the ability to adapt communication-based on audience and purpose with inclusivity. Ability to communicate complex information in a way that is understandable and engaging to broad audiences; comfortable speaking to groups in a variety of settings. Ability to participate and/or initiate external team interaction, such as working with board committees, attending zoo events, and fundraising events.
- Ability to evaluate problems and effectively solve them in a timely manner. Ability to anticipate needs and challenges, take initiative, ask questions, and provide solutions to achieve organizational objectives.
- Ability to display sensitivity, tact, and responsiveness in various situations with empathy and inclusivity. Maintain a high level of confidentiality. Respond appropriately to conflict. Ability to respond to inquiries or complaints from zoo visitors, regulatory agencies, or community members.
- Ability to read and analyze financial reports, business plans, contracts, and legal documents. Ability to calculate figures and amounts such as discounts, interest, commissions, proportions, percentages, area, circumference, and volume.
- Excellent organizational skills with the ability to balance and prioritize multiple tasks and requests and meet deadlines in a professional manner. Ability to design, track, and manage multiple projects simultaneously, setting deadlines, and ensuring outcomes for program accountability. Ability to evaluate, review and track contracts, grants, and agreements to advance the zoo’s interests and impacts.
- Demonstrated success leading and motivating teams. Ability to delegate responsibilities, work with others, and coach employees to develop their full potential. Provide helpful, behaviorally specific feedback to others. Regularly meet with employees to review their development progress and express confidence in their abilities to be successful. Engage team members in open and honest communication.
- Willingness to engage in potential linkages between advanced information technology solutions and real-world conservation work, including new technologies, new social media platforms, and technology solutions to global conservation challenges.
- Good understanding of social marketing, conservation psychology, or learning strategies is highly desirable. Otherwise, demonstrated experience in engaging with environmental educators, social activists, or experienced communication teams.
- Ability to work a flexible schedule, which may include evenings, weekends, and/or holidays.