Internships at Miller Park Zoo

November 10, 2022

When the zoo began having interns most of their work was data entry and cleaning.  In the last five years the intern program has evolved to include many other responsibilities such as research projects.  Today internships last 15 weeks. Most interns are full-time working five days a week.

Local students learn about the program through a partnership the zoo built with Illinois State University biology professors. Nationally, students respond to information in publications and on websites from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Their information reaches students all over the United States. Interns have come from Arizona, Ohio, Florida, and Louisiana to participate in the program.

Help from all over

The number of interns varies by season. There are six in the summer, three to four the fall, and three in the spring. About four years ago, conservation became the focus for one summer and one fall intern. They focus on projects related to the pollinator gardens and the Tropical Rainforest area.

The fall intern assists with the monarch tagging project. They collect larva from the pollinator gardens and place them in the Monarch Hotel in the pollinator garden across form the alligator exhibit. The tiny tag placed on the wing has a number that can be referenced in an on-line data base. The butterflies migrate 3,000 miles to reach overwintering grounds in southwestern Mexico. Butterflies tagged at the zoo have been reported to have reached Mexico. Monarchs are the only butterfly known to make a two-way migration. To learn more about the tagging program go to:

Monarch butterfly box at Miller Park Zoo to help raise monarchs in a protected area for release into the wild

Showing some love to our pollinators

This past summer two conservation interns assisted by Keeper Rose Johnson and Intern Program Coordinator Sylvia Schuh created installations in the pollinator garden near the alligator exhibit.

Nathalie Romero created a bright and beautiful interactive butterfly using recycled materials including bottle caps. She majors in Environmental Studies and chose to use recycled materials for her project. Her goal was to create something that would catch visitors’ attention while also highlighting the importance of pollinators. Guests stand between the colorful wings to have their photo taken.

FUN FACT: The bees found inside Zoo Lab are honeybees and different from the native Illinois species that use the bee hotel.

Bee hotel

Donovan Schaefer built a bee hotel. He got the idea from a book about bees. It took him just a few hours to set up. It is made of used pallets, bricks, hay, pine cones, sticks, pots, and tiles. Bees attracted to the pollinator garden may spend the day or stay overnight in the hotel. It is constructed of layers of wood and broken, clay pots. Construction of the new South American exhibit has resulted in the bee hotel being disassembled. Once construction is completed the hotel will once again be open for business.

Are you interested in an internship at Miller Park Zoo? Learn more at their website using the link below.