Welcome, prospective volunteers! The Volunteer Services department provides a connection between the diverse Bay Area community and our museum, research, and administration. All volunteers are part of the greater Academy community as we work to explore, explain, and sustain life on Earth.

We look for volunteers with a collaborative spirit, who work well and respectfully with others.

All volunteers must be 18 or older. Volunteer needs fluctuate throughout the year.

Volunteer Docents - New Classes Starting in September!

A docent shows young visitors some specimens in jars.

Do you love to engage people about the natural sciences? The Academy's docents use an informal and conversational approach with guests to spark curiosity, inspire action, and foster an interest in continued scientific discovery. Docents are trained in theory and best practices of informal engagement, taught fundamental scientific principles and Academy initiatives, and receive training in Specialty Areas.

The docent program requires its volunteers to work three, 3.5-hour shifts per month during a minimum six-month commitment. 

Our upcoming docent Specialty Area classes:

"Easy Being Green": You will be trained to educate and inspire guests in the "green areas" of the Academy. This includes our Living Roof, the Rainforest exhibit, and select areas of the Aquarium. Sound interesting? Then apply now to become part of a team that engaged over 1,000,000 guests last year!


  • Trainings are October 21st, 28th,  and November 1, 8, and 15. Saturday classes are 8:30am-4pm, weekday classes are 5:30-9pm. You must be able to attend all five classes.

Please complete the volunteer application and select docent under interests if you'd like to learn more!


Invertebrate Zoology Collection Volunteer

A researcher holds a jar containing a preserved invertebrate inside.

The Academy is looking for special help with the Invertebrate Zoology Collection having recently received a very large donation of coral reef invertebrates from the Coral Reef Research Foundation in Palau. Volunteers will be essential in the process of making space for the new specimens within our own collections as well as organizing them so they can be later accessed for research!

Please note that the Academy is looking for help on this project specifically on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between 11:00-5:00 pm.


Naturalist Center Volunteers

Naturalist Center Volunteer

Naturalist Center Engagement Volunteers - Inspire guests of all ages as you guide them through activities with a science theme. What causes iridescence in animals? What can tree rings tell us about the weather? Learn to identify birds living in your neighborhood. What is inside an owl pellet and why do we care? Become a Naturalist Center Engagement Volunteer and help guests answer these questions and more, as they experience the wonder of science. The service commitment is once a month for at least 6 months with daily shifts from 12:30-4:00 PM. All volunteers receive an orientation and a one day training.


Aquarium Divers

Colorful fish in the Philippine coral reef

Academy volunteer divers plunge into stunningly beautiful environments while feeding fish and keeping tanks sparkling clean. Interested divers may also be trained to deliver dive presentations in our Philippine Coral Reef tank, one of the deepest live-coral aquarium exhibits in the world.

Volunteer diver requirements:

  • Rescue SCUBA Diver certification
  • Minimum of 50 logged SCUBA Dives and 6 logged dives in the last 12 months
  • Current CPR, First Aid, and Oxygen Provider certifications
  • Pass the Academy diver medical exam (conducted by your physician)
  • Pass the Academy swimming and SCUBA diving skill pool evaluation
  • Commitment of 2 dive shifts per month on a standing schedule
  • Live within a 75 mile radius of the Academy

Research Collections Volunteers

A collections voluteer looking at specimens.

Help Academy collections managers prepare and maintain scientific collections in our research departments. Individual duties are diverse—mount plants, classify bones, re-bottle specimens, document collections, and more—but all volunteers are immersed in the principles and techniques of modern scientific-collections management. Most research placements require a 3- to 4-hour weekly commitment, and hours are available only on weekdays. ​Please visit our Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability pages to familiarize yourself with our areas of research.

  • Special need in Entomology: Help with a wide array of tasks from databasing specimens to helping pin and curate the collection. Prior experience is valued, but not required. Tasks can include:
    • Cut out and organize pre-made labels
    • Record label data into an Excel spreadsheet or on paper (prefer someone who is familiar with computers)
    • Re-pinning crickets with new labels
    • More info in position description below

Family Programs Engagement Volunteers

Family Programs Volunteers

Help us provide fun and age-appropriate learning opportunities for families visiting the Academy.

Family Programs Engagement volunteers interact with children and their caregivers during fee-based and drop-in programs on the public floor. Opportunities range from assisting during instructor-led workshops to helping facilitate nature-inspired craft projects. To explore this opportunities further, please review the formal volunteer position description below. 

The FP Prep volunteer helps facilitate activities behind the scenes by preparing materials. Whether that is tracing and cutting out models, gathering and staging, or even ideating what new activities could be used.

Current Open Shifts for Early Childhood Engagement Volunteers: Mondays 9:30-12:30, Tuesdays 9:30-12:30, Wednesdays 9:30-12:30, Thursdays 9:30-12:30, Saturdays 9:30-12:30, Sundays 9:30-12:30


Landscape Exhibits Volunteers

Landscape Exhibits Volunteers

Enjoy being outside and working with plants? Join us in becoming an integral part of beautifying our iconic living roof and botanic gardens. Our volunteer teams are a great way to expand your knowledge of California native plants and horticulture in a friendly group environment. The Landscape department offers two weekly morning roof volunteer days and a monthly grounds afternoon; each shift lasts 3 hours. Enthusiasm is all that is required as we provide ongoing training opportunities.


Aquarium and Rainforest Volunteers

Visitor at the Philippine Coral Reef exhibit.

Work with our Steinhart Aquarium staff, the team responsible for the nearly 40,000 animals that make their home at the Academy. Aquarium volunteers learn how assist with the care of a wide range of aquatic and terrestrial animals (and their environments) by testing water quality, checking on animal health, and even flexing those horticultural skills.



Orienteer hands a visitor a ticket.

Join the Academy’s guest experience team! Meet, greet, and guide Academy visitors as a roving concierge, helping visitors to make the best use of their time by providing impromptu itineraries and helpful suggestions. We ask for a commitment of two 2-hour shifts each month and offer additional volunteer opportunities at special events throughout the Academy. Orienteering is the Academy’s most flexible volunteer program and great way to make your first connection with the Academy.


Data Entry Volunteers

Data Entry Volunteers

Looking for a project-based volunteer opportunity? Have Excel experience, a strong attention to detail, and an easy demeanor? Volunteer Services at the Academy is looking to develop a corps of volunteers we can contact as data entry is needed throughout the Academy. Throughout the year our data entry needs fluctuate, but there’s always work to be done behind the scenes to support our world-class museum and research. For more information about this new volunteer opportunity, please see the full position description below. Link to the volunteer application is on the right side of this page.


Administrative and Outreach Volunteers

A person filling out a form

Put your office, organizational, and computer skills to good use by providing administrative assistance to Academy staff. Volunteers who work behind the scenes enjoy a variety of assignments tailored to their interests and abilities.



Share This