EcoTarium Dormancy, Staff Reductions Begin Sept. 4

Emily Gowdey-Backus

Media and Public Relations Consultant 


Aug. 7, 2020

WORCESTER (Mass.) – Facing serious financial effects of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, the EcoTarium will close September 4 for the fall and winter, resulting in a loss of 24 staff positions.

The staff changes are being made at all levels and will be achieved through a combination of layoffs and hour reductions. Some remaining employees will also take pay cuts.

A staff of 13 will remain to handle the reduced operations and provide excellent professional care for the animals who call the historic science museum home.

Those whose jobs are eliminated will receive severance pay based on their length of service.

“We have explored every possible path to continue the employment of our wonderful staff, but we were forced to make a painful decision which unfortunately means we are parting ways with many of our talented colleagues,” said Lucy Hale, president & CEO. “To delay this action we’ve implemented several creative solutions, and taken advantage of now-expired federal aid programs, but the forced closure earlier this year, our attendance plunge and continued uncertainty about COVID-19 simply leave us with few options.

“These changes, while difficult, put us in the strongest financial position as we plan for our reopening in 2021. We look forward to remaining a strong, robust part of the Worcester community.”

As a result of this plan, some of the EcoTarium’s more than 100 animals may be re-homed to other museums or zoological parks. Each of these relocations will be carefully vetted to ensure that they provide only the best care, Hale said. Those most likely to be re-homed include smaller animals used in education programs, such as amphibians, small mammals and reptiles.

Having seen record attendance last year, the EcoTarium was positioned to have an extremely successful year before the pandemic intervened. The museum’s Board of Trustees voted Thursday to enact the dormancy plan and begin staff reductions to secure the future of the nearly 200-year-old museum.

The EcoTarium leadership and the Board of Trustees remain committed to exploring new funding sources that could shorten the length of the closure and are also engaged in talks about how the museum could be used to help schools or other local groups during the dormant months.

“We will continue to reevaluate every part of our operating models, strategic plan and mission to ensure the museum’s long-term stability,” Board of Trustees treasurer Dave McManus said.

The EcoTarium is not alone in having to make changes that impact operations and staffing. Recent surveys by the American Alliance of Museums have indicated that up to a third of museums nationwide may be forced to close permanently due to the pandemic, and as of June 8th according to survey data from the Alliance 44% of all museums in the United States had made reductions to staff levels, a number predicted to increase as federal aid program funding periods ended in mid-June. Nearly all museums and nature parks nationwide have been forced to make significant changes.


The EcoTarium is New England’s leading museum of science and nature, an indoor-outdoor experience dedicated to inspiring a passion for science and nature in visitors of all ages. Founded in 1825, it has been a leader in informal science and nature education for nearly 200 years. Highlights of the 45-acre campus include a museum building with three floors of interactive exhibits, the Alden Digital Planetarium, daily Science Discovery programs, live animal habitats including the spectacular home of two mountain lion siblings, nature trails through forest and meadow, seasonal narrow-gauge railroad Explorer Express Train, and an expansive interactive outdoor exhibit, Nature Explore®.