Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.
Meet Animal Trainer Vicki Sawyer
Meet Aquarist Sandi Schaefer
Meet Jelly Culturist Rachel Stein
Meet Aquarist Ryan Dumas
Meet Animal Trainer Ellen Riker
Meet Aquarist Evelia Atanacio
Meet Aquarium Supervisor Kerry Dobson
Meet Aquarist Maxine Montello
Meet Aquarist Jessica Mason
What led you to choose a career working with animals?
Ever since I was a young child I was always fascinated with animals whether it was going to the zoo/ aquarium, the pet store, or even just watching documentaries on TV. My dream has always been to work at a zoo or aquarium because I love being around animals and seeing all of the different characteristics each possess and learning what it takes to keep them happy and alive.
What is a typical day at the Aquarium like?
A normal day consists of performing maintenance in each section whether its cleaning algae off a tank or doing a water change. After maintenance is usually feeding time for all of the different exhibits and looking at the health and behaviors of the animals to ensure they are doing well. Medications are administered if needed and enrichments are created which is always something fun for you and the animal.
What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite animal?
My favorite exhibit currently would be the meerkats because there is something different every day. Depending what is used as an enrichment its entertaining to watch them figure out how to find the insects or observe them rummaging around their newly raked home. In the Aquarium I would say the meerkats are my favorite because each one has their own personality and you get to know how each react to certain things. They frequently make me “laugh out loud” when watching them whether behind the scenes or while they are out on exhibit.
Do you have a favorite memory working with an animal or exhibit?
One of my favorite moments was actually when I was an intern. After enriching the octopus with a Mr. Potato Head doll filled with herring, she looked in my direction and was grasping its arm and held it up to me as if to say “Hello, yes I found the herring thank you!” Overall every time the octopus was enriched it was a memorable time watching her figure out how to get what was placed inside.
If you could work with any animal, what would it be?
Without a doubt I would have to say elephants. I would love to someday be able to experience what it is like to take care of them and learn how to keep them happy and healthy. It would also be pretty cool to ride on one and get hit in the face with water from its trunk.
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