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

Today, meet animal trainer Ellen Riker!

What led you to choose a career working with animals?
I went to a small aquarium on Cape Cod while on a family vacation when I was 4 years old.  They had an animal show that had dolphins, sea lions and seals.  I was completely enthralled with the animals.  When I was 7 we went back and they asked for a volunteer, my hand shot up and I ended up on the stage.  The trainer picked me up and held me over the tank and said he was going to drop me in and have the dolphin save me to demonstrate how they help people.  He was only kidding and put me down and had me throw a doll in and call for help.  The dolphin brought me the doll and I gave it big herring head as a reward.  I was fully prepared for him to drop me in the tank, I had no problem going in!  From that moment on I knew I wanted to work with marine mammals.

What is a typical day at the Aquarium like?
Lots of cleaning and fish!  We are always cleaning something.  The tanks and exhibits are cleaned every morning before we open, behind the scenes areas are cleaned throughout the day.  There is always an empty bucket to scrub after a feeding.  Lot’s of the aquarium’s animals are fed multiple times a day so that creates a lot of dishes.  We provide enrichment both edible and non edible to many animals.  Water quality of certain tanks is checked on a daily basis and adjusted if needed to maintain proper living conditions for all of our animal’s.

What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite animal?
I don’t know…I’m a mammal girl at heart but we have so many cool fish and reptiles and amphibians!  It’s a close call between Rasal and a lumpfish!

Do you have a favorite memory working with an animal or exhibit?
My special memory has to be my engagement.  My husband proposed to me in the middle of a seal feeding.  The staff was all in on it and helped him orchestrate it.  He hid behind a boat in Falconer Hall waiting for the end of the feeding when we answered questions.   He patiently waited as people asked questions and then raised his hand and said he had a question.  He got down on one knee on the seal ramp and asked me to marry him.  It was the most amazing and embarrassing moment of my life!

If you could work with any animal, what would it be?
A walrus.

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

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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

Today, meet aquarist Ryan Mackbach!

What led you to choose a career working with animals?
I lived along Long Island Sound all of my life and have been drawn to water. So, I eventually became enthralled with fish husbandry! Since I was little I had every type of pet you could think of, Reptiles, amphibians, Mammals, Fish, and Birds!

What is a typical day at the Aquarium like?
It’s very fast paced! Taking care of multiple tanks and different fish species, it’s exhilarating.

What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite animal?
I would have to say it would be Salmon tank, only because I have spent so much of my career working with Salmonids. My favorite species is the Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Do you have a favorite memory working with an animal or exhibit?
Not currently, but I am sure it will happen!

If you could work with any animal, what would it be?
It would have to be the largest Salmonid species in the world, the Mongolian Tiamen! Look it up!

 

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

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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

Today, meet Aquarist Ryan Dumas!

What led you to choose a career working with animals?
I grew up in Kentucky, so there were lots of opportunities for me to catch and see frogs, snakes and lizards! And that is precisely what I did. I never would have guessed that it would stick with me into adulthood and even into my career!

What is a typical day at the Aquarium like?
The most important part of my job is observing. Reptiles and amphibians will tell you a lot with their behavior if you “listen” to them. So my day begins with observations, then I clean, feed and finally do some routine maintenance like water changes and filter cleanings. With free time I try and think of ways to improve the animals’ habitats. Things like adding live plants, improving the lighting and simply changing the direction of the flow of water can dramatically influence an animals’ behavior and well-being!

What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite animal?
My favorite exhibit is the Madagascar Ground Boa. She is such an impressive animal. The Ground Boa is a big snake, but is an absolute sweetheart. She enjoys laying around most of the day, but occasionally we like to let her “roam” and get some supervised outdoor exercise.

Do you have a favorite funny/special memory working with an animal or exhibit?
The first animals I ever saw hatch out of an egg was an Asian Red Tail Ratsnake. We had collected the eggs 4 months earlier and just waited. It’s a fantastic feeling to be there for an animal’s first foray into the world! I will always remember that and how it felt.

If you could work with any animal, what would it be?
If I could work with any animal, I would work with Boelen’s Pythons. They are an amazing species of python from New Guinea and although they are somewhat common in captivity, they still haven’t reproduced in captivity with any regular occurrence. They are one of the few remaining “mystery” pythons of snake husbandry.

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

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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

Today, meet jelly culturist Rachel Stein!

What led you to choose a career working with animals?

I have always loved animals, ever since I was a kid! I took a job as an educator hoping that one day the opportunity would arise for me to work with the aquarist department, and I was extremely lucky to have gotten that opportunity only 6 months later.

What is a typical day at the Aquarium like?

Much of what we do on a daily basis is routine: checking tanks, feeding animals, water changes and cleaning. I try to schedule in a “light” day one a week for extra projects, like building a tank, collecting, chlorinating systems, or detailed animal care.

What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite animal?

Being the jelly culturist, my favorite exhibit is the moon jelly cylinder, and my favorite animal is the lion’s mane jelly.

Do you have a favorite memory working with an animal or exhibit?

When we had penguins, I was lucky to spend some time caring or the penguins that were in quarantine at the time. One of the penguins, Sundae, grew attached to me for a little bit. After I was done cleaning their area, I would sit down and Sundae would come over to me, do a little “love dance” where she bowed and shook her head, and waited for me to scratch her neck and back. I could spend all day cuddling with her if I had the time!

If you could work with any animal, what would it be?

I love working with the jellies and would love to try raising new and different species. I always love a new experience though, and hope I can working with any new animal in the future, especially babies!

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

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Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Yesterday, we chatted with Vicki Sawyer about what it’s like to work with the seals and otters.

Aquarists are here every day hours before we open! They're busy preparing the animals and their exhibits for our guests!

Today, meet aquarist Sandi Schaefer!

What led you to choose a career working with animals?

I wanted to be a marine biologist since I  was little. I went on many vacations to various Caribbean islands and that experience combined with  growing up on LIS, I fell in love with the sea.

What is a typical day at the Aquarium like? 

As the aquarist in charge of the reserve and quarantine area, every day is different for me. Like other aquarists I have to do daily checks of my animals, filtration, and water quality daily, as well as clean and feed my tanks.  However, the reserves and quarantine section poses its own set of challenges. With new animals arriving and animals being rotated into my area from exhibits, nothing ever stays the same. My section houses a wide variety of animals, each with its own care and husbandry requirements, providing me with a challenge that can be exciting and rewarding.

What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite animal?

Favorite exhibit is the moon jelly cylinder. Favorite animal is the Lorikeets or the lemon shark.

Do you have a favorite funny/special memory working with an animal or exhibit?

Vets checks are always educational and leave lasting memories.

If you could work with any animal, what would it be?

Beluga whale, Elephant or any large cat (tiger, leopard, lion).

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

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Happy National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! Even though we’re not a zoo here at The Maritime Aquarium, we have a phenomenal group of aquarists and animal trainers who have dedicated themselves to caring for all the residents of the Aquarium. We think they deserve some appreciation, too!

Throughout this week, meet many of the members of our team who work mostly behind the scenes. They prep the exhibits before our guests arrive, keep the animals fed and provide their care, keep them engaged with enrichments and so much more!

Learn more about how they got their start working with animals, their favorite animals from the Aquarium and lots more throughout the week! Check back every day this week for a new aquarist or trainer spotlight.

Vicki Sawyer practices targeting with one of our harbor seals.

Today, meet animal trainer Vicki Sawyer! 

What lead you to choose a career working with animals?

It was always my dream to work with marine animals ever since I can remember.  As soon as I met Susie and Tillie over twenty-five years ago, I knew that if I worked hard enough, that one day I could be their trainer.  It is an earned privilege for us to work with these beautiful animals very day – something that I cherish each and every time I go out to do a seal show. 

What is your typical day at the Aquarium like?

We have our chores that have to get done every day such as cleaning and scrubbing their exhibits, testing their water, preparing their food and keeping accurate records on their food intake, behavior and medical needs.  It’s a very busy day and we are always on the go. The fun part is spending quality time with them during feeding and training sessions. All the aquarists have a very close relationship with their animals and put the care and welfare of the animals first and foremost.  It means a lot to us when we are able to create a strong bond between our animals and our guests.

What is our favorite exhibit or animal?

It’s hard to chose – we have had so many exhibits over the years.  Working with the African penguins was amazing and taking care of Egyptian fruit bats was a blast!  Every time we get a new exhibit we need to research that animal and network with other keepers from other institutions to provide excellent care.  Definitely my favorite time here has been working with the seals and otters.  They bring joy to so many people and are full of so much fun and energy.

Do you have a favorite memory working with an animal or exhibit?

I have so many special memories of all the animals I have worked with over the years, but my favorite memory is of an unexpected event that happened during a seal feeding on a hot day in August.  A young female deer jumped into the seal tank during the 1:45 feeding!  (Watch the video here!) She was very calm as she swam in the outside area of the seal pool (our seals were hiding in the inside part of the tank watching her).  Staff members from every department came down to help with the rescue.  Our animal care staff kept her calm as they raised the water level of the tank and our education staff kept our visitors informed of our efforts. As the deer came over to an open gate, an aquarist reached in and helped her out with swoop of his arm. The deer climbed out the tank, shook herself off and swam quickly back across the river again. The crowd cheered!  A great team effort by all!  The video of the event went viral and even made it on national TV. Who knew deer could swim so well!

If you could work with one animal what would it be?

I would love have an opportunity to work with elephants.  They are magnificent animals which I admire greatly.  I would love to work in an elephant sanctuary or orphanage – that is Number One on my Bucket List!

Tune in tomorrow for our next keeper spotlight!

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

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The Lew Crew!

Blue or orange, Lew?

Our Jr. Marine Biologist 2 camp is all about experimental design and research projects.

A group of campers were curious to know if Lew, our river otter, has a color preference when it comes to his enrichment toys. 

They  decided to give him two identical football toys to test out and supplemented them with grape tomatoes, which are one  of his favorite snack foods.

Our otter trainer, Vicki, put them in his exhibit on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for the experimental trials while the campers noted the results.

So which color does Lew prefer? Blue!

 

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

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Our sea ravens have laid eggs, and they’re starting to hatch!

 

 

If you look closely, you can see some of the fish still inside the eggs. Those little black spots? Those are their eyes!

 

 

Once they hatch, an aquarist will transfer them into the second holding tank. We're holding the eggs behind schooling tank behind the scenes.

 

 

It’s normal for them to lie on their side on the floor of the tank. Swimming expends a lot of energy for the baby fish, and if they move too much, they won’t survive. Here they are all grown up!

We’ll keeping them behind the scenes until they’re big enough and strong enough to go on exhibit.

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ and Tumblr.

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Take a look inside our most popular camp program: Junior Marine Biologist!

JMB, as we call it around here, runs for five sessions over the summer at the Aquarium.

During JMB 1 and 2, campers enter the inner workings of the Aquarium. Over the course of the week, they maintain a group aquarium with live animals. They monitor the water quality, grow brine shrimp to feed their animals, do dissections and use microscopes to explore the hidden world of Long Island Sound.

Interested in our camp programs? Learn all about them on our website! Continue reading

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Maritime Aquarium President and CEO Jennifer Herring with her husband Fernand Brunschwig.

In December, Jennifer Herring, president and CEO of The Maritime Aquarium, announced she will retire in 2014. She has served in that position for 10 of the Aquarium’s 25-year history and, in that time, has come a wealth of unique experiences and memories.

As a reflection on her many years with the institution, Jennifer has compiled her favorite memories of the Aquarium – 10 memories for 10 years – to share with our visitors and fans. Over the next few months, we’ll share her thoughts on how the Aquarium has changed and grown under her care.

Read Part 1 here. Read Part 2 here. Read Part 3 here.

President and CEO Jennifer Herring:

With only one more year to go before I retire, I am moved to reflect on my best experiences with the organization.  Interestingly, I began learning about the institution with “best experience” stories from staff, volunteers, Trustees and the community in a wonderful strategic-planning process based on the Appreciative Inquiry organizational change theories.  Here are the first two of my 10 “best experience” stories – 10 stories for 10 years on the job.

#7 Thinc-ing Outside the Box

Open Ocean shark tank exhibit.

After the strategic plan was completed, we embarked on a master plan for the exhibits and the facility. We wanted to have the best exhibit design firm help us develop our master plan, and we interviewed many.  Before deciding, a team of senior staff and Trustees went on the road to see their work “in person” and meet with colleagues who had worked with them.  Not surprisingly, this quest led to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Georgia Aquarium, but it also took us to places like the Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque, Iowa.  We visited eight institutions and were most impressed by the innovative temporary exhibits in a warehouse that Thinc Design had created for the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.   So we hired them!

#8 Connecting Over the Sea

Long Island Sound.

Meanwhile, I was really enjoying getting to know the people who had founded the Aquarium and who were in a position to help us realize our vision for its future.  One of the most interesting was William Ziegler.  By the time I met him, Bill was in declining health, but his passion for the Sound and his quiet, dry humor were still in evidence.  One of my most moving experiences with him was a visit to his home, shortly before he died.  He was sitting in his bedroom, which had a balcony with a spectacular view of Long Island Sound.  I asked him if I could sing him a song my father had composed – a setting of the John Masefield poem Sea Fever.  He nodded, and then listened deeply as the words of longing for the sea filled the room. When I was finished, he told me this was one of his favorite poems.  He was a passionate sailor and loved the sea.

What is your “best experience” story about the Aquarium?  Share it on our Facebook page!

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for the next installment of this series. In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ and Tumblr.

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