Although it’s National Zoo Keeper Week, we can’t forget about our team of aquarists! Without these dedicated professionals, the Carolina SciQuarium wouldn’t be the fascinating place our visitors know and love.
Lyssa Torres gave us the inside scoop about what it’s like to be an aquarist. She’s been in the profession for about three years and has been at the Greensboro Science Center for a little over one year. She has always loved the ocean and sea life, but what pushed her over the edge and made her decide to become an aquarist was a documentary on jellyfish.
Although there are no jellyfish in the SciQuarium (yet; who knows what the future holds?), Lyssa has plenty of other critters and chores to keep her busy. On a typical day in the SciQuarium, aquarists start the morning by checking all of the tanks. They take water samples, clean windows, test the water quality, prepare diets, feed the animals, clean filters, perform water changes, make salt water… it’s a pretty intense list!
And aquarists must know much more than just information about the animals they care for. They have to be proficient in things like plumbing, chemistry and animal medications as well.
Lyssa says the reward is worth it. She loves seeing an animal do well on exhibit, especially when it’s one she hasn’t taken care of before. She also enjoys watching the visitors’ reactions as they interact with animals.
Her favorite part of the job, though, as you might imagine, is getting wet. Whether she’s participating in dives or training the eagle ray, she loves being in the water.
So, what’s the worst part of the job?
“Sometimes the cleaning can get kind of repetitive,” she said.
However, the rather mundane task of cleaning is all part of the job… A job which led to a pretty cool story to tell at parties…
“I was head-butted by a whale shark,” Lyssa said. She was feeding them from an inflatable boat as in intern at the Georgia Aquarium. Apparently, she wasn’t feeding them fast enough and one let her know in a rather intrusive manner!
As you have hopefully learned from this week’s blog series, our zoo keepers and aquarists are incredible individuals. They work hard – and play hard – and have some amazing stories to tell. Although National Zoo Keeper Week is coming to a close for 2014, please remember these folks any time you visit and thank them for the work they do to ensure the health, happiness and well-being of our animals.