Working at the Indianapolis Zoo has been my dream come true. As a child, I dreamed of becoming a marine biologist or a zoologist and I loved to visit various zoological institutions as often as possible. As I grew older and pursued my dream, I began to research colleges to help my dream become a reality.
I discovered that Lake Superior State University (LSSU) offered a General Biology Bachelor’s Degree with Fisheries and Marine Science concentrations. Upon my first visit, I knew that LSSU was the perfect college for me. It had small class sizes and provided hands on labs in the great outdoors. Learning in these outdoor labs provided me with opportunities to learn advanced fishery disciplines and water quality testing and parameters.
I graduated from LSSU in 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and a minor in Marine and Freshwater Sciences. After graduation, I was hired by the US Forest Service as a Biological Fisheries Technician in the Ottawa National Forest. While working in this position, I gained experience in habitat restoration for both fisheries and terrestrial ecosystems, fish sampling and identification and then rearing and releasing wild juvenile Lake Sturgeon into Lake Superior.
Based on my experiences that I acquired from the US Forest Service, I was offered a full time position as an Aquarist in fish and animal husbandry in the Oceans biome of the Indianapolis Zoo, which has always been my career goal. This opportunity has given me the honor of caring and providing for some of the most unique animals from around the globe. As an aquarist at the Indianapolis Zoo, I am responsible for caring for all of the collection animals that we have in the Oceans biome. Duties here include daily feeding, life support maintenance and plumbing, health assessment and management, conducting lab tests for water quality, enrichment of collection animals and being a primary scuba diver. During my time here, I have been training our juvenile and adult Cownose and Southern Stingrays, caring for our corals, Dogfish Sharks, numerous coral reef fish, Green Moray Eels, Bottlenose Dolphin, Penguins, Sea Lions, Walrus and much more. On top of my daily tasks, I am also the Oceans Liaison of Internships and Volunteers and the Oceans Chair for Commissary and Provisions. Through these roles, I have learned the basic and advanced skills that are required for extraordinary animal husbandry, specific diet requirements for each species, animal transfers between other AZA accredited institutions, proper handling of our larger collection animals and also administering and executing vet treatment plans.
While the zoo was closed during the pandemic, not only was I continuing to learn my newly acquired position but also had the time to perform more prolonged training sessions with my collection. Some examples include: training the Cownose and Southern Stingrays to eat by coming onto a platform to be hand fed, pole feeding the Dogfish Sharks in our Touch Tank, and scuba diving in order to pole feed the Moray Eels.
My favorite reason for working at the Indianapolis Zoo is being able to bond and have a sincere connection with the animals that I interact with on a daily basis. All of our animals in Oceans have their own personalities and characteristics that make them different from one another. Being able to explore and adapt to these personalities can be a challenge. For example, some of our rays only eat certain types or parts of fish or have to be hand fed a specific way that differs from an ordinary feeding. In addition, I also study the natural habitats of the animals, and match their surroundings to what they would find and interact with in nature. This includes finding enrichment items that challenge their minds and further develops their skills. This keeps the animals happy, healthy and stimulated. Knowing that I get to go to work and care for these animals on a daily basis is the most rewarding experience of my life. I look forward to each and every day at the Indianapolis Zoo.
I would like to thank Lake Superior State University faculty and staff for providing me with such fulfilling and unique opportunities to expand my knowledge and education in the field of Biology and Fishery Sciences. I have received a stable foundation on which to build on my experiences and paved the way for me to perfect my profession. Thank you for guiding me to the career of my dreams!