Saturday, July 21, 2012

Meet Our Staff: Public Educators

One of the questions most frequently asked by our young visitors is how they can get a job working with aquarium animals.  This is a difficult question to answer for a couple of reasons.  One is that there are many different jobs working with the animals.  The other is that everyone takes their own path to get into this type of career.  To explore these paths, we'll look at some of The Living Planet's staff who work with the animals and how they came to be where they are today.

Rebecca Loughridge and Brent Beardsley are two of our public educators.  Public educators work at the aquarium (as opposed to offsite in a classroom) teaching our guests through presentations, animal encounters, feedings, and the Bio Facts station (a place to go with any question you might have about the aquarium's animals).  Public educators work directly with the animals, including presenting them to the public and helping to train them for this role.

Rebecca with Dusty

Rebecca at the Bio Facts station
Rebecca became a public educator just over a year ago, but she began working at the aquarium over four years ago in guest services.  Rebecca is in college working on a degree in Media Arts, although she started out as a Psychology major.  According to Rebecca, good degrees for someone pursuing a career as a public educator include Biology, Education, and Psychology.  Rebecca believes one of the best things aspiring young people can do is to volunteer or otherwise work with animals in every way they can.  She interned for the position she now holds in order to gain experience.  What Rebecca enjoys most about her job is “seeing ocean animals every day.”  There are some challenges to the job.  Rebecca says that her biggest challenge is keeping the information fresh and engaging when many of the questions that visitors have are the same from day to day.  “They've never been here before, and we have,” says Rebecca.  “We need to remember that and make sure they have a great experience.”  Rebecca's favorite animal at the aquarium is Dusty the African Gray Parrot.

Brent presenting during an anaconda feeding
Brent has been a public educator at the aquarium for one-and-a-half years.  Before this, he worked at zoos and aquariums for many years, most recently at the Bean Life Science Museum at BYU.  He has a degree in Biology with an emphasis in Marine Biology.  Brent also emphasizes the importance of volunteering and working with animals to gain experience.  “The more you want to work directly with the animals, the further you should go with science,” suggests Brent.  What Brent enjoys most, aside from working with the animals, is sharing his passion for the animals with kids and inspiring them to want to learn more.  Brent says that the biggest challenge of the job is remaining energetic and engaging throughout the day.  On the busiest days, this can be a bit draining.  “You can't go halfway,” says Brent, explaining that public educators must make sure they give their all to each visitor, even those that come at the end of the day.  Brent's favorite aquarium animal is the Giant Pacific Octopus.

Brent doing an
animal encounter

For more information about employment opportunities at The Living Planet Aquarium contact Tannen Ellis at or visit our website.

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