Saturday, December 29, 2012

Meet Our Staff: Aquarists

Trevor Erdmann and Danielle Guest are two of the aquarists for The Living Planet Aquarium. Aquarists are part of the husbandry team. Their duties include cleaning tanks, monitoring water quality, feeding the animals, monitoring animal health, and taking care of the filtration and plumbing systems. They are also involved in the design of new exhibits. Aquarists work mainly behind the scenes, but they do have a public role. The animal feedings that visitors can watch, such as the shark feeding and the octopus feeding, are done by aquarists.

Trevor feeds brine shrimp to the sea jellies
Trevor has been working at the aquarium for two months, but his first experience with the aquarium was as a husbandry intern when he was in high school. Trevor also has experience working as a volunteer aquarist at a salmon hatchery. He went to school in Alaska and has a degree in Marine Biology. Working as an aquarist is a busy gig. Trevor says that one of the biggest challenges of the job is “getting everything done in time.” Trevor's favorite job duties are food preparation and animal monitoring. “I love to watch the animals,” says Trevor. “It's so relaxing and rewarding.” For those aspiring to work as an aquarist, Trevor suggests interning and volunteering in high school. He also recommends a degree in a related field. “This might lead you to the coast for your education,” says Trevor. Trevor emphasizes the importance of having a flexible schedule. “These animals don't take a day off,” says Trevor. “They need care every day. Everyone here is all about making sure these animals are healthy and happy.” Trevor's favorite animal at the aquarium is the white-tip reef shark. “It was a baby back when I was an intern,” he says.

Danielle checks on Toukee the aracari in his
behind the scenes enclosure
Danielle started at the aquarium about a year ago. Before that, she interned at a zoo and two wildlife rehabilitation centers. She also worked in a seasonal position as a snowy plover monitor. She attended college in California and has her bachelor's degree in Animal Science with a minor in Biology. There are many parts of the job that Danielle enjoys. “I love feeding,” says Danielle, “and enrichment.” Enrichment is when a new object or element is introduced into an enclosure that the animals can interact with. This helps the animals stay active – physically and mentally. Danielle says that the most challenging part of the job is when she must say goodbye to one of the animals. Although animals in captivity have much longer lifespans than those in the wild, they don’t live forever. “This is something that everyone who works with animals has to learn to deal with,” says Danielle. If you are up to the challenge and wish to pursue a career as an aquarist, Danielle has some advice. “Start getting as much experience with animals as you can,” she says. “Also, a degree helps. It sets you apart from many others who want a job in this field.” Among the animals at the aquarium, Danielle has “lots of favorites,” but she especially loves the penguins, the boreal toads, and Toukee the aracari.

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

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