National Zookeeper Appreciation Week: Nick Little

We’re joining zoos and aquariums from across the county in the celebration of National Zookeeper Appreciation Week

Our team of National Aquarium animal experts, including aquarists, herpetologists, aviculturists, curators, veterinarians and marine mammal trainers, have dedicated themselves to providing our  living collection of more than 17,500 animals the highest possible quality of care.

In addition to providing care and enrichment for the animals, our staff members are consistently involved in research projects as well as conservation and outreach work. We are incredibly proud of the collective impact they’ve made on the lives of our guests and our local community!

This week, we’ll be introducing you to just a few of our amazing animal care staff members! They’ll be sharing favorite aquarium memories, how they got started in their respective fields and more!

July 23, 2013: Meet one of our Aquarists, Nick Little!

nick little

How long have you been at the Aquarium?

I’ve been working at National Aquarium, Washington, DC for 4.5 years in the native, freshwater gallery!

What interested you to pursue your current career path?

Like many others in the industry, I have been surrounded by animals my entire life. My father and I kept and maintained a collection of 40 habitats, which housed various species including: African, South, and Central American cichlids, tetras, soft and hard corals, reptiles, and amphibians. Over the years, we were quite successful at breeding and rearing many species. My fate with animals was sealed long before I ever thought about having to find a job. My desire to learn about these animals, their natural environments, natural history, and preservation/conservation could not be quenched. My fathers’ shared interest in the hobby was certainly the catalyst that began my fascination.

Can you briefly describe for us what your typical day looks like?

I am responsible for the care, maintenance, and well-being of nearly 30 freshwater systems. My fish naturally occur in heavily planted cypress swamps, streams, ponds, lakes and rivers. Knowing the requirements of each species can be challenging, especially when trying to create micro-habitats within a confined space. Most fish are fed on a daily basis and are monitored for any signs of  injury or ailment. From time to time, I am lucky enough to see fish spawning and will attempt to rear the young.

Favorite Aquarium memory?

Working with native fish affords me the luxury to travel across the eastern U.S. in search of the fish used to stock my exhibits. Going on 2,000—3,000 mile road trips with coworkers certainly has its share of memories and laughs for that matter. I spent a long week in the Bahamas, capturing lionfish (photo above) for a Fresh Thoughts dinner back in 2011. That was an incredible experience!

Next big project you’re working on?

Helping to transition the animals in our DC location to their new homes.

Favorite animal?

There have been plenty of great animals that have been in my care since I started back in early 2009. But by far, my favorite group of fish are darters. More specifically, the Redline darter (which I even have a tattoo of!). These mountainous, stream inhabitants brave the currents to feed on benthic invertebrates. They forage throughout the day, ‘darting’ from rock to rock—which is how they get their name. Aside from their outgoing personalities, male darters are among some of the most stunning and colorful fish in the U.S … if not the world, in my opinion!

Stay tuned to the blog this week to meet more of our amazing staff!

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