With more than 16,000 animals from 660 species, National Aquarium is an amazing and informative journey through the wonders of our aquatic world. It isn’t just animals, though, that make us who we are. Our on-staff experts are key to not only our day-to-day operations, but also to our successes outside our aquarium walls as we work to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures.

Interested in a particular program or exhibit we have here at National Aquarium? Meet some of our experts:

John Racanelli, Chief Executive Officer
A passionate advocate for the ocean, John Racanelli serves as chief executive officer of the National Aquarium, where he immerses himself in pursuing the Aquarium’s nonprofit mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. Click here to learn more about John!

Jennifer Dittmar, Leader of National Aquarium Animal Rescue
As a leader on our National Aquarium Animal Rescue team, Jenn has a wide range of job responsibilities! Anything and everything — from traveling up and down the Atlantic coast for stranding events to managing volunteer feeding schedules. Click here to learn more about Jenn!

Allison Ginsburg, Manager of Marine Mammal Training
As the Manager of Marine Mammal Training, Allison oversees the training, enrichment and health of our colony of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins! It’s a privilege to be able to work with such intelligent and amazing creatures every day. From playtime to extensive research projects, no two days with our dolphins are the same! Click here to learn more about Allison!

Jack Cover, General Curator 
As the General Curator, Jack’s role is to ensure that our living animal collections are thriving and diverse, to best represent the beauty of the wild habitats we represent here at the Aquarium. Click here to learn about Jack!

Holly Bourbon, Curator of Fishes
As the Curator of Fishes, Holly’s day-to-day responsibilities include managing our staff of Aquarists, making sure that all of the animals under our care are doing well! Those responsibilities include the animals for our new Blacktip Reef exhibit, which are being cared for behind-the-scenes until the exhibit opens in July. Click here to learn more about Holly!

John Seyjagat, Curator of Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes
As Curator of our Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes exhibit, John’s daily tasks include managing the exhibit staff and making sure all of our animals are healthy and happy! Click here to learn more about John!

Laura Bankey, Director of Conservation
As the Director of Conservation, Laura works with our conservation staff to prepare for field events like tree plantings, coastline cleanups and more to restore vital wildlife habitats. Click here to learn more about Laura!

Ken Howell, Curator of Upland Tropical Rain Forest 
As the Curator of our rain forest exhibits, including the Upland Tropical Rain Forest, Amazon River Forest and Hidden Life, Ken starts his day early with an exhibit walk through to make sure everything is running smoothly. Click here to learn more about Ken!

Heather Doggett, Director of Visitor Programs and Staff Training
As the Director of Visitor Programs and Staff Training here at the Aquarium, I get to really delve deeply into shaping a positive and informative experience for our guests. Click here to learn more about Heather!

Leigh Clayton, Director of Animal Health
As the Director of Animal Health, a typical day for me includes overseeing any necessary animal procedures, checking on the animals, and dealing with any emergency cases that arise. Click here to learn more about Leigh!

Sarah Elfreth, Government Affairs
As the Government Affairs Representative, Sarah advocates for the Aquarium’s mission at the local, state and the federal government levels. Click here to learn more about Sarah!

Got a question for any/all of our experts? Ask them in the comments section below!

6 Responses to “Meet Our Experts!”


  1. 1 Hannah September 5, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    I am an Animal Science major and am planning on applying to vet school. I am interested in marine and exotic animals. If I am not accepted right away, would a marine biology graduate program be a good idea? I would love to have a job working at a zoo or aquarium.

    • 2 National Aquarium September 9, 2013 at 11:53 am

      Hi Hannah,

      Are you generally interested in veterinary science or marine biology? They’re two very distinct tracks with different career opportunities. That being said, the good news is that there’s demand for both vets and aquarists/marine biologists at zoos and aquariums!

      We would also suggest that you look at internship opportunities. It’s a great way to learn what jobs might be of interest to you and network!

  2. 3 Ariel March 13, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    Hello! I am currently a high-school student in New York who is starting to think about college and a career. I know that I would really love to work with animals and aquatic ones specifically and work in an aquarium. Can you tell me what I should study to be able to work with aquatic animals and do you know of any colleges that will allow me to pursue this career?

    • 4 National Aquarium March 17, 2014 at 1:33 pm

      Hi Ariel! As you can see by the backgrounds of our experts, a variety of degrees can land you a position at an institution like the National Aquarium. For those who work directly with our animals, it’s advisable to study biology, animal science and/or animal health!

  3. 5 John Harrison March 21, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    I was mesmerized by the jelly fish exhibit. The message is sad and somewhat alarming but the visual display and the accompanying music were surreal and extraordinarily enjoyable. Could someone please tell me the artist/title of the music that was playing in the exhibit?

    By the way, I can’t help but wonder how many people besides me would pay a lot extra to be in that exhibit during a special no-noise time slot. I would love to sit in a chair in that space and get totally absorbed in the sights and musical sounds. It was really quite moving (but the throngs of excited children drowned out the very cool music). Maybe the folks at AVAM in Federal Hill would co-sponsor an event? I can check it out if you like. Thank you!

    • 6 National Aquarium April 1, 2014 at 5:02 pm

      Hi John! Thanks for reaching out. We’re glad to hear that you enjoyed our Jellies Invasion exhibit. We will do our best to track down the music info!

      We are definitely intrigued by the idea to partner with AVAM…we may just have to further explore it!


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