Posts Tagged 'national zookeeper appreciation week'

National Zookeeper Appreciation Week: Crista Melchiorre

In celebration of National Zookeeper Appreciation Week, meet Crista Melchiorre, an Aviculturist in our Australia exhibit!

crista melchiorre

How long have you been at the Aquarium?
2 years

What interested you to pursue your current career path?
I have always loved animals. Growing up we always had a variety of pets and I enjoyed finding animals in the woods and my yard. I was that kid who would be brought the sick or orphaned animals in the neighborhood, but usually would have to have my mom take me to a wildlife rehabber to save it.

Briefly describe for us your day-to-day
My day starts with a lot of cleaning and diets and ends with a lot of cleaning and diets. But there is a lot of animal interaction in between, whether its medicating one of the bats, training one of our parrots or getting a brief hello from a green winged dove.

Favorite Aquarium memory?
When we moved our two grey headed flying foxes, Darwin and Victor together. Darwin had very little social interaction with other bats due to a medical condition and he was moved with Victor to give him the opportunity to socialize. We were all nervous about what was going to happen but Darwin is happier than he ever has been!

Next big project you’re working on?
I’ll be focusing on getting our Crested Pigeons to breed.

Favorite animal?
That’s a hard question! I love all the animals I work with obviously but I think there is a tie between Darwin, one of our grey headed flying foxes, he just pulls at everyone’s heart strings. And Hobart, one of our Sulfur Crested Cockatoos, he has a very big personality and loves our attention.

Thanks for celebration Zookeeper Appreciation Week with us! Got a question for our staff? Ask them in the comments section!

National Zookeeper Appreciation Week: Stephanie Harpt

In the celebration of National Zookeeper Appreciation Week, meet Stephanie Harpt, an Animal Programs trainer! 

stephanie harpt

How long have you been at the Aquarium?

I have worked at the aquarium for four years.

What interested you to pursue your current career path?

Growing up, I had always loved animals. When I went to Sea World in Florida for a family vacation, I got to feed the dolphins and it was a very exciting experience that I never forgot. That encounter inspired me to work with animals. From then on, I knew I wanted to be a marine biologist working with dolphins. Over time, I came to the realization that there are so many amazing species and therefore working with any animal would be a privilege.

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

The Animal Programs Department cares for many of the education animals at the aquarium, which include turtles, lizards, snakes, and birds. We prepare diets, clean enclosures, provide enrichment, and train the animals. During the day staff give live animal presentations and sometimes participate in special events for the aquarium!

What is your favorite Aquarium memory?

I went to the Starbucks in Barnes and Noble to get some coffee during my break, and the gentlemen in front of me paid for my drink. He was a chaperone for a school group that had visited the aquarium that day. He said that he thought the aquarium staff did a great job and that he appreciated what we do. Although the gesture was small, it made me feel really proud to be a part of the aquarium team.

 What is the next big project you’re working on?

I’m training a yellow-footed tortoise named Joey to touch a target with his face and follow it around his enclosure.  His “target” is a miniature red spatula. Eventually, I’m going to introduce him to different colored spatulas and test his ability to tell the different colors apart.

What is your favorite animal?

I think all animals are fascinating in their own way, but I’ve always loved otters and turtles. I like otters’ frisky nature, and it’s hilarious to watch turtles eat.

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

National Zookeeper Appreciation Week: Kerry Martens

In the celebration of National Zookeeper Appreciation Week, meet Kerry Martens, one of our Marine Mammal Trainers! 

kerry martens

How long have you been at the Aquarium?

I started with the Marine Mammal Department as an intern in 2006. I started full-time as a trainer the day after graduation and have been working with the dolphins ever since.

What interested you to pursue your current career path?

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a fascination with dolphins.  I spent many an hour in front of the TV watching re-runs of Flipper and would get so excited to see dolphins swim off the coast during family vacations to the Jersey Shore.  I actually wrote to Sea World in fourth grade asking what it takes to be a dolphin trainer!  I took the response they gave me and used it as a life plan, making sure I did everything possible to get my dream job.

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

A day in the Marine Mammal Department can start as early as 6:30 in the morning. It takes two full hours to sort and weigh out the 200 pounds of frozen fish that make up the dolphins’ diet. The dolphins get fed between 7-10 times a day, roughly every hour and half. There are many different types of sessions we have with the animals. Some are focused on training brand new behaviors, others are dedicated to husbandry, the medical behaviors that help us take care of them, and some consist entirely of playtime. Play is a great way for us to build our relationship with the animals, which is key to all of the training that we do.

When we’re not working directly with the animals, we spend a majority of our time cleaning. This includes buckets, toys, the kitchen, all of our back-up areas, and even our pools. All trainers are SCUBA certified, which allows us to enter the water and scrub and vacuum the pools each and every day.

What is your favorite Aquarium memory?

I was selected to be a presenter and represent the National Aquarium at the 2010 International Marine Animal Trainers Association conference. There, I got to meet trainers from all over the world and learn about the exciting advancements and developments in marine animal care and research taking place.  At the conference, I presented on the work we did with our 41 year old female, Nani,  in which we trained her to voluntarily participate in an eye exam with a veterinarian.  The presentation won a first place award!

What is the next big project you’re working on?

We are constantly training the animals new behaviors, so I consider those my “projects.” I am in the process of training Bayley to lay calmly while the veterinarians take a blood sample from her tail, and am about to start teaching Jade a high-energy breach behavior.  

What is your favorite animal?

Although we spend a lot of time building relationships with all of the animals, a good portion of my day is spent with 4-year-old Bayley. I’m responsible for all of her husbandry behaviors, so it is important that she and I have a strong bond, as these are not necessarily the most high-energy or exciting behaviors. Bayley is extremely energetic and playful so I make sure to get some playtime in with her each day!

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

National Zookeeper Appreciation Week: Elizabeth Schneble

In celebration of National Zookeeper Appreciation Week, meet one of our Aquarists, Elizabeth Schneble!

beth schneble

How long have you been at the Aquarium?   

I have been working in the Fishes Department for a just a little over 6 years now.

What interested you to pursue your current career path? 

I studied wildlife conservation and resources in college, and during my studies I interned here for the National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue program and the Fishes Department simultaneously. I absolutely fell in love with the animals, the fast-paced environment, and the wonderful staff, and I knew this is what I wanted to do. As a bonus, I have always had a passion for conservation, the environment and the National Aquarium’s mission. Conservation programs provide the perfect platform for me to work with both.

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

In one word: “busy!” I take care of our Maryland Mountains to the Sea gallery, and my day starts around 7:30 a.m. I spend the first part of my day cleaning and preparing the exhibits for our guests and feeding the animals. Once the exhibits are clean and ready for opening, I work on cleaning the backup enclosures and feeding the animals in backup. The rest of my day is spent between working on various projects around the department, helping out and participating with other staff in diving and cleaning duties, and maintaining the life support systems on my exhibits. I also manage the wonderful aquarist assistant volunteers in Fishes Department. We currently have over 40 volunteers in the program. In the few moments I have time to sit at my desk, I catch up on emails. I am also planning the local collecting trips. The collecting season lasts approximately 6 months each year and I work very hard to plan trips to collect local animals, quarantine them and move them onto exhibit to share with our guests.

What is your favorite Aquarium memory?

I was able to participate in a lionfish collection trip in the Bahamas in 2011. I spent a week diving on the coral reefs conducting fish diversity surveys and collecting lionfish. It was by far the most rewarding and amazing aquarium experience I have had.

What is the next big project you’re working on?

I am currently building a backup turtle tank to house part of our collection of local turtles, including the diamondback terrapins and wood turtles.

What is your favorite animal?

That is a tough one, but at the moment I would have to say the diamondback terrapin! They are one of the most unique and beautiful turtle species, in my opinion. Plus, they have such interesting personalities and behaviors. How can you not love them?

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


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