Today I interviewed one of my supervisors/bosses, Lana, about what it’s like to work at an aquarium. We were a little rushed for time, so it’s not a very long interview, but I learned a lot and got some good advice from her.
Lana went to the University of South Carolina (USC), and has a degree in marine science with a concentration in biology. She has been working at the Oklahoma Aquarium for about two years, first working in the chemistry lab for nine months, before moving to the freshwater department, where she is now.
Her daily routine starts with checking all of the systems, to make sure all the animals are healthy, and that all the pumps and filters are clean and running properly. After that, she and the other workers will wipe down the windows, and start the daily feeds, which are the cichlids, the crappies, the paddlefish, and the iguanas, and consists of pellets and requires little to no food prep. After the daily feeds, her routine varies depending on the day. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, they feed all of the animals, change out the floss bags, and do feed shows for the piranhas and the electric eels. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she backwashes and cleans tanks, and prepares the food for the Monday-Wednesday-Friday feeds. However, her daily routine can vary based on several factors: lack of water to refill tanks, moving animals, broken or damaged pumps/filters, etc.
I also asked Lana what her favorite part of working at the aquarium is, and she had two answers: diving, and interacting with the little kids who visit the aquarium. She loves diving because she never feels better than she does after diving, like she was sick, and after diving she’s better. She also likes seeing the awe and joy on little kids faces when they’re in the aquarium and seeing all the animals. She loves answering their questions, because the kids are so happy and eager to learn about the animals.
Next, I asked Lana if this job is where she wanted or thought she was going to be after college. This job isn’t exactly where she imagined herself, and although she loves it, she is using it as a stepping stone, and wants to go back to school eventually, either to go into research, rehabilitation, or veterinary medicine. I also asked if she had any advice for prospective marine science majors, and she had some great advice. First, don’t let anyone discourage you. Second, make friends with the people outside your department, because you may want to work in their department at some point. Third, pay attention in class. I really like this last one, because I think it’s something that all students struggle with, especially now with all the technology we have access to. I’ve seen so many kids checking Facebook or Twitter on their computers in class, instead of paying attention and taking notes. At the moment, you might not think what you’re learning is relevant, but someday, you might really need that information.
I’m glad that I was able to interview Lana, because she gave me even more insight into how an aquarium works. She also gave me a lot of good advice, and encouraged me to continue pursuing vet school. It’s sad to think that I only have a couple more days left in my internship, but I’m very thankful that I got this opportunity!