Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.
Today, meet aquarist Maxine Montello!
What are 3 of your normal daily tasks?
Every morning I start the day off by checking on all my animals. Temperature is very important for reptiles and amphibians and I need to make sure that are all within their ideal range. Once everyone is accounted for I can start cleaning and feeding. Some of the reptiles are a bit spoiled and are given a healthy balance of insects as well as vegetables and fruits. A very fun part of my job is enriching the animals. I try and enrich the black dragon daily with new items or smells for him to explore. One of his favorite things is when I give him fresh towels from the dryer!
How/why did you become an aquarist and what was your major?
As a young girl I always knew I wanted to do something with animals especially marine species. I graduated from Manhattanville College with a degree in Animal Behavior. Soon after graduation I got hired at the Maritime Aquarium. While working in the aquarist department I decided to go back to school and obtain my Masters in Wildlife Ecology/Environmental Science from Pace University where I focused on sea turtle nesting behavior.
Favorite animal you’ve ever worked with?
I will always have a place in my heart for sea turtles, but I must say working with the black dragon has been awesome. I have been responsible for his care since he was only couple months old. It has been really exciting to watch him grow over the last two years. He is such an intelligent animal and he is always surprising me daily.
What has been your funniest experience as an aquarist?
Part of my job at the aquarium is conducting field research on the island of Barbuda. During my first season to the island I came across a snail that I had not seen before. I decided to pick it up and take lots of photos to help identify it. Minutes went by and I noticed that I had a purple stain on my clothes. I quickly noticed that a majority of my right hand was a deep purple color. It was clear then that I had just come into contact with the wide-mouth purpura. A well-known snail on the island that released a clear liquid from its body as defense mechanism that just so happens to turn purple! Not only did this snail make my hand purple for over a week, but left a nice smell of sulfur. Let’s just say I was not welcomed at the dinner table for a little bit.
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