Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Meet Animal Trainer Vicki Sawyer
Meet Aquarist Sandi Schaefer
Meet Jelly Culturist Rachel Stein
Meet Aquarist Ryan Dumas

Meet Animal Trainer Ellen Riker
Meet Aquarist Evelia Atanacio
Meet Aquarium Supervisor Kerry Dobson

Meet Aquarist Maxine Montello

Today, meet aquarist Jessica Mason!

What led you to choose a career working with animals?

I have always loved animals and have been intrigued with marine biology.  I went to school for molecular biology so I wanted to try something that I can apply my knowledge to within bigger ecological themes rather than just focusing on the small stuff.

 

What is a typical day at the Aquarium like?

On a typical day I can expect to feed multiple tanks and do routine maintenance like water changes or algae cleaning.

 

What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite animal?

My favorite exhibit is the salt marsh gallery.  Watching the animals grow is always exciting, and the sea horses are pretty cute too!  My favorite animal at the aquarium is the octopus.  She’s a smart cephalopod, so giving her enrichments is very fun.

 

Do you have a funnymemory working with an animal or exhibit?

I was recently trying to get a bass from a small opening in the deck of the outside tank which also holds a few sand tiger sharks.  One of the sharks decided to check out my hands and grazed it.  It didn’t bite me, but I got out of that hatch rather quickly!

 

If you could work with any animal, what would it be?

If I could work with any animal I’d choose lions.

Posted in animals, education, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Meet Animal Trainer Vicki Sawyer
Meet Aquarist Sandi Schaefer
Meet Jelly Culturist Rachel Stein
Meet Aquarist Ryan Dumas

Meet Animal Trainer Ellen Riker
Meet Aquarist Evelia Atanacio
Meet Aquarium Supervisor Kerry Dobson

Target training the sea turtles.

Today, meet aquarist Maxine Montello!

What led you to choose a career working with animals?

Growing up in Maine I have always had a passion for nature. I knew that I would be working with animals in some way or form. While studying biology in undergrad, I became extremely interested in marine biology. I love the true beauty of the ocean and all the little mysteries that come with it.

What is a typical day at the aquarium like?

As an aquarist, we arrive bright and early to check on the animals at the aquarium. Our days are pretty busy between checks, feeds, water quality, cleaning and many other little husbandry tasks. It is our responsibility to ensure that our animals are getting the best care that we can offer.

What’s your favorite exhibit at the aquarium favorite animal?

I love working with the sea turtles and all their tank mates. However, the lorikeet exhibit is awesome way for people to enjoy a hands on experience!!

Do you have a favorite funny/special memory working with an animal or exhibit?

Working at the Aquarium for the past 5 years has really pushed me to increase my knowledge in the field. The minute I began working with our sea turtles I knew that I wanted to continue to work with these magnificent animals. In addition to working at the aquarium I have been obtaining my Master’s degree. My thesis involves observing nesting females on the island of Barbuda (real place, I swear). There is nothing more amazing than experiencing these animals in the wild. I am actually writing this little blog from Barbuda in between sea turtle patrols!!

If you could work with any animal what would it be?
It would be pretty awesome to work with saltwater crocodiles.

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

 

Posted in animals, education, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Meet Animal Trainer Vicki Sawyer
Meet Aquarist Sandi Schaefer
Meet Jelly Culturist Rachel Stein
Meet Aquarist Ryan Dumas
Meet Animal Trainer Ellen Riker

Evelia and Moby!

Today, meet aquarist Evelia Atanacio! 

What led you to choose a career working with animals?

As a child my mom would take us to Beardsley Zoo and Mystic every year and since then I knew I wanted to work in the animal field. I had SeaWorld barbie on my desk with her orca that stayed seated there all the way until I moved out of my mother’s house. It wasn’t until I met Vicki Sawyer in college that my dream became a reality.  She was my inspiration to continue pushing on and reminded me how much i loved training.  It wasn’t SeaWorld but the Maritime Aquarium gave me the chance to intern then work with these fabulous animals and now I am proud to say I get to kiss seals!

What is a typical day at the Aquarium like?

Never a dull moment! You never really know what your day brings.  We have our routines but working with animals things can change very quickly. The busiest time of the day would have to be before we open, there is a lot of running around to get tanks/animals ready for the public.

What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite animal?

One of my favorites had to have been the Sponge Bob exhibit. It was a fun theme and some of the animals were pretty neat! My favorite that I have worked with would have to be the penguins.

Do you have a favorite memory working with an animal or exhibit?

The one that stands out the most  has to be was the bond that I had with one of the male penguins we had in ’09. Moby — I will never forget that little guy. He and I bonded and he courted me for most of the time he was here. Every time I went onto the exhibit to clean or feed he was always at my heals. We would sit and preen each other and had our bonding moments. He was protective over me when the other keeper (male) was around me. When I left on maternity leave I was sure he would “move on” but when I came back and went to visit it was as if I never left.

If you could work with any animal, what would it be?
HMMM that’s a tough question so I’ll give  my 3 top dream animals: Dolphin, polar bear, and giraffe!!

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

 

Posted in animals, education, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Meet Animal Trainer Vicki Sawyer
Meet Aquarist Sandi Schaefer
Meet Jelly Culturist Rachel Stein
Meet Aquarist Ryan Dumas

Meet Animal Trainer Ellen Riker
Meet Aquarist Evelia Atanacio

Kerry with one of our past special exhibit stars, an African penguin!

Today, meet Aquarium Supervisor Kerry Dobson!

What led you to choose a career working with animals?
A love for animals, originally the terrestrial species, then after a summer internship at the Aquarium it turned me around for the aquatic world.

What is a typical day at the Aquarium like?
We start early (7:00 am) to get several projects and cleaning activities completed before the public comes in by 10 a.m. We feeding several animals during the day.  Researching about animals — we have to learn something new each day.

What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite Animal?
Favorite exhibit is jellies, and favorite animal is a toss-up between meerkats and jellies.

Do you have a favorite memory working with an animal or exhibit?
I loved that the exhibits at the Maritime Aquarium over my 23 years here have given me the opportunity to work with Egyptian Fruit Bats years ago.

If you could work with any animal, what would it be?
Can’t decide between penguins or elephants.

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

 

Posted in animals, education, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Meet Animal Trainer Vicki Sawyer
Meet Aquarist Sandi Schaefer
Meet Jelly Culturist Rachel Stein
Meet Aquarist Ryan Dumas

Today, meet animal trainer Ellen Riker!

What led you to choose a career working with animals?
I went to a small aquarium on Cape Cod while on a family vacation when I was 4 years old.  They had an animal show that had dolphins, sea lions and seals.  I was completely enthralled with the animals.  When I was 7 we went back and they asked for a volunteer, my hand shot up and I ended up on the stage.  The trainer picked me up and held me over the tank and said he was going to drop me in and have the dolphin save me to demonstrate how they help people.  He was only kidding and put me down and had me throw a doll in and call for help.  The dolphin brought me the doll and I gave it big herring head as a reward.  I was fully prepared for him to drop me in the tank, I had no problem going in!  From that moment on I knew I wanted to work with marine mammals.

What is a typical day at the Aquarium like?
Lots of cleaning and fish!  We are always cleaning something.  The tanks and exhibits are cleaned every morning before we open, behind the scenes areas are cleaned throughout the day.  There is always an empty bucket to scrub after a feeding.  Lot’s of the aquarium’s animals are fed multiple times a day so that creates a lot of dishes.  We provide enrichment both edible and non edible to many animals.  Water quality of certain tanks is checked on a daily basis and adjusted if needed to maintain proper living conditions for all of our animal’s.

What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite animal?
I don’t know…I’m a mammal girl at heart but we have so many cool fish and reptiles and amphibians!  It’s a close call between Rasal and a lumpfish!

Do you have a favorite memory working with an animal or exhibit?
My special memory has to be my engagement.  My husband proposed to me in the middle of a seal feeding.  The staff was all in on it and helped him orchestrate it.  He hid behind a boat in Falconer Hall waiting for the end of the feeding when we answered questions.   He patiently waited as people asked questions and then raised his hand and said he had a question.  He got down on one knee on the seal ramp and asked me to marry him.  It was the most amazing and embarrassing moment of my life!

If you could work with any animal, what would it be?
A walrus.

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

Posted in animals, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Meet Animal Trainer Vicki Sawyer
Meet Aquarist Sandi Schaefer
Meet Jelly Culturist Rachel Stein
Meet Herpetologist Ryan Dumas
Meet Animal Trainer Ellen Riker

Today, meet aquarist Ryan Mackbach!

What led you to choose a career working with animals?
I lived along Long Island Sound all of my life and have been drawn to water. So, I eventually became enthralled with fish husbandry! Since I was little I had every type of pet you could think of, Reptiles, amphibians, Mammals, Fish, and Birds!

What is a typical day at the Aquarium like?
It’s very fast paced! Taking care of multiple tanks and different fish species, it’s exhilarating.

What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite animal?
I would have to say it would be Salmon tank, only because I have spent so much of my career working with Salmonids. My favorite species is the Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Do you have a favorite memory working with an animal or exhibit?
Not currently, but I am sure it will happen!

If you could work with any animal, what would it be?
It would have to be the largest Salmonid species in the world, the Mongolian Tiamen! Look it up!

 

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

Posted in animals, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Meet Animal Trainer Vicki Sawyer
Meet Aquarist Sandi Schaefer
Meet Jelly Culturist Rachel Stein

Today, meet Aquarist Ryan Dumas!

What led you to choose a career working with animals?
I grew up in Kentucky, so there were lots of opportunities for me to catch and see frogs, snakes and lizards! And that is precisely what I did. I never would have guessed that it would stick with me into adulthood and even into my career!

What is a typical day at the Aquarium like?
The most important part of my job is observing. Reptiles and amphibians will tell you a lot with their behavior if you “listen” to them. So my day begins with observations, then I clean, feed and finally do some routine maintenance like water changes and filter cleanings. With free time I try and think of ways to improve the animals’ habitats. Things like adding live plants, improving the lighting and simply changing the direction of the flow of water can dramatically influence an animals’ behavior and well-being!

What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite animal?
My favorite exhibit is the Madagascar Ground Boa. She is such an impressive animal. The Ground Boa is a big snake, but is an absolute sweetheart. She enjoys laying around most of the day, but occasionally we like to let her “roam” and get some supervised outdoor exercise.

Do you have a favorite funny/special memory working with an animal or exhibit?
The first animals I ever saw hatch out of an egg was an Asian Red Tail Ratsnake. We had collected the eggs 4 months earlier and just waited. It’s a fantastic feeling to be there for an animal’s first foray into the world! I will always remember that and how it felt.

If you could work with any animal, what would it be?
If I could work with any animal, I would work with Boelen’s Pythons. They are an amazing species of python from New Guinea and although they are somewhat common in captivity, they still haven’t reproduced in captivity with any regular occurrence. They are one of the few remaining “mystery” pythons of snake husbandry.

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

Posted in animals, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Meet Animal Trainer Vicki Sawyer
Meet Aquarist Sandi Schaefer

Today, meet jelly culturist Rachel Stein!

What led you to choose a career working with animals?

I have always loved animals, ever since I was a kid! I took a job as an educator hoping that one day the opportunity would arise for me to work with the aquarist department, and I was extremely lucky to have gotten that opportunity only 6 months later.

What is a typical day at the Aquarium like?

Much of what we do on a daily basis is routine: checking tanks, feeding animals, water changes and cleaning. I try to schedule in a “light” day one a week for extra projects, like building a tank, collecting, chlorinating systems, or detailed animal care.

What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite animal?

Being the jelly culturist, my favorite exhibit is the moon jelly cylinder, and my favorite animal is the lion’s mane jelly.

Do you have a favorite memory working with an animal or exhibit?

When we had penguins, I was lucky to spend some time caring or the penguins that were in quarantine at the time. One of the penguins, Sundae, grew attached to me for a little bit. After I was done cleaning their area, I would sit down and Sundae would come over to me, do a little “love dance” where she bowed and shook her head, and waited for me to scratch her neck and back. I could spend all day cuddling with her if I had the time!

If you could work with any animal, what would it be?

I love working with the jellies and would love to try raising new and different species. I always love a new experience though, and hope I can working with any new animal in the future, especially babies!

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

Posted in animals, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Yesterday, we chatted with Vicki Sawyer about what it’s like to work with the seals and otters.

Aquarists are here every day hours before we open! They're busy preparing the animals and their exhibits for our guests!

Today, meet aquarist Sandi Schaefer!

What led you to choose a career working with animals?

I wanted to be a marine biologist since I  was little. I went on many vacations to various Caribbean islands and that experience combined with  growing up on LIS, I fell in love with the sea.

What is a typical day at the Aquarium like? 

As the aquarist in charge of the reserve and quarantine area, every day is different for me. Like other aquarists I have to do daily checks of my animals, filtration, and water quality daily, as well as clean and feed my tanks.  However, the reserves and quarantine section poses its own set of challenges. With new animals arriving and animals being rotated into my area from exhibits, nothing ever stays the same. My section houses a wide variety of animals, each with its own care and husbandry requirements, providing me with a challenge that can be exciting and rewarding.

What’s your favorite exhibit at the Aquarium? Favorite animal?

Favorite exhibit is the moon jelly cylinder. Favorite animal is the Lorikeets or the lemon shark.

Do you have a favorite funny/special memory working with an animal or exhibit?

Vets checks are always educational and leave lasting memories.

If you could work with any animal, what would it be?

Beluga whale, Elephant or any large cat (tiger, leopard, lion).

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

Posted in animals, education, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Happy National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! Even though we’re not a zoo here at The Maritime Aquarium, we have a phenomenal group of aquarists and animal trainers who have dedicated themselves to caring for all the residents of the Aquarium. We think they deserve some appreciation, too!

Throughout this week, meet many of the members of our team who work mostly behind the scenes. They prep the exhibits before our guests arrive, keep the animals fed and provide their care, keep them engaged with enrichments and so much more!

Learn more about how they got their start working with animals, their favorite animals from the Aquarium and lots more throughout the week! Check back every day this week for a new aquarist or trainer spotlight.

Vicki Sawyer practices targeting with one of our harbor seals.

Today, meet animal trainer Vicki Sawyer! 

What lead you to choose a career working with animals?

It was always my dream to work with marine animals ever since I can remember.  As soon as I met Susie and Tillie over twenty-five years ago, I knew that if I worked hard enough, that one day I could be their trainer.  It is an earned privilege for us to work with these beautiful animals very day – something that I cherish each and every time I go out to do a seal show. 

What is your typical day at the Aquarium like?

We have our chores that have to get done every day such as cleaning and scrubbing their exhibits, testing their water, preparing their food and keeping accurate records on their food intake, behavior and medical needs.  It’s a very busy day and we are always on the go. The fun part is spending quality time with them during feeding and training sessions. All the aquarists have a very close relationship with their animals and put the care and welfare of the animals first and foremost.  It means a lot to us when we are able to create a strong bond between our animals and our guests.

What is our favorite exhibit or animal?

It’s hard to chose – we have had so many exhibits over the years.  Working with the African penguins was amazing and taking care of Egyptian fruit bats was a blast!  Every time we get a new exhibit we need to research that animal and network with other keepers from other institutions to provide excellent care.  Definitely my favorite time here has been working with the seals and otters.  They bring joy to so many people and are full of so much fun and energy.

Do you have a favorite memory working with an animal or exhibit?

I have so many special memories of all the animals I have worked with over the years, but my favorite memory is of an unexpected event that happened during a seal feeding on a hot day in August.  A young female deer jumped into the seal tank during the 1:45 feeding!  (Watch the video here!) She was very calm as she swam in the outside area of the seal pool (our seals were hiding in the inside part of the tank watching her).  Staff members from every department came down to help with the rescue.  Our animal care staff kept her calm as they raised the water level of the tank and our education staff kept our visitors informed of our efforts. As the deer came over to an open gate, an aquarist reached in and helped her out with swoop of his arm. The deer climbed out the tank, shook herself off and swam quickly back across the river again. The crowd cheered!  A great team effort by all!  The video of the event went viral and even made it on national TV. Who knew deer could swim so well!

If you could work with one animal what would it be?

I would love have an opportunity to work with elephants.  They are magnificent animals which I admire greatly.  I would love to work in an elephant sanctuary or orphanage – that is Number One on my Bucket List!

Tune in tomorrow for our next keeper spotlight!

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

Posted in animals, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment