Briefly describe your job and your area of expertise. I take care of several different animals in the Aquarium. My favorites are the cephalopods, and I am particularly fond of our cuttle breeding program. As a member of the coral reef team, I help plan and take care of our ambitious 212,000 gallon reef tank, where I spend a good amount of my time under water moving rocks and coral and observing fish (and, by looking through the tank windows, our visitors). I am also fortunate to be on the team that takes care of Claude, our albino alligator. I spend most of the rest of my time coordinating one of our Quarantine and Holding rooms, growing coral and making sure incoming animals get the proper care they need before going on public view.
What got you interested in becoming a biologist? There have always been animals in my house ever since I was a kid. I have vivid memories of my father’s two 50 gallon aquariums in our living room – one goldfish and one African cichlids – and of watching Jacques Cousteau on television. When I was a teenager, I had 22 aquariums in my bedroom, and my parents were incredibly generous allowing me to keep them even during the phase where I flooded the house regularly. I got into saltwater animals in the 1980’s. I have worked in various exotic pet stores, and have been lucky enough to have been a consultant on a coral farming project in Tonga. My wife’s hobby is travel, so my immediate family has been to a lot of places, including a lot of wild reefs. I have also been a writer for many marine hobby magazines and a speaker at Aquarium Conventions. All of this made me incredibly interested in doing my job at the Steinhart Aquarium.
What do you like most and least about your job? My favorite thing about my job is being part of one of the largest indoor corals reefs in the world – it’s an ever-challenging project that never gets dull. I also love being able to care of animals I might not be able to care for in any other situation – how many other jobs would allow me to go home and tell my daughter that I those sucker marks on my are are from a giant octopus? My least favorite thing about my job is not being able to sleep in on Sundays.
What college did you go to and what degree did you receive? UCDavis, BA Philosophy
What influenced your job choice and when? I was a stay at home dad, and when my daughter started going to school I volunteered for the Steinhart Aquarium at Howard Street. As the migration to the park began, I was hired on part time – which then turned into a full time offer. Since my daughter was doing well in school, it was the perfect time to take the offer of what amounted to my dream job.
Do you have pets at home? What and how many? Yes, too many. 3 hairless cats, 6 egg laying chickens, a bearded dragon, 2 African spur thigh tortoises, a 300 gallon reef system and a 300 gallon cephalopods/fish breeding system.
Advice for someone wanting to go into your field. Follow your passion and learn everything you can. Take critical thinking classes. Make sure you have a good basic understanding of how the systems you want to care for work, as well as an understanding on how to build and troubleshoot them. Join and be active in a local aquarium club. Get hands on experience, volunteer and do a great job without expecting to get hired.