Over the years I have gotten many questions about my education and what it takes to become an Aquarist. Let me start by introducing us to you. My name is Loretta and I have worked at McWane Science Center for the past 4.5 years. My love for the ocean started at a young age, thanks to my family and living in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. For those of you who don’t know where that is, Ft Lauderdale is located just north of Miami. I started scuba diving when I was 12 and loved to take pictures of the fish while I was diving. Later I attended the University of Florida and received a degree in Zoology, the study of Animals. After starting my career in the zoo community I got the unique opportunity to come to work for McWane Science Center.
My Co-worker, Adele, took a slightly different route. She grew up here in Birmingham. She attended Auburn University and actually got her degree in Marine Biology. Since she knew she always wanted to work in an aquarium she first started off volunteering here at McWane. With her slight experience she was able to get a job at The Dauphin Island Sea Lab, and then recently decided to join our staff here at McWane.
So what does it take to be an aquarist? First, in college you should choose a degree in the science field, preferably the life sciences. There are some colleges out there that even specialize in Marine Biology. Next and probably most importantly volunteer, intern, or in some way find work in the field. Yes, we offer some opportunities here. For more information check out our website or contact one of us about the requirements. Internships in this field rarely pay, but will offer great experience. Very few places will hire someone without any hands on experience. Not only can you find opportunities at local aquariums, but your college can usually put you in contact with different groups or even research at the school with different professors. Getting to work in different areas in the field will help you decide if you want to do research on a boat, work in a lab, work in an aquarium, or find another field all together.
In the future we hope to be able to bring up hot topics in the ocean community, and answer questions that your visitors may have. Let us know if there is a topic of particular interest to you and we will try and address it in future blogs. Please stay tuned to our next blog…. All about the Giant Pacific Octopus!
Contributor Profile: Loretta and Adele's backgrounds are in the life sciences. They both love their jobs as well as all animals. Adele grew up here in Birmingham and is into yoga and gourmet cooking. Loretta grew up in Florida and is about to have her first child in April.