Hard at Work: Meet Our Biologists

By: Jenna Eckel

 

The behind-the-scenes at Adventure Aquarium are just as interesting as what you experience when you visit. On any given day, you will find a member of our husbandry team hurrying the hallways and staircases with a bucket of feed working to keep our more than 15,000 animals well-feed, enriched and loved.

Our husbandry team is 37 individuals made up of a veterinarian, veterinarian technician, curators, biologists and aides, and is divided by a fish and invertebrate staff and a bird and mammal staff. Breaking the team up into these two categories allows for the biologists to provide specialized care to all of our residents.

Our team is considered to be experts in the field. Each husbandry team member needs a Bachelor's degree in the biological sciences and a scuba certification. Many are program leaders for many Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ committees and programs, including the Species Survival Plan (SSP) Program, FrogWatch and SAFE (Saving Animals from Extinction).

Meet some of the husbandry team below, and click to watch the videos to learn how they became an animal caretaker.

Mark Hacker, Assistant Curator of Birds and Mammals

Mark is the assistant curator of our birds and mammal husbandry team. He has worked at the Aquarium for more than 15 years, and actually got to be at the Aquarium when Button and Genny, our Nile hippopotamuses, joined the Aquarium family. The hippos are two of his favorites, and based on this video it’s safe to say he is their favorite too!

As an assistant curator, Mark ensures all of our animals who are either a bird or mammal receive proper care. He oversees any species survival programming related to those animal types. The Aquarium also has an assistant curator on staff who specialized in fish and invertebrates.
 

Liz Hann, Collections and Conservation Manager

Liz has also been a part of the Adventure Aquarium staff for more than 15 years. A fun fact about Liz, she was Anchor’s first caretaker. Can you believe that our now 9 ft great hammerhead shark came to the Aquarium only 3 ft long?

Now, Liz works closely with the AZA to ensure Adventure Aquarium is continually meeting all AZA requirements for animal management and care. Liz also is a champion for conservation and is always informing staff and guests about the latest conservation trends. Check out our Action for Animals Audio Tour to hear more about her work.

Liz is a program leader of the AZA sand tiger shark species program as the studbook keeper. She is also the south Atlantic regional coordinator for the AZA SAFE: Shark and Ray’s International Census of Chondrichthyans in Human Care. To learn more about Chondrichthyans check out our blog.
 

Jennifer Duffy, Senior Biologist of Birds and Mammals

Jennifer (also known as “Duffy” by many here) has worked at the Aquarium since 2006, and has always wanted to take care of animals! You can find Duffy spending most of her days at Penguin Park with our African Penguins. She works with our penguins to ensure they not only get the proper care, but also receive special animal enrichment, like painting!
 

Alex Middlebrook, Fish & Invertebrates Biologist

Alex always knew she wanted to work with animals so she majored in marine biology. Her college internship determined for her what she wanted to do: work with animals. She started at Adventure Aquarium as a biologist aide and worked closely with the biologists to learn all husbandry operations. After becoming a biologist, she cared for freshwater fish and turtles, and now is the primary caregiver for our jellyfish collection.
 

Catiana Conte, Bird and Mammal Biologist

Before becoming a biologist, Catiana worked on the Guest Experience team talking to guests at the animal touch exhibits. Now, Catiana is the primary caretaker of small mammals like our porcupines! She works hard to ensure our small mammals get plenty of enrichment too! You’ll see in this video, Theo loves her attention and learning from her. His favorite thing? Walks with Catiana, of course!