In the celebration of National Zookeeper Appreciation Week, meet Stephanie Harpt, an Animal Programs trainer!
How long have you been at the Aquarium?
I have worked at the aquarium for four years.
What interested you to pursue your current career path?
Growing up, I had always loved animals. When I went to Sea World in Florida for a family vacation, I got to feed the dolphins and it was a very exciting experience that I never forgot. That encounter inspired me to work with animals. From then on, I knew I wanted to be a marine biologist working with dolphins. Over time, I came to the realization that there are so many amazing species and therefore working with any animal would be a privilege.
Can you briefly describe for us what your typical day looks like?
The Animal Programs Department cares for many of the education animals at the aquarium, which include turtles, lizards, snakes, and birds. We prepare diets, clean enclosures, provide enrichment, and train the animals. During the day staff give live animal presentations and sometimes participate in special events for the aquarium!
What is your favorite Aquarium memory?
I went to the Starbucks in Barnes and Noble to get some coffee during my break, and the gentlemen in front of me paid for my drink. He was a chaperone for a school group that had visited the aquarium that day. He said that he thought the aquarium staff did a great job and that he appreciated what we do. Although the gesture was small, it made me feel really proud to be a part of the aquarium team.
What is the next big project you’re working on?
I’m training a yellow-footed tortoise named Joey to touch a target with his face and follow it around his enclosure. His “target” is a miniature red spatula. Eventually, I’m going to introduce him to different colored spatulas and test his ability to tell the different colors apart.
What is your favorite animal?
I think all animals are fascinating in their own way, but I’ve always loved otters and turtles. I like otters’ frisky nature, and it’s hilarious to watch turtles eat.
Stay tuned to the blog this week to meet more of our amazing staff!