As curator of Blue Wonders, I oversee the care of the animals in our Blue Wonders exhibits, determine population composition within those exhibits and manage projects to upgrade those exhibits. Helping me to do this are two assistant curators, who manage the day-to-day activities, and the aquarists, who are responsible for the daily care of the animals. Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family, hiking, boating, waterskiing, birding and home improvement projects.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
If we are talking real fantasy, I would say professional baseball player, but I would say shark biologist was really what I thought about becoming.
What did you study in school?
I studied biology at George Mason for my bachelor’s degree and studied marine biology at Florida Institute of Technology for my master’s degree. My thesis project was basically the feeding ecology of Atlantic stingrays.
How did you get started in your field of work?
I have always had a love for the water, animals and science. When we went to the park, I was always the kid in the water with a bucket and dip net trying to catch something. Those passions translated into a path for my education, which led me down this road. At some point, I realized that I really wanted to be a part of getting scientific knowledge—in particular, as it relates to aquatic animals and environments—to others. Working in a public aquarium is a great opportunity to work with animals and deliver a message about those animals.
At the Aquarium
How long have you been at the Aquarium?
Short answer: I have been at the site in Baltimore since March of 2013. However, mine is a long story; I started at the National Aquarium in Washington, D.C., in 1997, which was at that time a separate entity operated by guest services. In 2006, that site was brought under the management of this National Aquarium and I became a National Aquarium employee, so officially my tenure goes back to the 1997 date. Unfortunately, we closed the D.C. site in early 2013, but fortunately I transferred to the Baltimore site as the curator of fishes–gallery exhibits.
I love what I do because...
I have the opportunity to work with a tremendous variety of aquatic animals, apply the skills and knowledge that I have gathered over the years and help to inspire passion for aquatic animals and environments in our guests.
Most memorable moment at the Aquarium
So many memories it is hard to choose but I would have to say closing the doors to the D.C. site has been my most memorable moment. On one hand, we had put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into the site and planning for a major renovation that was not going to be realized, and on the other hand, moving up here as a curator was a huge opportunity.
Hometown: Springfield, VA
This is always a tough one, there are so many cool animals it is hard to choose a favorite. I would have to say my favorite group of animals is sharks and if you twisted my arm I would have to say that bull sharks are my favorite.
Three things you never leave home without?
If we are talking practical items, I would say keys, wallet and Leatherman multi-tool are the most likely three items that I almost always have with me.
One lesson you wish you'd learned earlier in life?
This is tough because I do not regret the path that brought me to where I am right now and would not change anything, but one piece of advice that I give to people that are interested in marine biology as a career is to explore career opportunities early. Get as many experiences as you can; get involved as a volunteer at a public aquarium, work as an intern and get involved with professors and graduate students that are doing work that you are interested in as an undergraduate.
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