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Keeper Week: Mallorie McDermott

The Aquarium is home to an astonishing array of plants and animals. In celebration of National Zookeeper Appreciation Week, we’re introducing you to some of the talented team that keeps our living collection healthy and thriving!

Published July 21, 2015


Meet Mallorie McDermott, Senior Aviculturist, Australia: Wild Extremes

How long have you been at the Aquarium? 

I reached my five-year anniversary in June 2015. It definitely hasn’t felt like five years; time has flown by.

What interested you in pursuing your current career path?

I have always had a place in my heart for all kinds of animals since I was a child, which quickly grew into a passion of mine, as I got older. When I left for college I struggled to find the right career path until I came across a major in Animal Behavior at Towson University. It was opportunities through Towson that opened doors into my animal keeping career. I volunteered, interned and worked part-time at the Maryland Zoo while I was an undergraduate. Then, after receiving two bachelor’s degrees in animal behavior and biology, I accepted a full-time position at the National Aquarium.

Briefly describe your day-to-day:

Every day has its routine; zoo keeping has a lot of repetition since the same animals need to be cared for in mostly the same way every day. A normal day for me starts at 7 am. I check all on- and off-exhibit animals, medicate appropriately, change all water, clean necessary areas before opening at 9 am, prepare diets, feed out and clean backup areas. After lunch, I work on small projects and provide enrichment for all animals, start prepping diets at 2:30 pm, feed out afternoon diets, medicate appropriately, record all observations for the day and head home at 3:30pm. This routine can change depending on medical cases, any larger projects that may need to get done and how many people are working for the day.

What’s your favorite Aquarium memory?

The first time I successfully caught up a grey-headed flying fox was a remarkable memory. That is not something you can do at any institution, and I am lucky to have had that opportunity here at the National Aquarium. I was also very proud when we were able to successfully release an emerald dove that was hand-reared by the Aviculture staff back into the exhibit. This was the first dove any of us had hand-reared before. He came to us due to an injury, and we were his only hope for survival. With a lot of teamwork, as well as research on technique and protocol, we began to see the dove’s weight increase, and soon he was released back into the exhibit. He is still currently on exhibit and successfully breeding.

Tell us about the next big project you’re working on.

We are working on training our laughing kookaburras. We would like to have a kookaburra free-flighted in the exhibit every day. This is a huge project for the Australia aviculture team. A lot of training has been involved, such as recalling and crating on command. We had one of our kookaburras on exhibit for about a month with great success. Our next goal is to introduce the second kookaburra and have them on a rotating schedule on and off exhibit. The ultimate goal will be to have both kookaburras out together, but that ultimately depends on their behavior and temperament toward each other.

What’s your favorite animal?

My favorite animal is the keel-billed toucan, which I had the pleasure to work with at the Maryland Zoo. My favorite animal I work with now is definitely the laughing kookaburra. They are so intelligent, and I thoroughly enjoy watching them learn and problem solve. They are also a joy to work with and have the best personalities.

Check back tomorrow to meet another member of our animal care team!

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