Interview With An Aquarist At Aquarium Of The Pacific

In todays segment of Shine OC we meet with Lisa Larkin, an aquarist at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach CA. The aquarium’s mission is to instill a sense of wonder, respect, and stewardship for the Pacific Ocean, its inhabitants, and ecosystems. They are the fourth most-attended aquarium in the nation and they display over 11,000 animals in more than 50 exhibits that represent the diversity of the Pacific Ocean.

Employee Introduction

My name is Lisa Larkin, and I am an aquarist at the Aquarium of the Pacific. As an aquarist, I am part of the husbandry (animal care) department. My job is to help care for the fish and invertebrates that call the aquarium home. In particular, I work with tropical animals, which include fish, sharks, coral, octopus, and many more!

How did you get started in this industry?

I have loved aquariums since I was very young, and have always loved the ocean. But coming from the Midwest, there were very few opportunities to work with marine life growing up. Right after college I moved out to California, and was able to get an internship at the Aquarium of The Pacific. From there I was promoted to a part-time aquarist, and then to full-time.

Did you attend any special schooling?

I graduated from Indiana University with a BS degree in biology. I also became involved in the Underwater Sciences department there, and was able to get scuba certified.

Tell us what your favorite part of your job is

I love the mariculture aspect of my job. We raise a wide variety of animals at the aquarium, including fish and invertebrates! My job in particular is to raise cephalopods.  It is really rewarding to see animals be born and thrive at the aquarium. And who doesn’t love a baby animal?

What are you most passionate about?

I truly love all marine animals, but I am most passionate about cephalopods. This group includes octopus, squid, cuttlefish, and nautilus. They are incredibly fascinating animals, that are highly intelligent!

Describe a typical day on the job.

We start our days before the guests arrive, making sure that all of the life support  and filtration of our aquariums is running properly, and that the exhibits are clean. The rest of the day can be quite variable. On a normal day it would include feeding the animals (some of our animals get fed six times a day!) and exhibit/life support maintenance and diving. Working with animals requires a certain amount of flexibility though, and things can change quickly!

What is your most memorable experience on the job?

This was the most difficult question to answer! We do some truly extraordinary things at the aquarium. If I had to pick though, I would say that it was during one our research dives off of the California coast. In affiliation with NOAA, some of the Aquarium of the Pacific’s staff periodically go scuba diving in order to monitor several sites for adult white abalone (Haliotis sorenseni). Any ocean dive is enjoyable, but to also be assisting to save an endangered species is definitely special!

If you could give one piece of advice to the younger generation what would it be?

Getting animal experience early is key! Whether that is volunteering at your local zoo or aquarium or having an at home aquarium. You will learn things through this experience, that you cannot read in books. Secondly I would learn how to scuba dive and be comfortable in the water. This is an important aspect that our job, and being scuba certified can give you a “leg-up” on the competition.

Shine OC is a monthly series about exemplary employees, families, kids and more in the OC community.  It includes interviews, photos, videos and enlightening stories. If you know of a special person who would like to be in the spotlight, send us an email at [email protected].

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