Takeover Tuesday: A day in the life of a Newport Aquarium Herpetologist

Takeover Tuesday features a “day in the life” of biologists at Newport Aquarium. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

My name is Erin and I am one of the biologists at Newport Aquarium! I am a Herpetologist, which means that I work with the Reptiles and Amphibians. The place you are most likely to find me is in our Frog Bog where I care for most of our amphibian collection! Come with me on this #TakeoverTuesday as I show you a day in my life!

Erin Muldoon

Herpetologist, Erin, takes care of the animals in Frog Bog.

One of my jobs is to raise the next generation. These are Halmahera gecko eggs. We had Halmahera geckos running free in Canyon Falls and found these eggs when we were getting ready to start construction on the new Stingray Hideaway.

Gecko eggs

These Halmahera gecko eggs are from geckos that were running free in Canyon Falls. If these eggs hatch, the geckos will be released to run free in Stingray Hideaway.

If they hatch, we’ll release them and their parents back into Stingray Hideaway. So, keep your eyes out for geckos on the walls when we open our new exhibit this summer!

Sometimes, animals arrive too small to go into their future home. When that happens, I take care of them and help them grow up big and strong. Here is a baby Giant Musk Turtle who has a little more growing to do before he can hang out in our Shore Gallery.

musk turtle

Baby Giant Musk Turtle

Some of the smallest animals I care for live in the Frog Bog. These are Anthony’s Poison Arrow Frogs in multiple stages of their development, from tadpoles just getting their legs, to a brand new froglet, to two adults.

Anthony’s Poison Arrow Frogs are considered Near Threatened in the wild. Breeding efforts by Newport Aquarium and other Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions will hopefully keep this frog and other amphibian species off the Endangered Species List.

You may ask yourself, what does a newly hatched dart frog eat? One food we offer is called a spring tail – it’s a tiny insect.

We also give them small fruit flies and newly hatched pinhead crickets. Here at Newport Aquarium, we breed our own fruit flies and crickets so that we always have a good supply of food ready for our smallest amphibians.

Not all of the animals I take care of are tiny. I also help take care of the biggest reptiles at the aquarium, Mighty Mike our American alligator, and the rare white American alligators, Snowball and Snowflake.

Mighty Mike (2)

Mighty Mike, the 14-foot long American alligator

 

They may look like statues, but believe me, they are alive. Part of taking care of them includes everyone’s favorite to watch: Feeding!

White gators (2)

Snowball and Snowflake, rare white American alligators

During the winter, they eat every three weeks. But in the summer, they eat every week. If you are lucky, you might catch us out on the beach feeding Mike some chickens, fish, or even a rabbit or two!

Mighty Mike

Herpetologists, Erin and Ryan feed Mighty Mike.

I hope you enjoyed #TakeoverTuesday with me. Now, like this Tiger Leg Monkey Frog, it is time to rest!

Tiger Leg Monkey Frog

Tiger Leg Monkey Frog

 

Check out our other #TakeoverTuesday posts

National Veterinary Technician Week 2016

This week is National Veterinary Technician Week. The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) recognizes veterinary technicians for their contributions in animal healthcare. Vet Techs are educated professionals who work closely with veterinarians to ensure the best quality of care for animals. We’d like to recognize Jolene Hanna, the Animal Health & Quarantine Manager and Veterinary Technician at Newport Aquarium. Thank you, Jolene for all that you do!

Jolene Hanna, RVT Animal Health & Quarantine Manager at Newport Aquarium, feeds a shark behind the scenes.

Jolene Hanna, RVT Animal Health & Quarantine Manager at Newport Aquarium, feeds a shark behind the scenes.

Why did you choose to become a vet tech?

“I always wanted to work with animals. As a teenager, I worked as kennel help at the local vet hospital and was given the opportunity to go out on farm calls and to watch surgeries on a regular basis.”

Hanna received her Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology. “I always wanted to work with dolphins.”

As fate would have it, she ended up working with a completely different species – sharks! She helped launch the world’s first Shark Ray Breeding program, and ended up working with sharks here at Newport Aquarium.

After college, Hanna joined AmeriCorps and completed the Vet Tech program before coming to work at Newport Aquarium.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

“The possibilities are limitless. I don’t have a ‘typical’ day. I could be in the Antarctic or I could be diving in the Amazon tank. There’s always something new to learn.”

Something new, such as taking part in research projects.  “Taking part in scientific research. I did a study on birth control implants on freshwater stingrays.”

Hanna makes tank-side visits with animals at Newport Aquarium. “I never would have imagined I’d be doing this, but this is what I do.”

What has been your most memorable moment during your career?

“Definitely, working with the shark rays – it’s been a long journey! It’s an opportunity to work with a first of its kind program in the world.”

“We’re part of (kind of) a new industry, working with sharks. What we learn, we’re sharing the knowledge with other institutions. We have become better stewards for the species. This is my contribution to something that is globally influential. I’m putting my fingerprint on it.”

2016 National Zoo Keeper Week

By: Ric Urban, Chief Conservation Officer

This is one of my favorite times of the year, National Zoo Keeper Week. Since 2007, when Congress declared the 3rd week in July as NZKW, we get to celebrate the dedication of the thousands of men and women that dedicate themselves daily to professional animal care in our nation’s zoos, aquariums and wildlife centers. During my 35 years in the industry, I have seen many changes in our profession. Keepers are the ‘front line educators’ for our guests. People want to know more about the animals under our care, and they want to hear it from the person who takes care of the animals. We are out in the elements 365 days a year. We are out in the freezing snow and ice, we are out in the blazing heat; but we are always out there providing the highest standards of care to the animals that are in our institutions.

As a long-time zoo and aquarium professional, I want everyone to know and appreciate my colleagues in conservation. Our mission is to ‘save wild animals and save wild spaces.’ More keepers today are species population managers. Within the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), there are over 600 managed species of animals around the world. Many of these programs are managed by keepers. They travel to the range countries where these animals live, they work with local governments on protecting this species as well as the other flora and fauna that lives in that ecosystem. Keepers do amazing things.

A keeper’s day is more than just feeding and cleaning. Keepers may be involved in environmental enrichment, exhibit design and landscaping, administering medical treatments, or training. They are ‘jacks of all trades.’ Keepers are dieticians, carpenters, designers, horticulturists, public speakers and educators. NZKW

Zoo Keeper is such a generic term sometimes… we are called aquarists, biologists, aviculturists, herpetologist, animal technician or animal care specialist. Whatever you call us… please recognize us as passionate and dedicated to our profession.

At the Newport Aquarium, we are proud of the contributions our biologists make for the preservation of species. They work on committees for the management of the North American populations of animals, they work for the preservation of our local waterways and wetlands, they develop guidelines for care of captive wildlife, and they work for the conservation of habitat and ecosystems for wildlife where they live.

Biologists from Newport Aquarium partnered with Thomas More College, ORSANCO and Kentucky Fish and Wildlife to help save endangered freshwater mussels in Kentucky.  Pictured: Jen, Ryan, and Ty.

Biologists from Newport Aquarium partnered with Thomas More College, ORSANCO and Kentucky Fish and Wildlife to help save endangered freshwater mussels in Kentucky. Pictured: Jen, Ryan, and Ty.

Newport Aquarium is an accredited member of the AZA (Association of Zoos & Aquariums), which means we meet exceptional standards in animal care, wildlife conservation and public education. Newport Aquarium is one of only 233 accredited institutions in North America, where there are over 3,000 professional animal keepers providing invaluable roles as leaders in animal conservation and the frontline educators.

Spend some time this week visiting and let the keepers know they’re doing a great job!

National Zoo Keeper Week Spotlight: Area Supervisor Dan Hagley

National Zoo Keeper Week is celebrated during the third week of July each year. As the need to protect and preserve our wildlife and vanishing habitats increases, zoo keeper’s roles as educators and wildlife ambassadors become more essential. Throughout this week, Newport Aquarium will highlight members of our dedicated animal husbandry staff.

Area Supervisor Dan Hagley (center left) oversees multiple exhibits at Newport Aquarium.

Area Supervisor Dan Hagley (center left) oversees multiple exhibits at Newport Aquarium.

Name: Dan Hagley

Title: Area Supervisor

Exhibit(s) in which you work: World Rivers Gallery 9 exhibits, Paddle fish exhibit, Living coral exhibit, Piranha exhibit, and the coral propagation system.

Month and Year in which you began working at NAq? August 2003

What has been the most rewarding experience while working at NAq? Watching guests walk though in amazement as they look at the exhibits.

What’s your favorite part of your job? Every time I have the opportunity to re-do an exhibit and create something.

How and when did you decide to get into the zookeeper field? I always knew I wanted to work with animals specifically with fish and in college after Freshman year I decided.

Zookeeper WEEK.Logo 2006 V

About the American Association of Zoo Keepers
The mission of The American Association of Zoo Keepers is to advance excellence in the animal keeping profession, foster effective communication beneficial to animal care, support deserving conservation projects, and promote the preservation of our natural resources and animal life.

National Zoo Keeper Week Spotlight: Animal Ambassador Ric Urban

National Zoo Keeper Week is celebrated during the third week of July each year. As the need to protect and preserve our wildlife and vanishing habitats increases, zoo keeper’s roles as educators and wildlife ambassadors become more essential. Throughout this week, Newport Aquarium will highlight members of our dedicated animal husbandry staff.

Ric Urban behind the scenes of the Gator Alley exhibit with Mighty Mike.

Ric Urban behind the scenes of the Gator Alley exhibit with Mighty Mike.

Name: Ric Urban

Title: Newport Aquarium Animal Ambassador and Manager of Animal Acquisitions/Dispositions, Exhibit Design & Development and Compliance

Month and Year in which you began working at NAq? February 2004.

What is your favorite animal at Newport Aquarium? African Penguins.

What has been your most rewarding experience while working at NAq? Introducing “Paula the Penguin’ to a 95-year-old grandmother. She had tears in her eyes after touching the penguin, saying that was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. As an Ambassador for Newport Aquarium, I have had many rewarding experiences connecting people with wildlife.

What’s your favorite part of your job? Designing exhibits and bringing animals to the Newport Aquarium that “wow” the guests.

How and when did you decide to get into the zookeeper field? 1981, when I joined the Sunset Zoo as a volunteer educator. After that I was hooked and the rest is history.

Zookeeper WEEK.Logo 2006 V

About the American Association of Zoo Keepers
The mission of The American Association of Zoo Keepers is to advance excellence in the animal keeping profession, foster effective communication beneficial to animal care, support deserving conservation projects, and promote the preservation of our natural resources and animal life.

National Zoo Keeper Week Spotlight: Husbandry Aide Becky Echtenkamp

National Zoo Keeper Week is celebrated during the third week of July each year. As the need to protect and preserve our wildlife and vanishing habitats increases, zoo keeper’s roles as educators and wildlife ambassadors become more essential. Throughout this week, Newport Aquarium will highlight members of our dedicated animal husbandry staff.

Husbandry Aide Becky Echtenkamp works with multiple animals through several exhibits at Newport Aquarium.

Husbandry Aide Becky Echtenkamp works with multiple animals through several exhibits at Newport Aquarium.

Name: Becky Echtenkamp

Title: Husbandry Aide

Exhibit(s) in which you work: Half of Frog Bog, Live Foods and coverage on all “Rainforest” exhibits (i.e. Turtle Canyon, Croc Town, Cold Penguin, Warm Penguin, etc.).

Month and Year in which you began working at NAq: May 2012.

What is your favorite animal at Newport Aquarium? Simon the African Penguin.

What has been the most rewarding experience while working at NAq? Being exposed to new things/animals/techniques.

What’s your favorite part of your job? The people and their positive outlooks.

How and when did you decide to get into the zookeeper field? I have wanted to work with animals since I was very little (less than 5) and I went to school specifically to do this.

Zookeeper WEEK.Logo 2006 V

About the American Association of Zoo Keepers
The mission of The American Association of Zoo Keepers is to advance excellence in the animal keeping profession, foster effective communication beneficial to animal care, support deserving conservation projects, and promote the preservation of our natural resources and animal life.

National Zoo Keeper Week Spotlight: Water Quality Specialist Cameo VonStrohe

National Zoo Keeper Week is celebrated during the third week of July each year. As the need to protect and preserve our wildlife and vanishing habitats increases, zoo keeper’s roles as educators and wildlife ambassadors become more essential. Throughout this week, Newport Aquarium will highlight members of our dedicated animal husbandry staff.

Water Quality Specialist Cameo VonStrohe is responsible for replicating the water of the animals at Newport Aquarium's natural environment.

Water Quality Specialist Cameo VonStrohe is responsible for replicating the water of the animals at Newport Aquarium’s natural environment.

Name: Cameo VonStrohe

Title: Water Quality Specialist

Exhibit(s) in which you work: No exhibits, just the dihydrogen monoxide!

Month and Year in which you began working at NAq? May 2001.

What is your favorite animal at Newport Aquarium? Cownose rays & garden eels!

What has been the most rewarding experience while working at NAq? Playing “Mother Nature” with the water to keep the water as close to the animals’ natural environment as possible.

What’s your favorite part of your job? Atomic absorption spectrophotometer and superb co-workers.

How and when did you decide to get into the zookeeper field? A visit to an aquarium while vacationing in Virginia Beach during high school.

Zookeeper WEEK.Logo 2006 V

About the American Association of Zoo Keepers
The mission of The American Association of Zoo Keepers is to advance excellence in the animal keeping profession, foster effective communication beneficial to animal care, support deserving conservation projects, and promote the preservation of our natural resources and animal life.

National Zoo Keeper Week Spotlight: Senior Aquatic Biologist Crystal Phillips

National Zoo Keeper Week is celebrated during the third week of July each year. As the need to protect and preserve our wildlife and vanishing habitats increases, zoo keeper’s roles as educators and wildlife ambassadors become more essential. Throughout this week, Newport Aquarium will highlight members of our dedicated animal husbandry staff.

Before Newport Aquarium opened in May 1999, Sr. Biologist Crystal Phillips traveled to Adventure World near Shirahama, Japan to bring king penguins to Northern Kentucky.

Before Newport Aquarium opened in May 1999, Sr. Biologist Crystal Phillips traveled to Adventure World near Shirahama, Japan to bring king penguins to Northern Kentucky. (Source: The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Title: Senior Aquatic Biologist

Exhibits/Areas of Responsibility: Parts of Frog Bog; Aquatic/terrestrial quarantine; and records.

Month and Year in which you began working at NAq? November 1998

What is your favorite animal at Newport Aquarium? Penguins

What has been the most rewarding experience while working at NAq? Being given the opportunity to work with such a diverse collection of species.

What’s your favorite part of your job? Seeing the animals thrive, and the guests who enjoy connecting with the animals. Also sharing with guests information about the animals and why they are important.

How and when did you decide to get into the zookeeper field? Quite young – elementary school – at least for biology. It was narrowed down to zookeeping in college.

Zookeeper WEEK.Logo 2006 V

About the American Association of Zoo Keepers
The mission of The American Association of Zoo Keepers is to advance excellence in the animal keeping profession, foster effective communication beneficial to animal care, support deserving conservation projects, and promote the preservation of our natural resources and animal life.

National Zoo Keeper Week Spotlight: Zoological Operations Manager Jeff Gibula

National Zoo Keeper Week is celebrated during the third week of July each year. As the need to protect and preserve our wildlife and vanishing habitats increases, zoo keeper’s roles as educators and wildlife ambassadors become more essential. Throughout this week, Newport Aquarium will highlight members of our dedicated animal husbandry staff.

Jeff Gibula has worked at Newport Aquarium since before it opened in 1999.

Jeff Gibula has worked at Newport Aquarium since before it opened in 1999.

Title: Zoological Operations Manager

Exhibit(s) in which you work: ALL

Month and Year in which you began working at NAq? January 1999

What is your favorite animal at Newport Aquarium? Sandtiger Sharks

What has been the most rewarding experience while working at NAq? The “light bulb” moment…the very second that something we created is both in harmony for the animals and inspires, excites / enlightens any of guests. Hopefully creating a connection, a respect for all wildlife and wild places when they are outside of the aquarium.

What’s your favorite part of your job? Working with exotic animals from around the world.

How and when did you decide to get into the zookeeper field? I was born in Baltimore, Md. and at a young age started visiting the National Aquarium in Baltimore (NAIB). I believe my first time was when I was 4 years old. I was inspired and in awe of the facility and told my father that I was going to work their one day. Less than 20 years later I fulfilled that promise and was working at NAIB.

Zookeeper WEEK.Logo 2006 V

About the American Association of Zoo Keepers
The mission of The American Association of Zoo Keepers is to advance excellence in the animal keeping profession, foster effective communication beneficial to animal care, support deserving conservation projects, and promote the preservation of our natural resources and animal life.