By Stuart Thornton
Monday, February 7, 2011
As curator of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's husbandry division, Steve is in charge of animal exhibits, including sharks, octopuses, sea otters, fish, and sea stars. Some of the aquarium’s exhibits are hands-on for visitors, some have occasional divers, some are the size of a home aquarium, while others are several stories tall. One exhibit, the Outer Bay, holds more than 1 million gallons of seawater.
Growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, Steve gravitated to marine activities. His interests “started with the ocean—sailing, boating, scuba diving, swimming—and went to the animals living in it,” he says.
One memorable experience for Steve occurred on a trip to Florida. “When I was 14, I went snorkeling down in the [Florida] Keys with my grandparents,” he says. “Within six months of that first dive, I was scuba-certified and started teaching at a local dive shop in Baltimore.”
Steve pursued his interest in the ocean by transferring from a Baltimore community college to the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida, where he majored in marine biology and minored in ecology.
MOST EXCITING PART OF YOUR WORK
“I think the most exciting thing is watching the reaction of people as they see something they’ve never seen before or get exposure to an animal that they maybe have only seen on television.”
MOST DEMANDING PART OF YOUR WORK
Steve says that it is challenging trying to show new things in aquarium exhibits while also trying to put forth the best exhibits for the public. But he also admits that it is difficult to balance the different focuses of his staff.
“They are all bright,” he says. “They are all well-educated, and they all have a different interest. Trying to get all of the 40-something people going in the same direction is truly an interesting proposition.”
HOW DO YOU DEFINE GEOGRAPHY?
“In the broadest sense of the term, it’s a physical location.”
Steve says the Monterey Bay Aquarium makes sure that it doesn’t have animals from different geographic areas in the same tanks. For instance, a fish from the Pacific Ocean will not be swimming around with a fish from the Atlantic Ocean. “We talk about not mixing oceans,” he says. “We work very hard to make sure that animals from a particular region don’t mix with animals from a different region.”
The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s tanks have features that mimic what is found in the particular geographic regions where the animals come from. “We’re very conscious of the geography of our exhibits to match the geography of [the animals’] habitats, where they are living,” Steve says.
SO, YOU WANT TO BE AN . . . AQUARIST
“If somebody thinks that they want to get a job in this field, go find a place [such as a zoo or aquarium] and get experience as a volunteer, as an intern.”
Steve says he suggests joining your local aquarium. “Also, if you are in physical condition to do so, scuba diving is a great way to connect with the ocean,” he says.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry aquarist Noun
person who works at or with aquariums.
a container or tank where aquatic plants and animals are kept, or an institution that keeps such containers.
community college Noun
educational institution providing two-year programs, degrees, and certificates. Also called junior college.
person who designs, assembles, and manages an exhibit at a museum or other cultural center.
dive shop Noun
facility that sells scuba and snorkeling equipment, as well as provides classes and information on diving conditions.
branch of biology that studies the relationship between living organisms and their environment.
Encyclopedic Entry: ecology geography Noun
study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.
Encyclopedic Entry: geography gravitate Verb
to move toward or be attracted to something.
environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.
Encyclopedic Entry: habitat husbandry Noun
art and science of managing animals.
person who works or volunteers at a business in order to learn and gain experience.
small, low island on a coral reef, also known as a cay.
Encyclopedic Entry: key marine Adjective
having to do with the ocean.
marine biology Noun
study of life in the ocean.
to copy another organism's appearance or behavior.
sport and recreational activity involving sailboats.
scuba noun, adjective
(self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) portable device for breathing underwater.
to swim underwater using a simple tube to breathe air above the surface.
person who performs work without being paid.
place where animals are kept for exhibition.
Encyclopedic Entry: zoo