Graduation was an exciting time because I finally achieved what I had been working towards for the past five years: my Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology.
After my work this summer at Dauphin Island, I didn’t really know what was going to happen.
But after that, all I did was play the waiting game while we anticipated hearing back from dozens of jobs that we had applied for. Refreshing my email, spamming the job boards for the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums), double-checking to make sure I had applied for the ones I wanted, etc. This was my life for weeks. I had finally settled on staying in Auburn for a while longer to continue the job search when my boyfriend landed an engineering position at a firm in Tampa, Florida. This was a complete shock to both of us! I had also applied for a couple of positions at the Florida Aquarium, but I had yet to hear back from them about an interview.
To my surprise, I got an interview for a position that was going to take place two days after we moved to Tampa! I had less than two weeks to find an apartment, set up utilities and internet, move all of our stuff out of the storage unit into a U-Haul, and drive a total of ten hours down to Tampa. That the most stressful time of my life, so far. I thought school was hard, but I had to grow up faster than I ever thought I had to.
Fortunately, I was offered the position with the Florida Aquarium and am currently employed!
I am a “Guest Engagement Facilitator,” which is a fancy title for a type of informal educator for the guests who visit the aquarium. My official position is actually at the TECO (Tampa Electric Company) Manatee Viewing Center (MVC) about thirty minutes south of the aquarium at Apollo Beach where I will be educating guests about the stingrays in the touch pool that the Florida Aquarium has partnered with TECO to provide. The stingrays are actually the official mascots of the Tampa Bay Rays, the major league baseball team across the bay in St. Petersburg, Florida. They need a place to reside during the off-season, so the Florida Aquarium watches over them at the MVC from October to April.
In the mean time before I start working there November 1st, I have been helping out with education at the touch pools at the main Aquarium and learning from the veterans and developing my own style of teaching and spreading awareness to guests about the importance of the animals in our care.
It’s been amazing to inspire and educate children and adults on the importance of conservation of these animals that I get to work with.
I recently got to participate in my first event at the Aquarium called “Guppyween,” which is the yearly Halloween event. I got to dress up in costume at work, which was an absolute blast. It makes me wish I could dress like that every day.
The amazing thing about the Florida Aquarium is all of the conservation work that is being done with corals at the Florida Keys. If you haven’t seen on the news, just recently in August a breakthrough was made with Atlantic coral through the efforts of biologists at the Aquarium’s Center for Conservation in Apollo Beach.
The Aquarium was the first to successfully induce spawning of Atlantic corals in a laboratory, which is extremely important for the success of the species in the wild. The Aquarium also grows and replants corals out in the Florida Keys to help build up populations in reefs in the wild. All of the efforts of the Florida Aquarium are for the education and conservation of our oceans, and I am so blessed to be a part of their mission. To see more about what the Florida Aquarium does, please visit their website at https://www.flaquarium.org/conservation.
Ill be writing soon about the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach. I can’t wait to get down there to start working in a new environment with new animals! Stay tuned!