National Aquarium: Animal Care Facility, Fish Transfers, Baseball and more!

Over the remainder of the week I continued to have some awesome experiences at the Aquarium! The other day we completed the second fish introduction and Holly was instrumental in organizing and planning the fish introductions with her friend Ashleigh Clews. Ashleigh works at the National Aquarium’s offsite Rehabilitation, Quarantine and Holding facility. She leads a team of aquarists that handles everything from treating injured and sick animals to maintaining optimal water quality. Holly drove me over from the Inner Harbor to Fells Point to meet Ashleigh at their facility! I was able to shadow her for the day to see what her work consists of and to assist her in caring for the animals. Ashleigh has many animals on site that are not on display at the Aquarium due to behavioral, health or space related reasons. From creating and mixing a batch of Aquarium saltwater to feeding a massive Australian freshwater whipray, I had quite an exciting day with Ashleigh!

Back at the Aquarium, Holly and I attended a going away party for one of the Aquarists and then completed another dive in the ACR! This time, I was with the volunteer dive staff and helped to feed the fish! I was able to help prepare the food for each of the animals and every on has a distinct diet. From the puffer fish, eating crab and clams to the parrotfish eating food suspended in a dental mold, every animal is a little different. In the tank, I was surrounded by schools of hungry fish and I could not believe how investigative they were! One of the divers picked up a handful of sand and began dropping to the bottom through their fingers. I followed suit and soon found that countless tangs were congregating under my hands, suspended in the water and entranced by the falling grains of sand brushing over their bodies. I was told that the tangs possibly use the falling sand grains to clean themselves and love being assisted by the divers. That evening, Holly, Bill and I had homemade pizza and discussed life in San Diego since Holly’s brother lives there too!

During the next fish transfer, I helped Morgan Denney and Emily Kelly bring up a container of fish from the loading dock that Ashleigh had brought from Fells Point! We repeated the same process as the other day but this time we had some diverse species in the container, including a flying gurnard! Everyone began high fiving each other after the last fish was added. Another successful day that Aquarium! Later that evening, Holly invited me to the Baltimore Orioles game with her husband Bill and Ashleigh came as well. We all walked down from the Aquarium along the Baltimore waterfront and had dinner together at a bar outside the park with Holly’s aquarist Josh Foronada. Attending a MLB game at Camden Yards was thrilling and I had so much fun with Ashleigh and the Bourbons! We entered the park and had seats with an incredible view of the park. With the Baltimore skyline on the horizon, the park is unlike anything I have ever seen! It was a nice opportunity to get to know everyone better and I feel so lucky to have been invited by Holly. Not a bad way to round out the week!

During the week I worked with many of Holly’s aquarists including Jackie Cooper, Morgan Denney, Allan Kottyan, Emily Kelly, Josh Foronada and Aaron Plinick along with many of the volunteer staff and divers. They were all exceptionally kind and offered to show me their exhibits as well as teach me about a variety of topics raging from animal care to visitor education. We bonded together as a group over the week and I truly felt immersed in the day-to-day aspects associated with running the Aquarium. This morning I shadowed Aaron Plinick in his Tropical gallery learning more about the chemical and biological aspects associated with running a reef exhibit. Aaron graduated from Tufts and used to work at the New England Aquarium so we had a lot to talk about! After saying goodbye and thanking everyone in the office, Holly and I headed to the airport!

Holly is a brilliant leader at the Aquarium whose kindness, spirit and resolve is unmatched by anyone I’ve ever met. Holly’s passion for her animals and fellow aquarists is evidenced by the diligence and patience that she exhibits through her work. I was humbled to have been able to learn from her guidance this week and I leave Baltimore incredibly grateful for everything Holly and her husband Bill have done for me. I look forward to seeing them again soon!

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