Have you ever wanted to know what being a zoo keeper is like? Well here’s your chance! Today’s amazing keeper is Becky Futch who works as an animal keeper in our aquarium. I was able to get a few minutes with Becky to ask her some questions so that we can get some deeper insight into the life of a zoo keeper.
Out of all the jobs in the world, why did you choose to become an aquarist?
I picked this profession for my fascination with chemistry. A body of water is much like the human body: each goes through a process to utilize materials while producing waste, and each requires specific minerals and nutrients to work at peak performance. Certain minerals are vitally important to both. Understanding one assists in better comprehension of the other. Aquariums keeping is an ever changing science. Even though fishkeeping can be dated back to ancient Sumerian, 2,500 BC, jellyfish keeping is only about 2 decades old. This profession allows the advantage of discovery and experimentation for the goal of better fish keeping.
What is your daily routine?
My daily routine begins before 7am, with a visual check of all the animals, pumps and chillers. The temperature of each exhibit is checked twice daily, along with other life support operation systems such as the air blowers. Early morning I spend skimming dust from the surface of the jellyfish exhibits, siphoning waste from the bottom, and cleaning off any algae from the glass. Then, my duties include care for the Live Food Room. This room contains variously sized shrimp and rotifers, which are an important food source for jellies, larval fishes and other finicky eaters. Each culture is maintained daily, with some nutrient enriched, so we can offer our animals the most nutritious food possible. Food items are then taken to needed areas, one of which is for the jellies. This begins a feeding routine of 1x per hour, to keep food in the water column at all times. Out in the wild, the jellies would have constant access to zooplankton and other foods, so I try to mimic this throughout the day.
I spend my afternoons working in a display aquarium, either for water changes, cleaning algae from the glass, aquascaping, or tending to any other need. Water quality testing is also essential to knowing the health of the exhibit.
Do you have a favorite part of all of that?
My favorite part of the routine includes the close working relationship I have with co-workers. Each keeper has experience and skills that I can learn from daily, and as a team we work efficiently to maintain healthy exhibits.
In your experience, what is the biggest misconception that the public has about what you do?
One misconception I commonly hear is that an Aquariums Keeper simply tosses a handful of flakes in a tank, then ignores it until the next day. In reality, each exhibit receives considerable attention each day to make sure the health of the animal or population is superior and that the exhibit itself is in top running order.
What is your advice for people who aspire to become a zoo keeper?
Anyone interested in becoming a keeper should start with hands-on experience as quickly as possible. Volunteer opportunities are everywhere.
A big THANK YOU to Becky for taking the time to answer my questions.