Meet Denise Babecki, she’s one of our Aquarium keepers and has been at the Zoo for five years! Not only does she work hard with her favorite aquatic animals, like the giant pacific octopus, but she also enjoys baking! Read more about how she began working at the Houston Zoo and what she loves about working at the Houston Zoo!
1. Where did you start your Zoo career?
I got a job out of college as an animal experience specialist at the Adventure Aquarium. While working there I started to volunteer with their animal staff once a week.
2. What is your favorite thing about working at the Houston Zoo?
All the animals I get to meet and see. Plus being able to teach a guest who comes to the Zoo something they never knew.
3. How did you know that you wanted to be a zookeeper?
I have family in Minnesota, and we went to the zoo there. At the time they had a dolphin “show” and I saw how the trainers were interacting with the animals and I said that I wanted to do that. I wanted to work with marine mammals. A few years later, I learned that it is super competitive so in order to get my foot in the door at a zoological institution, so I focused on learning about fish and aquatic invertebrates. To be able to work at an aquarium within a zoo setting gives me more opportunities than working strictly at an aquarium institution.
4. What does a typical workday look like for you?
In the morning, I meet with coworkers for the day’s agenda, and then perform morning chores such as making sure the saltwater we mixed up yesterday is at the correct salinity. I also check on animals to make sure everyone under our care is doing well and if not report it to a supervisor. We also prep and feed out diets to animals who receive an AM diet.
My daily duties include preparing diets for the animals, performing water changes to improve water quality, harvesting live food, and feeding all of the animals in quarantine. After lunch, we feed out the diets that were prepped in the morning and check on the animals before we leave for the day. In addition, we also work on projects that may make our jobs more efficient.
5. What is the most challenging part of being a zookeeper?
Dealing with a death of an animal is the most challenging part. When an animal dies, it is hard on keepers and can add extra weight on our shoulders.
6. When you aren’t at work, what are some of your hobbies?
I will workout when I am not at the Zoo or volunteer at various organizations in the Houston area. I always try to stay active and involved in some way from the arts to the hospital and other organizations. I am currently in the process of developing a YouTube channel as a hobby.
7. What is your favorite animal to work with?
A giant pacific octopus. They have different personalities and are some of the smartest and cleverest animals I have worked with. To be able to have them interact with guests and keepers and being able to tell when the animal wants to get you wet is a good thing to learn since the temperature of the water they live is 50 degrees or below. They also show behaviors that you could recognize in domestic pets and even humans. For not having a backbone, they are the coolest animal to work with.
8. What is your secret talent or something most people don’t know about you?
That I enjoy baking instead of cooking. I have baked a few items for my coworkers without complaints. I find it fun to do and takes my mind off work and anything negative that might be going on in my life.