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Curator of Aquatic Husbandry

Audubon Aquarium
New Orleans, United States Posted: May 23, 2024

The curator of Aquatic Husbandry is the direct supervisor to aquarists at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (AAOA).  The Curator reports to the Director of Husbandry, oversees the aquatics collection and ensures industry best practices at the AAOA.  They develop departmental procedures, collection plans, and monitor all aspects of aquatic exhibitry and animal care. They set goals and expectations for the AAOA aquarists and are a husbandry and animal care resource for husbandry staff at the Audubon Aquatics Center (AAC).  They participate in hiring staff, performance evaluations, and disciplinary action as needed.  The Curator works closely with veterinary staff, members of the other Husbandry Department divisions and all other Audubon Nature Institute departments.   The Curator of Aquatic Husbandry is a working curatorial position. 

To deliver on the Audubon mission, the Curator of Aquatic Husbandry will: 
  • Provide a guest experience of outstanding quality
  • Make each interaction with guests, vendors and fellow Audubon employees a positive one through hospitality and service.
  • Oversee aquarists’ performance with regard to guest experience.
  • Facilitate the development and implementation of exhibit improvements.
  • Provide direction to aquarists in the form of goals and guidance.
Exhibit the diversity of wildlife. 
  • Have expertise in fishes, reptile, amphibian and invertebrate animal anatomy, behavior, recognition and treatment of animal health concerns, animal safety concerns and cross contamination prevention.   
  • Maintain current knowledge of all specimens under their care, their natural history (biology and environmental needs) and husbandry requirements through hands on experience, upkeep with current literature, active professional networking development, keeper exchange programs and conference participation as approved. 
  • Improve upon current Audubon husbandry practices, developing procedures aimed at increase efficiency and advance animal care.  
  • Have an advanced knowledge and understanding of the AZA Code of Ethics, AZA Standards for Accreditation and AZA Population Management guidelines. 
  • Ability to recognize deficiencies in these areas and take action to correct problems. 
  • Have an advanced working knowledge of UDSA regulations, overseeing that proper protocols are followed to pass USDA inspections. 
  • Mentor aquarists with the development of exhibit improvements, training and enrichment proposals, and encouraging advancements in husbandry practices in all galleries through goal setting.
  • Create and institute departmental protocols to maintain a high quality of animal care throughout the collection.
  • Ensure compliance with all AZA standards of Accreditation and Audubon Aquarium of the Americas established protocols for animal care including, but not limited to, diet administration, exhibit maintenance, behavioral conditioning, recordkeeping and safety.  Directs/ organizes staff to remedy problems. 
  • Supervise and encourage viable breeding, husbandry and conservation programs for species within the collection, ensures compliance and cooperation with all AZA programs.  
  • Partner with veterinarian and curatorial staff with recognizing animal health concerns and making sure treatment is carried out as prescribed. Oversight of all ongoing veterinary treatments.
  • Assist with and lead the acquisition of new specimens in accordance with AZA animal management and welfare guidelines and AAOA acquisition and transfer protocols and procedures. Instruct aquarist staff in the proactive, responsible planning of acquisitions and transfers in accordance with approved collection plans; ensures exhibit quality and the guest experience maintains a priority.  
  • Work with curatorial staff with setting departmental goals and priorities
  • Work collaboratively with curatorial staff and other departments to develop large gallery projects/ renovations; mentor aquarists through exhibit improvements and development of new exhibits based on approved timelines. 
  • Leads regular sub- department meetings to develop goals, evaluate progress and facilitate open communication among AAOA staff
  • Actively promote and prioritize accurate and up to date recordkeeping within the Husbandry team to ensure quality animal management and welfare at or above industry standards.  Assisting the Curatorial staff with aquarist accountability, assessing trends and developing improvements in recordkeeping efficiency and accuracy. 
  • Work individually with AAOA aquarists to develop personal goals and give regular feedback on performance.
  • Identify and provide direction to correct system maintenance issues and act as a leader and departmental coordinator for larger problems.
  • Instruct new personnel in methods of animal care consistent with policies and procedures.   Design and implement new personnel training programs for staff.
  • Oversee, evaluate and monitor the internship program, acting as daily intern supervisor for the AAOA.  Work with aquarists on daily management of program, intern selection, training by aquarists, and setting of benchmarks.
  • Ensure and promote behavioral management of the collection and the development of behavioral goals aimed at reducing animal stress. 
  • Oversee and promote aquarist accountability for assigned responsibilities based on achieving behavioral goals.   
  • Recognize situations where animal training can be used to reduce stress and use techniques to improve husbandry care.    Supervise the development and proper administration of established enrichment and training programs following all Aquarium established protocols and procedures and evaluates results.   Set aquarist goals to promote an understanding of the fundamentals of enrichment and operant conditioning based on position qualifications.
  • Educate our diverse audience about the natural world. 
  • Seek out opportunities to positively impact the guest experience and encourage staff to do so as well.
  • Oversee and participate in public interaction including behind the scenes tours, speaking engagements, media communication and guest education.
  • Assist with the development and preparation of written educational materials produced by the Husbandry Department.
  • Enhance the care and survival of wildlife through research and conservation
  • Facilitate and encourage the proper disposition of non- native donations to prevent the spread of invasive species. 
  • Encourage and support Aquarium breeding programs aimed at decreasing the need for wild collection. 
  • Promote, participate in and oversee departmental research and conservation programs.
  • Operate a financially self-sufficient collection of museums and parks. 
  • Assist with the preparation of the departmental operating budget.
  • Strive to operate with budget limitations.
  • The above listed duties are general statements of required major duties and responsibilities performed on a regular and continuous basis.  They do not exclude other duties as assigned.
  • To deliver on the Audubon service promise, the Curator of Aquatics will: 
  • Make eye contact with every customer encounter, smile at every person, offer friendly phrases and greetings.
  • Wear identification badge.
  • Walk individual to destination instead of pointing; offer assistance to people who look confused.
  • Assume ownership of potential safety hazards (wipe-up spill, pick up trash).  Always have the camera-ready look.
  • Maintain positive attitude, pleasant tone of voice (remember it is not what you say, but how you say it).
  • Coach coworkers on service expectations.
  • Utilize the power of teamwork to give excellent service.
  • Know when to involve management.
  • Know the answers to questions or seek out the answers.
  • Utilize proper phone etiquette (answer phone within three rings, smile before answering call, ask for permission and wait for response before placing caller on hold).
  • Ensure work area is free of food, drink, socialization, and personal business.
  • Follow Dress Code Policy on clothing and grooming.
  • Keep unpleasant concerns behind closed doors (vent backstage).
  • Supervises husbandry staff at AAOA. Lead contributor to collecting operations and staff. 
  • Six years, paid supervisory experience in a zoological facility is required.
  • (with a minimum of 4 years management/supervisory experience.)
  • Experience with animal behavioral training and enrichment is preferred.
  • Live animal collection and transport experience is preferred.
  • Bachelor of Science degree in biology or related field from a recognized, accredited institution
  • Must possess a valid driver’s license. 
  •  SCUBA certification is required. First aid/CPR certification preferred.
  • AZA membership is an asset.
Software Requirements:
  •  proficiency in MS Office; ZIMS, or similar animal data management software experience is an asset.
  • Machinery/Tools/Equipment Requirements: 
  • Working knowledge of basic hand and power tools is preferred.
  • Working knowledge of life support equipment and water chemistry science and management for both start-up and mature aquatic systems is required.
  • Must have the ability to use basic office equipment. Boat handling experience is an asset.
Physical Requirements:
  • Heavy work:  lifting up to 80lbs pounds occasionally, or a negligible amount of force frequently to lift, carry, push, pull, or otherwise move objects.  Will involve standing most of the time, but may involve walking or sitting for brief periods of time.
  • Walking, climbing, sitting, standing, bending, stooping, and the ability to carry items weighing up to 80 pounds.
  • Constant adequate range of motion and mobility required.
  • Ability to collect and analyze numerical and written data and verbal information to reach logical conclusions and ability to determine the time, place and sequence of operations or actions required.
  • Must have cognitive and communication skills required to function within the department. 
  • Regular hearing and the ability to perceive the nature of sounds.
  • Must possess excellent organizational skills.
  • Must be able to read, write and speak English.
  • Must be safety conscious. 
  • Must possess advanced knowledgeable in: animal anatomy; recognition and treatment of minor animal health concerns; quarantine protocols; water chemistry; and the ability to troubleshoot life support problems for taxa in the position’s purview
  • Demonstrate effective communication skills with supervisors and co-workers.
  • Demonstrate the ability to make sound decisions in the absence of supervision, assume responsibility without direction and willingness to assist in achieving facility and Audubon Nature Institute goals.
Environmental/Working Conditions:
  • Candidate must accept humane euthanasia as an accepted and responsible animal management tool.
  • Working long hours between breaks or meals required.
  • Ability to work under and handle stress in an appropriate manner required.
  • Must be able to work in moderately noisy environments, dirty conditions and cramped spaces.
  • Must be willing and able to handle raw seafood.
  • Must be willing to work flexible hours including weekends, evenings and holidays.
  • Must be able to work with potentially hazardous chemicals associated with analysis and treatment of exhibits.
  • Must be able to work unsupervised and with a team.
  • Affinity for animals preferred.
  • Exposure to fluctuations in temperatures may be required.
  • Must be able to work in all types of weather both indoors and outdoors.

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