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Curator of Life Support and Water Quality

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

General Summary: The Curator of Life Support and Water Quality (LSWQ) is a senior Husbandry Department position and the direct supervisor to Life Support and Water Quality staff. The Curator reports to the Senior Curator of Exhibit Operations, setting goals and expectations for direct reports and assisting with departmental planning and the development of protocols and procedures. The Curator of LSWQ manages and works to ensure legal compliance and industry best practices of the Aquarium’s life support and water quality operations and equipment, laboratory equipment, and exhibit physical plant.

  • Oversees aquarium/exhibit water resources and supply operations and partners with the other husbandry curators to meet industry standards related to animal health and welfare.
  • Oversees the efficient and optimal operation of all LSS equipment determining schedules for preventative and routine maintenance as required.
  • Oversees the testing of water quality samples for the AAOA and AAC facilities ensuring testing accuracy through staff training and evaluation and ensures timely recording/communication of all test data.
  • Partners with the Husbandry Curators to manage life support and water quality as it pertains to animal care.
  • The position is a LSS technology and water chemistry resource for AAOA staff.
  • Provides guidance and supervision related to exhibit and LSS design (and the integration of both with animal care and welfare), construction and maintenance to support the AAOA institutional collection plan.
  • The position ensures that all records and documentations related to the LSWQ are created, maintained, archived, accessible, and retained according to established record retention schedules and according to all accreditation and regulatory standards.
  • Maintains and ensures effective and proactive communication between LSWQ staff and curatorial and husbandry staff.
  • Acts as point of contact with supportive operations staff, concerning logistics for day-to-day LSS operations.
  • The Curator of LSWQ is a working curatorial position.
  • The Curator works closely with the veterinary staff, members of the other Husbandry Department divisions and all other Audubon Nature Institute departments.
To deliver on the Audubon mission, the Curator of Life Support and Water Quality will:
  • Provide a guest experience of outstanding quality
  • Approach all encounters with employees and guests in a friendly, service-oriented manner.
  • Maintain the highest standards related to the day-to-day operations of the Husbandry Department
  • Work evening, weekend, holiday hours – required
  • Return telephone messages and e-mails in a timely fashion
  • Handle problems in the workplace, including anticipating, preventing, identifying, and solving problems as necessary.
  • Identify and correct minor or routine maintenance problems in a timely manner and report other maintenance needs
  • Interact positively with the public and co-workers.
  • Make decisions consistent with Audubon Nature Institute policies and procedures.
  • Assist with daily duties in all sections as required.
  • Perform facility and exhibit maintenance, including but not limited to, trash and debris removal, floor cleaning, painting, building repair, horticultural duties, etc.
  • Establish and maintain effective, efficient and cooperative relationships with employees, senior administration, vendors and customers.
  • Maintain high standards of personal appearance and grooming, including proper uniform standards,
  • Comply at all times with Audubon Nature Institute standards and regulations to encourage safe and efficient operations.
  • Make each interaction with guests, vendors and fellow Audubon employees a positive one through hospitality and service.
  • Weave quality entertainment through the guest experience.
  • Work within the guidelines and mission of the Audubon Nature Institute.
  • Convey information and ideas clearly.
  • Conduct behind-the-scenes tours for VIP’s and donors
  • Interact with the public which may include on and off grounds educational and media presentations.
  • Function as an interpreter and an ANI spokesperson.
Compose information for publication in the following:
  • Audubon’s website, AZA’s website and other publications.
  • Exhibit the diversity of wildlife.
  • Create and institute departmental protocols to maintain a high quality of life support and water chemistry to complement the efforts the Husbandry staff and the goals of the animal collection plan.
  • Create and execute operational plans and protocols that support animal care and welfare and guest experience.
  • Train direct to use industry best practices and ensure access to the knowledge and tools needed for maintaining equipment and operational standards and efficiencies.
  • Be a resource related to life support and water chemistry relationships with husbandry activities and programs to optimize animal care and welfare and guest experience.
  • Oversee recordkeeping to maintain compliance with AZA standards and to support proper health and behavior of the animal collection.
  • Establish standards of equipment and work area cleanliness and oversee compliance to maintain a healthy environment and a quality guest experience.
  • Help ensure facility compliance with AZA, OSHA, and USDA regulations.
  • Work in partnership with veterinarians and animal health care staff to manage and treat collection as required
  • Collaborates with other husbandry staff in overseeing the internship and volunteer programs.
  • 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.
  • Animal Care - Life Support and Water Quality
  • Have expert knowledge of the ecosystems and animals represented by their exhibit themes.
  • This includes basic knowledge of animal anatomy, behavior, environmental parameters and recognition of common heath concerns.
  • Have expertise in life support design, construction, maintenance and management.
  • Skills should also include an advanced understanding of fluid dynamics, pump mechanics, advanced life support equipment technologies, and the ability to troubleshoot life support problems.
  • Have expertise in water quality testing and an advanced understanding of water chemistry as it relates to closed aquarium systems (fresh and salt water).
  • Skills should also include an advanced understanding water bio-chemistry (nitrogen cycle and nutrient loading), chemistry manipulation and its effects on aquatic organisms, and the ability to troubleshoot water chemistry health and maintenance.
  • Have knowledge of exhibits and systems and the specimens each supports.
  • Support the improvement of current Audubon husbandry practices, developing procedures aimed at increase efficiency and advance animal care.
  • Have an advanced working 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 related to LSWQ are followed to pass USDA inspections.
  • Serve as oversight for compliance with all Audubon Aquarium of the Americas established protocols for animal care including, but not limited to life support operations, water quality testing.
  • Mentor direct reports, aquarists/keepers and trainers on the development of exhibit improvements, encouraging advancements in husbandry practices supported by life support and water quality operations.
  • Partner with veterinarian and curatorial staff with recognizing animal health concerns and supporting treatment efforts as necessary.
  • Advise curatorial staff related to life support and water quality limitations and expectations related to the acquisition of new specimens.
  • 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.
  • Function as a departmental point person for renovations with other departments and outside vendors.
  • Leads regular sub- department meetings to develop goals, evaluate progress and facilitate open communication among staff.
  • Actively promote and prioritize accurate and up to date recordkeeping within the LSWQ team to ensure quality animal and exhibit management at or above industry standards.
  • Assist the Curators with aquarist/ keeper/trainer accountability, assessing trends and developing improvements in life support technology and water quality management as needed.
  • Work individually with Direct reports to develop personal goals and give regular feedback on performance.
  • Work with curators to include water quality and life support considerations in all collection plans.
  • Identify and provide direction to correct exhibit maintenance issues and act as a leader and departmental coordinator for larger problems.
  • Instruct new personnel in methods of life support management and water quality testing consistent with policies and procedures. 
  • Design and implement new personnel training programs for LSWQ staff.
  • Support the oversight and evaluation of the internship program, acting as daily intern supervisor. Support daily management of program, intern selection, training, and setting of benchmarks.
  • Recognize and address situations where area of responsibility may be incorporated to reduce animal stress and enhance quality of life for live collection.
  • Supervise the training, evaluation and assignment of Husbandry volunteers.
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
  • 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.
  • Strive to use cost effective methods of procurement and maintenance.
  • Participate in RFP’s and the public bidding process outlined by the purchasing department.
  • 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 Life Support and Water Quality will:
  • Welcome
  • Make eye contact with every customer encounter, smile at every person, offer friendly phrases and greetings.
  • Wear identification badge.
  • Go above and beyond to offer assistance to guests in need.
  • Assume ownership of potential safety hazards (wipe-up spill, pick up trash).
  • Assume ownership of camera-ready standards in assigned exhibit spaces.
  • Use proper professional phone etiquette when answering phones on behalf of Audubon.
  • Refrain from cell phone use in the public space, maintaining a welcome, approachable appearance.
  • Share
  • Must meet the standards of guest engagement -positive attitude, pleasant tone of voice, willingness to go above and beyond.
  • Coach coworkers, interns and volunteers on service expectations, leading by example
  • Utilize the power of teamwork to give excellent service. Work with your department and others in pursuit of excellence in customer service.
  • Shares information vital to team and ANI success freely and in a timely manner Identifies and corrects poos communications situations and habits. Proactively works to ensure good communications within and outside of departmental team. Assists staff in creating strategies to ensure good communication internal and external to the departmental team.
  • Know when to involve management to correct problems in a timely fashion, ideally before they impact a guest.
  • Initiate and execute team building activities and encourage others in the same.
  • Acknowledge guests when working in the public space and seize every opportunity to engage guests in the wonders of nature
  • Know the answers to questions or seek out the answers in an attempt to exceed guest expectations.
  • Ensure work area is free of food, drink, socialization, and personal business.
  • Follow Dress Code Policy on clothing and grooming.  Be an ambassador of Audubon at all times.
  • Keep unpleasant concerns behind closed doors.   Keep the guest space a positive environment
  • Supervises the life support and water quality staff
  • At least 8 years’ experience in an aquarium setting (4 in a supervisory life support/water quality) position
  • Paid experience in an aquarium or zoological facility is required, supervisory experience required.
  • Significant experience in the care of aquarium exhibits
  • Plumbing, constriction and exhibit renovation experience required.
  • Demonstration of leadership, strong people skills, and strong communication skills.
  • Strong working knowledge of project management, development and execution.
  • Bachelor of Science degree in biology or related field from a recognized, accredited institution.
  • College course work in science, mathematics, biology or technology related field is preferred.
  • Accurate oral and written communication skills.
  • Must possess a valid driver’s license.
  • SCUBA certification preferred,.
  • First aid/CPR certification preferred.
  • Fork lift operator preferred.
  • AALSO level 1-3 certifications preferred
Software Requirements:
  • Proven competency in the application of Microsoft Office, Word, PowerPoint and Excel computer programs is required.
  • Familiarity with life support monitoring software and programming is an asset.
Machinery/Tools/Equipment Requirements:
  • Working knowledge of advanced life support equipment is required.
  • Skilled in electrical, plumbing and carpentry trades is preferred.
  • Must have advanced skills in hand tools and basic shop tools including but not limited to table saw, wet saw, simple welding and power drills.
Physical Requirements:
  • 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.
  • Regular near acuity with clarity of vision at 20 inches or less required.
  • Typical 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 knowledge of: anatomy; recognition and treatment of minor animal health concerns; quarantine protocols; water chemistry; and the ability to troubleshoot life support problems.
  • 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:
  • 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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