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Senior Aquarist, Aquarium Sustainability

John G Shedd Aquarium
Chicago, United States Posted: January 23, 2024

Shedd Aquarium illustrates a commitment to optimal animal care and welfare to facilitate impactful public engagement with wildlife. Our animals-first approach has a foundation that individuals and groups of animals can exhibit natural behaviors encouraged through complex environmental design, innovative behavioral training, and enrichment.  

  • The Senior Aquarist, Aquarium Sustainability reports to the Manager, Aquarium Sustainability, and performs the daily husbandry of Shedd Aquarium’s marine breeding program.
  • The Senior Aquarist, Aquarium Sustainability also participates in the care of publicly viewed habitats and necessary plankton cultures under the team’s responsible role.
  • The Senior Aquarist, Aquarium Sustainability will assume a role in moving Shedd towards a more sustainable collection, including involvement in multiple AZA-wide initiatives that will require working with other institutions towards shared goals.
  • This position works closely with their Manager and the rest of their team – along with Animal Health, Environmental Quality, and Facilities – to ensure smooth and effective operations involving animals and habitats, especially as they relate to the planning, husbandry, and welfare.
  • They will also work with the Conservation and Research Team to advance in-situ and ex-situ research goals.
  • This position works cooperatively with the animal care management teams to ensure compliance with all accreditation and regulatory requirements for departmental operations and provides full support of the aquarium’s SCUBA diving program as directed by the Dive Program Manager.   
  • The Senior Aquarist is expected to serve as a leader in the Animal Care and Science Division.
  • They embody inter-departmental productivity and participation in strategies to meet institutional objectives and initiatives requiring the support of the Animal Care Department and serve as an aquarium spokesperson as needed.  
  • To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential duty satisfactorily. 
  • The requirements listed below are representative of the necessary knowledge, skill, and/or ability to perform the job. 
  • Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform essential functions.
  • Demonstrates commitment to Shedd's vision, mission, and values.
  • Assists staff to achieve goals and objectives for short- and long-term operations.
  • Works alongside other members of the larval rearing team to achieve the goals of a more sustainable collection while advancing the field of aquaculture.
  • Helps team determine appropriate species to breed by Shedd’s Institutional Collection Plan and AZA initiatives.
  • Provides support and training to more novice members of the aquaculture program.
  • Leads different projects within the team and AZA (species-specific breeding, egg catalog, fatty acid analysis, new live foods cultures, system-specific collecting, etc.)
  • Stays up to date with current culturing practices and technology advancements. 
  • Performs necessary husbandry of live foods, broodstock, grow-out, and Modular Larval Rearing systems following assigned roles.
  • Works comfortably with different types of microscopes and programs. 
  • Works closely with members of the Tropical Marine Fishes team for potential breeding or research opportunities.
  • Helps with the development of record keeping and communications for larval programs.
  • Designs and builds/plumbs all necessary equipment for assigned initiatives.
  • Comfortably and confidently present the team’s work both internally and externally.
  • Demonstrates a good knowledge of animal diets and nutritional needs, especially as they relate to plankton cultures and fish development.
  • Produces and maintains good animal records by Aquarium Team standards and as directed by the Manager, including the use of TRACKs animal record-keeping software.
  • Prepares diets and feeds animals to meet their nutritional requirements as assigned. 
  • Develops, applies and records enrichment for animals to meet their psychological requirements as assigned.
  • Maintains front-of-house habitats at an inspection level of readiness.
  • Maintains back-of-house areas and habitats at an inspection level of readiness.
  • Works proactively with Animal Health to provide optimal animal care, assessment, and treatment as needed.
  • Assists in animal treatments and procedures as required.
  • Performs minor maintenance/repair on gear, tanks, or supplies needed for the section.
  • Identifies major maintenance/repair problems in any section and reports through their manager.
  • Provides timely communication to manager and covered staff members. 
  • Maintains awareness and communication expectations by checking email daily along with any additional platforms used by the Animal Care departments.  
  • Maintains daily animal observations, records, and reports any abnormal behavior or appearance.
  • Provides training and development of skills for junior and secondary Aquarists.
  • Manages daily work of interns and volunteers, including evaluating performance, coaching, advancement, and accountability.
  • Works effectively with the Aquarium Leadership Team to achieve strategic goals and objectives of the Animal Care and Science Division.
  • Assists in leading daily operations when a manager is unavailable and as requested.
  • Assists manager in developing project proposals and budgets.
  • Demonstrates knowledge of all the primary animal groups cared for by the Aquarium team.
  • Works with the Animal Care Leadership team to ensure proper animal training, enrichment, and nutrition for animals.
  • Demonstrates knowledge and understanding of modern husbandry techniques and a thorough understanding of the use of emerging science to advance animal care and welfare.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of practices and procedures and recommend improvements.
  • Provides support for coworkers in their responsible roles as needed.
  • Maintains legal compliance measures such as tracking respirator use, adherence to OSHA standards, etc.
  • Participates in 1-on-1, team meetings, department meetings, division meetings, and One Shedd meetings.
  • Participates in Shedd’s DEAI objectives. 
  • Works with other divisions as assigned to meet strategic objectives.
  • Liaise with professional colleagues as a representative of the aquarium.
  • Assists in the continuous development and implementation of animal care and sustainability innovations. 
  • Performs other duties as assigned. 
Education & Experience
  • Minimum of a bachelor’s degree in marine sciences, biology, zoology, or related field (or demonstrated comparable knowledge) and 4+ years of experience in animal care at an accredited zoo or aquarium with a focus on aquatic animals. 
  • Knowledge of water chemistry and quality as they pertain to living marine systems. 
  • Knowledge of proper animal care, training, and enrichment. 
  • Knowledge of collection planning processes. 
  • Proven success in the care and handling of aquatic animals, with a focus on marine fish and invertebrates.  
  • Prefer 3+ years of experience in plankton culturing. 
  • Prefer 3+ years of experience in marine aquaculture. 
  • Must possess a valid driver's license or can obtain one within 6 months from the start of employment. 
  • Must possess a valid passport or can obtain one within 6 months from the start of employment. 
  • Must possess a minimum of Open Water SCUBA certification. Employment is contingent upon passing a dive physical and check-out protocol administered by Shedd Aquarium's Dive Operations.  
  • Must possess AALSO Operator 1 Certificate or can obtain one within 12 months from the start of employment. 
  • Must possess AALSO Water Quality 1 Certificate or can obtain it within 12 months from the start of employment. 
Language and communication skills
  • Ability to read, write, speak, and comprehend English fluently. 
  • Ability to read and comprehend complex instructions given from written and oral sources.   
  • Ability to write professional business correspondence.  
  • Ability to effectively present information to all One Shedd team members. 
Computer skills
  • Advanced proficiency in Microsoft Office programs. 
  • Ability to use animal management software including TRACKs. 
  • Ability to use multiple software applications for interdepartmental business operations. 
Physical readiness
  • The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job including while wearing dive gear.
  • Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform essential functions. 
  • Lift to 40 pounds  
  • Sit 
  • Stand 
  • Stoop 
  • Kneel 
  • Walk 
Working environment
  • The work environment characteristics described here are representative of those an employee encounters while performing the essential functions of this job.
  • Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform essential functions. 
This person may be exposed to: 
  • Water 
  • Heat 
  • Cold 
  • Hazardous Chemicals 
  • Low noise 
  • Moderate Noise 
  • Loud Noise 
  • We strongly encourage people of color, LGBTQ+ community, veterans and active duty military, parents, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from all cultural backgrounds to apply.
  • Shedd Aquarium is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes everyone to our team.
  • If you need a reasonable accommodation at any point in the application or interview process, please let us know. In your application, please feel free to select which pronouns you use (For example – she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs).
  • $28.00/hr

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