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Sr. Aquarist, Center for Animal Care and Sustainability

John G Shedd Aquarium
Chicago, United States Posted: February 10, 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, Center for Animal Care and Sustainability reports to the Manager of the Center for Animal Care and Sustainability and performs the daily husbandry of the collection maintained at the offsite location, with a specific focus on quarantine and acquisitions.
  • This role also participates in the care of other animals under the departments' responsible role as needed.
  • The Senior Aquarist, Center for Animal Care and Sustainability will assume primary responsibility for habitats and animals assigned to them which may include temperate and tropical fish and invertebrates, both marine and freshwater.
  • As well as reptiles, amphibians, and birds. 
  • 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.   
  • Senior Aquarists are expected to serve as leaders 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 Aquarium 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. 
  • Achieves goals and objectives assigned for short- and long-term operations. 
  • Produces and maintains good animal records following 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. 
  • Familiar with current industry standard quarantine practices, including disease identification and treatments. 
  • Works closely with the Animal Health Department and assists with tasks such as diagnostics, injections, necropsies, etc. 
  • Performs water quality testing on animal habitats.  
  • Demonstrates advanced LSS knowledge and can design and build plumbing projects. 
  • Assists with animal transports between onsite and offsite buildings and helps maintain all transport equipment.  
  • Ability to work at Shedd Aquarium’s main onsite building if needed and travel between facilities.  
  • Ability to drive company vehicles for animal transport.  
  • Assists the Manager in the continued development of protocols and standard operating procedures. 
  • Collaborates with the Aquarium Sustainability Team and helps with the culturing of necessary live foods.  
  • Maintains work 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 section. 
  • Identifies major maintenance/repair problems in any section and reports through their manager. 
  • Provides timely communication to the 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. 
  • May manage the 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 the Manager is unavailable and as requested. 
  • Assists the 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 of respirator use, adherence to OSHA standards, etc. 
  • Participates in 1-on-1, team meetings, department meetings, division meetings, and OneShedd meetings. 
  • Participates in Shedd’s DEAI objectives.  
  • Capable of leading tours and groups at the Center for Animal Care and Sustainability  
  • 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 aquatic systems. 
  • Knowledge of proper animal care, training, and enrichment. 
  • Demonstrated success in transporting various taxa. 
  • Knowledge of collection planning processes. 
  • Demonstrated success in the care and handling of aquatic and terrestrial animals. 
  • Demonstrated 3+ years of experience in a quarantine setting.
  • 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 or be willing to obtain an Advanced Open Water SCUBA certification within 12 months from the start of employment. 
  • Must possess or be willing to obtain AALSO Operator 1 Certificate within 12 months from the start of employment.  
  • Must possess or be willing to obtain AALSO Water Quality 1 Certificate 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 communicate clearly and succinctly.  
  • Ability to effectively present information to all One Shedd team members. 
  • Ability to speak to the public and media. 
  • Ability to organize and manage time effectively. 
  • Ability to demonstrate leadership with preferred 2+ years of managing volunteers/interns. 
Mathematical Skills: 
  • Ability to understand basic mathematical relationships and formulas. 
  • Ability to learn intermediate-level accounting mathematics. 
Computer Skills: 
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office programs, including Outlook, Word, Excel, SharePoint, and PowerPoint. 
  • Ability to use other business operation software as assigned, including the animal management software TRACKs. 
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 up to 40 pounds  
  • Sit 
  • Stand 
  • Stoop 
  • Kneel 
  • Walk 
  • Swim  
  • Hear 
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 the 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).
  • Hourly Rate: $28.00/hr.

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