Sr. Aquarist I (Aquarium)

The Senior Aquarist is the senior-most aquarist position that assists the Senior Curator of Husbandry in running the day to day operations of teleost, invertebrate, elasmobranch, amphibian and reptile collections. This position is expected to take a leadership role without being asked and is capable of operating as guidance to the aquarist staff, fostering effective communication and running sub- department meetings in the absence of the Senior Curator. The senior aquarist serves as a leader for implementing procedures aimed at advancing animal care, AZA and USDA compliance established by the curatorial team. The Senior Aquarist is a working aquarist with a curatorial assistant role. The Senior Aquarist reports to the Senior Curator and works closely with the veterinary staff to manage treatment of the collection in various galleries and works with members of other Audubon Nature Institute (ANI) departments. Also serves as a resource for staff in other Husbandry Department sub-departments (Birds, Otters, Life support) when needed.

Job Description: 

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
  • Handling 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.

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, donors, and Audubon Education programs as scheduled.
  • Interact with the public which may include on and off grounds educational and media presentations.
  • Develop and present educational programs as required.
  • Function as an interpreter and an Audubon spokesperson.
  • Compose animal and exhibit information for publication in the following: Audubon’s website, AZA’s website and other publications.

Exhibit the diversity of wildlife

  • Have expertise in 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.
  • 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.
  • Function as a leader and a resource for aquarist staff in day to day operations, proving guidance without being told. Assist aquarists with the development of exhibit improvements, training and enrichment proposals, and encouraging advancements in husbandry practices in all galleries.
  • Assist curatorial staff with setting sub-departmental goals and priorities.
  • Have advanced knowledge of common animal health issues. Exercise sound judgement to evaluate animal health and identify concerns as they arise. Develop strategies and solutions to minor health or behavioral concerns.
  • Identify and correct exhibit maintenance issues and act as a leader for larger problems.
  • Work with curatorial staff to initiate and oversee viable breeding, husbandry and conservation programs for species within their collection.
  • An advanced knowledge of water chemistry and life support equipment with the ability to identify and troubleshoot problems. An advanced knowledge of plumbing and construction as it pertains to maintenance of exhibits.
  • Assist in the acquisition of new specimens in accordance with AZA animal management and welfare guidelines and AAOA acquisition and transfer protocols and procedures. Participates in the proactive planning of acquisitions and transfers in accordance with approved collection plans.
  • Develop collection plans for exhibits under their care and review annually with curatorial staff.
  • Recognize 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. Address compliance issues directly, providing guidance to other aquarists, leads by example and brings larger issues to supervisors. Develop solutions to problems and direct/ organize staff in the absence of management to remedy.
  • Assist veterinarian and curatorial staff with recognizing animal health concerns and making sure treatment is carried out as prescribed. Assist curators with oversight of all ongoing veterinary treatments.
  • Propose and develop new exhibits and take ownership of improving existing exhibits. Function as departmental point person for renovations with other departments and outside vendors.
  • Work collaboratively with other departments to complete projects based on approved timelines.
  • Attend and participate in regular sub department meetings to develop goals, evaluate progress and actively encourages open communication among staff. Run sub-departmental meetings in the absence or in place of the Senior Curator.
  • Keep accurate and up to date records to ensure quality animal management and welfare at or above industry standards.
  • Understand the principles of operant conditioning. Recognize situations where animal training can be used to reduce stress and use basic techniques to improve husbandry care. Write up basic and advanced training plans for curatorial approval and evaluate results.
  • Perform established enrichment programs, developing new enrichment in assigned areas in response to behavioral observations.
  • Recognize areas, outside of assigned exhibits, in need of behavioral enrichment and/ or training to further husbandry goals and recommend course of action. Assist curatorial staff with oversight and accountability for implementation, execution and evaluation of programs among all aquarist staff.
  • Assist in training and daily oversight of interns and volunteers.
  • Maintain a clean service area including scrubbing, mopping, organization and pest control as needed.

Operate a financially self-sufficient collection of museums and parks

  • Perform basic arithmetic functions and process financial information.
  • Assist with the preparation of the departmental operating budget as needed
  • Strive to operate within budget limitations
  • Manage time effectively to eliminate unnecessary overtime.

Enhance the care and survival of wildlife through research and conservation

  • Encourage and support Audubon breeding programs
  • Promote, participate in and oversee departmental research and conservation programs


  • Minimum of six years of paid experience in a zoological facility or public aquarium, OR, demonstrated and confirmed skill set and knowledge required for the position as stated in the job description (ANI Internal candidates only) is required. AZA accredited public aquarium facility is preferred.
  • Significant experience in the care of zoological exhibits with a primary focus on fishes and aquatic invertebrates. Strong familiarity with care of reptiles and amphibians.
  • Plumbing, constriction and exhibit renovation experience.
  • Demonstration of leadership, strong people skills, and strong communication skills.
  • Strong working knowledge of construction project skill, development and execution.      


  • High School diploma (or equivalent) and a degree from a recognized college or university are required. College course work in zoology, biology, animal science or related field is preferred.
  • Accurate oral and written communication skills.  


  • Must maintain a valid Louisiana driver’s license
  • SCUBA certification required
  • First Aid/ CPR preferred

Software Requirements: 

  • Proven competency in the application of Microsoft Office, Word, PowerPoint and Excel computer programs is required.

Machinery/Tools/Equipment Requirements:

  • Must have the ability to use mobile devices to facilitate effective communication.
  • Candidate must become certified in standard transmission vehicles, and have general understanding of the use of basic power tools.
  • Basic carpentry, plumbing and horticultural skills are considered an asset.
  • Ability and willingness to operator power tools, lawn equipment, etc.

Physical Requirements:

  • Sitting or standing, bending, stooping and per OSHA regulations: Heavy work involving lifting no more than 100 pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 50 pounds.
  • Must be able to swim.

The Senior Aquarist will demonstrate the ability to:

  • Swim efficiently at the surface
  • Swim efficiently underwater
  • Tow another diver while in full SCUBA gear
  • Tread water/float on the surface
  • Assemble, ditch and don SCUBA gear
  • Control of buoyancy using SCUBA
  • Clear SCUBA mask and swim without a mask underwater
  • Regulator skills – recover and clear, and breathe through free-flowing regulator
  • Demonstrate comfort underwater in all conditions, stressful or otherwise

Environmental/Working Conditions:

  • Candidate must maintain regular attendance in compliance with Audubon standards, as required by scheduling which may vary according to the needs of the organization
  • Working long hours between breaks or meals required.
  • Willingness to work weekends, holidays, irregular hours and be available based on special needs/circumstances on a 24 hour basis.
  • Ability to work around and handle raw seafood, including shellfish
  • Ability to work under and handle stress in an appropriate manner required.
  • Maintain off-exhibit areas in a clean, organized and safe fashion.
  • May be exposed to high, medium, or low noise intensity.
  • Exposure to fluctuations in temperatures is required.
  • Willingness to work outdoors, lift heavy objects, and risk periodic exposure to fairly predictable and controllable hazards associated with wild animals and zoonotic diseases.
  • Oversee pest control efforts in section.
  • Willingness to serve on the Aquarium’s Hurricane Team if necessary.

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