1. What is your background, and how did you become the Animal Keeper and Education Program Manager at the Sciencenter?

I grew up in Ithaca and have fond memories of visiting the Sciencenter with my family and for school field trips. I developed a passion for community engagement and environmental education while attending Lehman Alternative Community School. I further explored these fields at Oberlin College and while working at an environmental education center serving public school students in Tucson, Arizona. In 2017, I was thrilled to return to my hometown and join the Sciencenter’s education team. I’ve since held many roles at the museum, including managing our volunteer program, coordinating school groups, and working on projects with the National Informal STEM Education Network. For the past five years, I’ve also had the pleasure of helping to care for our animals as part of our live exhibits team.

2. You take care of the Sciencenter’s animals. What does that job entail?

The Sciencenter houses more than 76 species of native and exotic reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates. We take pride in designing and maintaining naturalistic enclosures to highlight a variety of habitats and accompanying animal adaptations. As an animal keeper, I assist with daily animal care (feeding, hydrating, cleaning tanks, monitoring life support systems and water quality), generally supporting the health and wellbeing of our exhibits and teaching animals. Every day we’re out and about on the museum floor, checking on our animals, tidying exhibits, and chatting with visitors about the non-human beings that share this planet. Another part of my role is training our wonderful volunteers, interns, and youth employees to safely and respectfully handle teaching animals and to introduce them to visitors of all ages. 

3. Every Wednesday, you allow visitors to observe snakes, lizards, frogs, and fish snacking on their preferred prey with your help. How do people react? Are they interested?

Our programmatic animal feedings have become popular among Sciencenter visitors! Every Wednesday at 4 p.m., we invite visitors to experience the awe of watching a snake strike and swallow its prey or delight in the sight of a tortoise munching on an apple. People appreciate the chance to see such important life processes happening right in front of them. Whenever I feed animals, I get to learn more about them through viewer insights, observations, and questions!

4. What’s your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is facilitating opportunities for folks to get up close and personal with teaching animals from our collection. It’s so fun seeing kids and their grown-ups gain a deeper appreciation for the amazing diversity of the natural world as they observe and interact with fish, frogs, salamanders, snakes, lizards, and even cockroaches! I also enjoy collaborating and learning with our many partners doing great work with kids and families throughout Ithaca and the surrounding areas. I love finding ways to share resources and support the ecosystem of learning experiences that enrich our community.

5. Are there any upcoming events or exhibits in your department?

Our education department is gearing up for the coming total solar eclipse. On Saturday, April 6, and Sunday, April 7, we’ll offer special hands-on activities related to the solar eclipse and sun science at the museum. On Monday, April 8, educators will participate in a day-long viewing event at Fair Haven Beach State Park within the path of totality.

On the live exhibits side, we’re continuing to work on tank renovations and putting the finishing touches on our newest gallery, which includes our mixed-species Amazon exhibit.

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