Aquarium Career Profiles

Get to know some of the employees of the Texas State Aquarium!

  • Autumn Henry


    Husbandry Assistant with Wildflight

  • Get to Know Autumn

    How long have you worked in this job?

    I have been working here at the Texas State Aquarium since 2014, and I have been working with animals since I was 16.

    What does it take to get a job like yours?

    You need to have a passion for animals to start with. I also, like others, started by volunteering and interning which gets you experience which is the most important thing. I also have a degree in biology which is important as well. I picked a broad degree since you have to know a little bit about a lot of things working with animals.

    What is your favorite part of your job?

    Cuddling with my friends [working directly with the animals]! And of course sharing my passion for the animals with others.

    What is the most challenging part of your job?

    The dedication needed to care for the animals. There are no holidays since they always needs to be cared for. Also, it is hard should they ever get sick since they are like friends and family to us.

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  • Allison Kepple


    Husbandry Assistant with the jellies

  • Get to Know Allison

    How long have you worked in this job?

    I have worked in animal husbandry since 2009. I started at the Texas State Aquarium in April of 2017. Previous to that, I volunteered and interned at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland while in high school and college, and then held a second internship at Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut.

    What does it take to get a job like yours?

    Jobs like this require a degree in biology, zoology, psychology or be currently in the process of earning a degree. My degree is in biology. Also, experience (volunteer, internships, etc.) is not required, but can be very helpful. In addition to my experience in aquariums, I have also worked for UC Berkley taking care of their zebrafish and helping in their molecular biology laboratory.

    When did your interest in animal husbandry begin?

    I have always loved animals. When I started interning in high school though, my love for animal care really took off.

    What do you feel are the most important skills an animal caretaker should possess?

    Problem solving, creativity, patience and an endless desire for learning.

    What is your favorite part of your job?

    Getting to work with the animals!

    What is the most challenging part of your job?

    Being innovative. We are always looking for new and better ways to do things. It’s also a physically and mentally challenging job. It can sometimes be competitive and frustrating.

    Do you have any memorable stories to share?

    One really memorable day was when we had the chance to collaborate with SeaWorld’s animal care department, where we got to meet a beluga whale and see how they run their systems (the exhibits, the mechanical equipment, the diet they feed their animals, etc.).

    What is your secret to a successful career as an animal care taker?

    Be patient, don’t give up!

  • Roxie Kierst


    Water Quality Technician

  • Get to Know Roxie K.

    What is a water quality technician?

    I am the person who checks the water and equipment used to maintain the exhibits to make sure everything is clean and healthy for all of our animals.

    How long have you worked in this job?

    I have been in this job since June of 2017. But I have worked at the aquarium in different positions since about 2011.

    What does it take to get a job like yours?

    Degrees in chemistry or environmental science are really helpful, as you learn a lot about the science involved. More helpful than that though is experience in laboratory work. If you want a future job in water quality, I recommend taking a lot of laboratory classes in school and volunteering or interning at an aquarium or university to get hands-on experience.

    What is your background (training and education)?

    My education was not originally in chemistry or animal care actually. I originally went to school for medical training with the hopes of working in a medial office as a medical assistant. However, after finishing I realized that I did not actually like the work that much. That’s when I decided to come back to the aquarium and work here instead. I have had a lot of different jobs here. I started in the food grill part-time while I was still in school. After the food grill, I moved into guest services as an exhibit host part-time. Then I worked for Wildflight as a seasonal husbandry assistant before moving to the landscaping/physical plant department. From there, I became the overnight water quality monitor before finally becoming the full-time water quality technician.

    What is your favorite part of your job?

    Overall my favorite part is working at the aquarium, and being surrounded by so many amazing animals that I get to help take care of every day. I also love talking to the guests I see and share what I am doing with them.

    What is the most challenging part of your job?

    Learning the details of the chemistry involved. Learning the process of what to do to test them is not that difficult, but learning exactly how/why everything works the way it does gets complicated.

    What does a typical workday look like for you?

    During the day I do rounds to check all of the equipment and gauges for water quality every two hours. When I do rounds, I fill out a checklist of all the data I need to collect each time to make sure I don’t miss anything. Each round takes about 20 minutes.

    PDF Profile
  • Jackson Konetski


    Husbandry Assistant with Diving

  • Get to Know Jackson

    How long have you worked in this job?

    I have worked at the Texas State Aquarium since December of 2015.

    What does it take to get a job like yours?

    A dive certification is needed. I also have a marine biology degree. The degree is not required, but it is a plus.

    What is your favorite part of your job?

    Learning the fishes’ personalities.

    What is the most challenging part of your job?

    The constant temperature changes, from cold water in the exhibits to the hot showers and back to cold water again is hard on the body. Your skin gets dry and your hands peel often. You cut more easily and the cuts take longer to heal.

    Do you have a favorite fish?

    Yes, Hunter, the sandtiger shark is my favorite because he seems to enjoy scaring people. He will sneak up on me when I’m in the Islands of Steel exhibit and then when I notice him, he will go away. Once I’m not looking at him anymore, he comes back again.

    How often do you dive?

    I dive three times a day for about an hour per dive.

    Do you have any memorable stories to share?

    One time, I had to get Big Momma, the large southern sting ray out of the Blue Hole exhibit. I had to use a HUGE net, and the drag resistance on the net swimming through the water made me really slow. Once I finally grabbed her, I had to somehow jump up 15ft out of the water with her in the net. Nick, my tender at the surface at the time, had to drag me out of the water like a dol. Once out myself, I was then finally able to get the Big Momma out of the water too.

     

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  • Roxie Miller


    Husbandry Assistant, Commissary Keeper

  • Get To Know Roxie M.

    How long have you worked in this job?

    The Texas State Aquarium approached me in February 2016 after receiving my degree in marine biology when I was then a volunteer with the dive team. They asked if I would like to help open the new commissary for Animal Care here.

    What does it take to get a job like yours?

    I have a degree in marine biology and am also in the process of receiving certifications in nutrition as well.

    What is your favorite part of your job?

    I like working with all three major branches of the aquarium: Dolphin Bay, Caribbean Journey, and the Wet Area behind the scenes of the Gulf of Mexico.

    What is the most challenging part of your job?

    It is difficult to oversee four kitchens (Dolphin Bay, Caribbean Journey, Gulf of Mexico and Sea Lab) that operate almost daily. The amount of work that goes into maintaining these four kitchens to meet USDA standards, AZA standards, and making sure the highest standards of care are surpassed here at the Texas State Aquarium.

    Do you have any memorable stories to share?

    Preparing for the storm, Hurricane Harvey, to push onto shore was a major challenge. We had to make sure we had enough food for the entire aquarium prepped and ready to use in case there were multiple days/nights without power. Luckily, the Caribbean Journey generator kept running the entire time, so being completely without power was never an issue. Housing and feeding so many animals in one area, keeping their diets separate and high quality, was a bit overwhelming at times though. It takes roughly eight hours to prep for one day’s worth of food, so having to prep for multiple days at once was a lot. I don’t think they had any idea of what was ahead of them before the storm hit.

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  • Emily Polhemus


    Horticulturalist

  • Get to Know Emily

    How long have you worked in this job?

    I have worked at the Texas State Aquarium since March of 2017. I started interning here in 2013 though.

    What does it take to get a job like yours?

    Experience and good training beyond what you can learn from textbooks and school labs is important. It especially helps if it’s from places like the Royal Botanical Gardens in London where I went.

    What is your favorite part of your job?

    I love being surprised by the animals while I am working around them. I also like the opportunity to work inside and outside.

    What is the most challenging part of your job?

    It is challenging to do pest control using other, beneficial insects. Working around the animals can also be challenging.

    Do you have any memorable stories to share?

    Mainly animal related. Sometimes the birds in the Caribbean Jungle will swoop right in front of me as I work to observe me.

     

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