My name is Jewlee and I am an intern at Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters. My day starts bright and early at 7:45AM. First things first, I do a quick water quality test. If it’s Wednesday then I get here earlier to do the full water quality test on all the tanks and the lagoon. These tests involve a lot of 10ml water samples and little pre-measured chemical packets.
After water quality tests comes the messy part, food prep. We have quite a few animals at the aquarium; all of them have a diet designed just for them. Most of the menus are comprised of fish like capelin, herring and sardines. Others include shrimp, clams and minnows. After I’ve filleted and organized all the food my shirt is pretty gross. Luckily, I’ve gotten used to being fishy; it’s just part of the job.
At 10:30AM it’s time to feed some tortoises. These guys are always ready for some veggies. The hardest part of this feeding is making sure that Rex doesn’t step on your toes!
Then it’s time for shark training at Big Shark Bay. One of the highlights of my day is getting to work with these amazing elasmobranchs! All three sharks are target trained and show an exceptional understanding of the positive reinforcement system.
After that it’s lunch time!
The rest of my day varies depending on who needs help and what needs to get done. Some days I’ll be working at the turtle tiki discussing our shelled friends and the big tanks or I might be working the island, interacting with guests and monitoring the rays. I’ll lead or shadow the stingray encounters which lets me swap out my fishy shirt for a fancy wetsuit. I love being in the tank with the rays; they are super friendly and occasionally give you little ray hugs.
Near the top of hour every hour we do a guided tour, just a quick highlights reel of the aquarium and a chance for people to ask questions.
Most days I get to feed the pignose turtles, they are super cute and always a pleasure to watch!
On the less fun side of the spectrum of daily duties is cleaning loads of dishes and hosing the floors.
The aquarium closes at 5:00PM and we do a mad dash to clean filters, do PM water quality tests and check up on all the animals. The best is saved for last; I get to bottle feed the Mobula rays before I go home for the day!
Being an intern at Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters is an amazing experience. On any given day I might be swimming in the coral reef, cleaning skimmers, lifting sharks or playing with rays. I feel so lucky that I get to spend my summer with so many amazing animals and such awesome people!