Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Proud National Aquariumer

Okay! Well, it's certainly been an um, eventful week since we last saw each other.

Um I have no idea.

I found myself getting really gloomy, especially in light of the three Orlando tragedies, the double murder in Paris, and the murder in London.  Holy. Cow. 

The horrific loss of life reported to us in such a short period of time made me feel like, is there good in the world anymore?  Where has it gone?

Oh, here it is.

Of course, there are plenty of great people in the world, doing great things.  I feel like I needed to take a moment to breathe a little, and look at the good things happening around me (on top of the incredible acts of kindness people portrayed in response to the aforementioned events).

Amidst all of this, National Aquarium released information about a new project we are in the beginning planning stages of for our 8 bottlenose dolphins.  Some of you reached out to me and asked me how I felt about it, or my opinion. 

Look, there is a LOT of research left to do, many decisions to be made.  So all I can say right now is that I am proud to work at National Aquarium, because as I thought about all of the wonderful things surrounding me, many of them had to do with where I work.  And so, the two seemingly-separate things merged together into something I wanted to share with all of you.

Reasons Why I Love Working At National Aquarium (and they'll probably sound familiar....because you probably feel the same way about where you work!)

1) The Animals Come First

They rule all. 

And not just the dolphins.  Every animal matters, to the point where we will cancel and refund programs last minute if it's in the animals' best interest.  Animal caretakers are allowed to say, "No, the animals aren't ready" without worrying about someone telling them they have to make it work.  

Ego is secondary to the needs of our critters.  If we don't know the answer to something, we have no problem asking someone else's opinion.  We drop everything to attend to an animal who isn't feeling well, or who needs extra attention behaviorally.  We look at the animals holistically, understanding their individuality merged with the natural history of their species. 

2) The Vets Play With The Dolphins

Here's another photo of a cute dolphin looking in a mirror.

We've got a great animal health team.  On top of the fantastic care all of our animals receive, there's an extra special reason why the vets and techs are so awesome.

It's not uncommon to see one of our incredible vets build their relationship with one of the dolphins.  During my interview, I watched our most experienced vet enrich the dolphins outside of session.  Since my employment a few months ago, I've seen both vets and techs participate in training sessions that have nothing to do with husbandry.  Another great example of holistic care!

3) There Are Toys. Everywhere.

But they don't come to life.

I have seriously never seen so many EEDs in one place in my life.  I am never wanting for a toy or some sort of object with which to entertain the dolphins.  Our enrichment coordinator takes her job very seriously and it shows.  We have enrichment volunteers whose sole job is come up with different ways to entice the attention of the animals in our department. 

4) We Have Work-Life Balance

Don't we all.

My boss is so good at encouraging people to have a life outside of work.  We are always here for the animals, but if there is a special event happening in our lives (or the lives of family or friends), there is a lot of leniency in our schedules.  Our management does an incredible job balancing who is needed at work to make sure the dolphins get everything they need without question and people being able to enjoy their personal lives.

Did I mention we get a ton of paid time off?

5) We Live Our Mission

A turtle release from a few days ago!

National Aquarium is all about conservation and spreading awareness about the plight of our oceans and the Chesapeake watershed.  While we have amazing conservation projects (animal rescue, research, habitat restoration, etc. etc.), and focus on community outreach, there are even more reasons why I love working here.

First, our restaurant/food court serves food that is locally and/or humanely sourced.  We occasionally have invasive species of fish on the menu, which really blew me away when I first visited.  All the food is freshly made and tastes REAL good.  Oh my god, let me tell you about these brownies we have.  Well, blondies.  Chocolate chip blondie base with OREOS IN THE MIDDLE.  It is taking everything in me right now not to run down to the cafĂ© and get like 10 of these things. 

Second, every full time staff member gets not only a ton of PTO, but one paid day off to do a conservation project of their choice.  THAT IS FREAKING AWESOME.  You can volunteer in other departments too, including the conservation and rescue ones.

6) Opinions Are Allowed

But it counts!

We are treated like valuable members of a team.  Our voices, knowledge, and opinions are not shot down immediately when they differ.  Respectfully-presented ideas and questions are met with respectful answers.  There is no "Our Way OR ELSE" vibe around here.  

This is one of my favorite points, because I feel like this place really understands that in order to best solve a problem or develop a project, you have to understand differing viewpoints and experience.  This culture is fostered both internally and externally, which means I'm always learning new things and feel comfortable sharing my feelings, too.

6) A Hilarious And Dedicated Team

Sloths on our arms, puffins on our heads, and the Indominus Rex "That Guy-ing" our photo.

I work with some really passionate people.  We have team builders and goofy staff photos.  We get to train dolphins all day, because we only have three or four presentations a day. We spend like half our day working on husbandry goals, the other half training new behaviors, participating in research (like testing out a new ECG technology, and cognition research tied to innovation behaviors).

But we are also hilarious.  We have this giant communication board, half of which is dedicated to weird stuff we say.  Here are my favorites from the last few months:

"These are my day one pants."

"Should I give her the piece with the butt hole?"

"I just need to stick my finger in there and feel around to make some room."

"You're my criteria"

"Oh, it's just some ovaries in the drain.  I'll grab them!"

"I just have to deal with the feces."

"It's too much to flush."

For the faint of heart, most of these quotes were said about fish.

ALSO.  One of our coworkers makes incredible cakes.  And she makes them for everyone's birthday, based on what they like and what their personality is.  Behold:

Paleo-friendly banana "ice cream" cake with delicious dark chocolate icing. 

Pretzel cake for a pretzel-lovin' trainer

Humpback whale cake (POUND CAKE OMG).  This chick needs to open a bakery.

7) The Dolphins

How can you not love these faces?

I know it's not a great photo, but I don't have many pics yet of the girls all together!

It's not hard to see why I'm happy to be a part of the National Aquarium team.  By no means am I implying that other zoos/aquariums don't have the same components listed's just a list of some of the main reasons why I'm proud to work here. 

Why do you love where you work?  Let's get a good list going; maybe we'll swap some ideas to make our facilities even better than they already are!

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