Job Title: Associate Veterinarian (At An Aquarium)
Type of Company: I work for a private aquarium that is focused on research involving marine animals in Alaska.
Education: DVM, Washington State University, 1999 BS Biology, University of Massachusetts, 1994 MS Engineering Management, University of Dayton, 1990 BS Electrical Engineering, Lehigh University, 1985
Previous Experience: Wildlife Veterinary Consultant, this is a part time job I have in addition to my full time position. I advise different groups on procedures involving wild animals.
Post Doctoral Fellow, Wise Laboratory for Environmental & Genetic Toxicology, ME: I assisted in the development of cell lines for toxicology testing. Specifically, I worked with tissues obtained from marine mammals that were found dead or were euthanized because of debilitating condition.
Staff Veterinarian and Assistant Professor, University of New England, ME: I helped establish a marine mammal rehabilitation center and provided veterinary care for the animals. Additionally, I taught parasitology and comparative physiology to undergrads.
Veterinary Internship, Mystic Aquarium, CT: provide medical care to animals housed at the aquarium.
Prior to obtaining my veterinary degree, I worked in the Air Force overseeing contracts that involved radar testing.
Job Tasks: After touching base with fellow staff members, the day starts with animal related procedures such as reviewing husbandry records, doing health checks, getting blood samples, determining medications, doing anesthesias, radiographs, necropsies, and so forth. All activities and review of medical findings get transcribed into the animal's health records.
Unlike a private veterinary practice, hands on animal activities actually constitute a small part of my day, maybe only 1-2 hours on average with some days having none and a few being busy with animals all day long. The bulk of my day is dealing with personnel and administrative responsibilities, grant writing, grant report writing, permit writing, permit report writing, meetings to figure out what grants and permits and reports need to be written, budgets, meetings to plan more complex procedures.
There are always lots of emails from all levels of staff and other organizations with small to large requests for information. Additionally, there is training staff, supporting outreach type activities such as speaking to tour groups, and participating in fundraising activities like helping track runners in our Fun Run. Several times a year I attend professional meetings to stay current with techniques in the field and to relay interesting findings from our cases and investigations.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of being a veterinarian at an aquarium is working with truly unique animals especially when you are hands on with the animal. When not working directly with the animals the best part is figuring things out, namely what is wrong with an animal or how best to treat problems.
The worst part of the job is dealing with all the paperwork. Animal health paperwork isn't so bad since I am still thinking about the animal. The paperwork gets more and more tiresome the farther away it gets from closely affecting the animal, like all the permits and grant reports.
1. Take management and budget courses, whether you want to be a private veterinarian or one for a zoo or an aquarium. The courses wont help you in vet school but they will when you are either trying to make money or save it.
2. Volunteer or get an entry level job involving animals. Anything, kennel worker, volunteer keeper, data entry. Treat it like a real job, show up on time and be professional.
3. Attend a conference in your desired speciality. All veterinary conferences always make an effort to be welcoming to students to include low rates and special sessions just for them.
Additional Thoughts: Be sure to approach any volunteer or intern experience with humility of your experience, respect for all staff members, and appreciation for the experience.
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