The Job of a Seahorse and Venomous Fish Expert

Kaitlyn Wagner fell in love with the ocean the first time she laid eyes on it during a family trip to Newfoundland. She went on to receive a Bachelor of Science in Marine and Freshwater Biology, getting hands-on experience at the aqua lab at school. Chance had it that Ripley’s Aquarium opened at the same time she graduated and she was able to get a job as a show diver, scuba diving in the tanks to feed the animals and clean their habitat.

After a year of diving, Kaitlyn was promoted to Aquarist—a professional who cares for marine animals in an aquarium environment—taking care of the jellyfish. After learning tons as the jellyfish caregiver, Kaitlyn was drawn to the most deadly animals in the aquarium, the venomous fish; she was also drawn to one of the most unique animals: seahorses.

Seahorses have many unique adaptations, including the males who give birth to up to 200 babies at a time. Once they give birth, Kaitlyn transfers the baby into a smaller tank where they are fed very small food. Care in the early stages is incredibly important as any type of debris can cause bacterial blooms which can be very harmful to the babies. As the seahorses grow, they are given larger food, sucking it up through their snout and into their long gastrointestinal tract which they have in place of a stomach. Unfortunately, over 40 types of them are on the International Union Conservation of Nature red list as threatened. Unsustainable fishing practices like bottom trawling as well as the trading industry for sea horses have pushed the small, vulnerable creatures into a dangerous position.

Kaitlyn thinks that the Lionfish are the most perfect invasive species with venomous spines on their dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins which allow them to defend themselves from predators. Because one female can produce up to two million eggs in a year and they don’t have many predators, they can easily dominate a reef and disturb the natural balance. They are so invasive that conservationists are encouraging spearfishing to remove them from areas like the Atlantic Ocean.

Kaitlyn hopes that anyone adoring the ocean or conservation follows that passion. “It’s a really rewarding experience when you finally land a career in your dream field. We’re always learning more and needing new, passionate people to lead the way in conserving these animals and protect them in their natural environments.”

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