Round-the-clock animal care at the Aquarium

Seattle Aquarium at night


Days (and nights!) in the lives our life sciences and operations relief biologists

No matter the time, no matter the day, someone is on duty at the Aquarium, ensuring that our life support systems are running smoothly and the animals entrusted to us are getting exactly what they need. And sometimes, that someone is a life sciences and operations relief biologist, a hybrid role that involves animal care, engineering and a lot more! The Aquarium has a team of five people in this role—keep reading to see what they love about their ever-changing, always-interesting jobs.


Job responsibilities? “Everything.”

“Our job is to fill in wherever is needed as far as animal care goes,” says team member Megan Martzall. In the realm of animal husbandry, a typical shift might involve cleaning different habitats for the Aquarium’s birds, mammals, fish and invertebrates; feeding animals; and/or cleaning holding tanks. “But,” adds Megan’s teammate Elysse Forester, “We also do a lot more than feeding animals and cleaning exhibits. I’ve done all kinds of odd jobs, including fixing the elevators at night!”


Wanted: night owls.

“Our schedules are always changing,” says Elysse. “We work different days and shifts each week to best support the Aquarium, our staff members and animals. Sometimes we do overnight shifts where we’re the only biologists on duty for the entire Aquarium. Talk about a lot of responsibility!”

Shifts may run from 7am to 4pm, 3 to 11pm or 11pm to 7am—and job responsibilities vary by shift. Daytime shifts tend be focused on cleaning and food prep for any and all of the Aquarium’s animals. Evenings involve the last bird and mammal feedings for the day and, as Megan says, “Putting everyone to bed as the Aquarium closes up.” The night shift falls under engineering, when team members monitor life support systems and respond if issues arise.


Seattle Aquarium employee cleaning exhibit


Commitment and passion required

This position really speaks to how committed we are to the Aquarium, and how passionate we are about the animals who live here,” says Megan. “Our collection of creatures is how we share that passion for the ocean with the public, and we want to make sure everyone looks and feels their best—no matter the time of day or night!”

I work to provide top-notch care to all the animals here at the Aquarium so they can be amazing ambassadors in our marine habitats for their counterparts in the wild! 

               —Life Sciences and Operations Relief Biologist Elysse Forester


Best thing about the Aquarium after dark?

Says Elysse, “One of my favorite things to see after the Aquarium closes is the goat fish. Once it gets dark, they line up on the bottom of the habitat to sleep. It’s adorable!”


What does it take to become a life sciences and operations relief biologist?

This role is relied upon for planned and spontaneous staffing needs, at all hours of the day, every day of the year, so reliability and a flexible personal schedule are key to keeping our staffing schedule properly filled. Plus, animal care instructions, life support system protocols and general operational norms may be updated or changed at a moment’s notice, so someone in this role needs to be highly adaptable and able to learn on the fly, all while keeping a positive and team-oriented attitude.

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