Several new faces appeared on campus late this summer. The Estuarium welcomed two new aquarists, Kat Glover and Carissa Clay, and the Northern Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative introduced Mikaela Heming as the Project Coordinator of GulfTREE.
Clay said it’s been a dream of hers to work with marine animals since she was in 5th grade.
“I like the variety, and two of the same animals can have vastly different personalities,” Clay said.
Clay’s resume highlight is interning at Disney World’s The Seas with Nemo and Friends.
“I had the chance to dive in the tank to assist in feedings, including target feedings with the black blotched ray. She was huge, and you had to get underneath her to feed her,” Clay said.
Clay is no stranger to the Estuarium. She volunteered her time while taking courses with DISL’s University Programs through the University of Alabama. She’s excited to be a part of the aquarist team now.
"I love getting paid to do what I love," Clay said. "I get to be in charge of a gallery, and see the tanks as my own."
Glover is new to the Estuarium, and comes to lower Alabama via Boston where she spent a great deal of time volunteering at the New England Aquarium in the quarantine facility.
"We'd train the sharks, mostly bonnethead and zebra sharks, to station for feedings in a series of steps," Glover explained. "We'd start with getting them to follow a yellow ball during feedings, then they would learn to touch their nose to the ball to be fed, which eventually led to the shark stationing to feed in a cradle.”
At the Estuarium, Glover focuses her time currently in the Mobile Bay gallery.
"The thing I love about the Estuarium is how it focuses on native species and habitats," Glover said. "People can use what they learn here in their own backyard."
Heming makes her way to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab from New Hampshire. The University of Massachusetts Amherst graduate is helping to coordinate the development of GulfTREE.
“I really enjoy being able to help people who want to include climate resiliency in their work. It’s really important,” Heming said.
GulfTREE is in the early stages of development. Look for more news on this project in the coming months.