General Career and Research Information…
What is your educational background?
I have a degree in marine biology degree from the University of Rhode Island.
How did you end up in the field you are in today?
I started volunteering at the Aquarium when I was in college and then did an internship here with the beluga whales. After my internship, I got a seasonal summer job with the California sea lions and then got a permanent position with the beluga whales.
What advice would you give to kids who are interested in studying science?
Science is so fascinating, and if science is what you would like to pursue, never give up on your dreams. If you are interested in working with marine mammals, look into volunteering at your nearest aquarium or zoo to get some animal experience.
How and where do you conduct your work with belugas?
We work with our three belugas in our Arctic Coast exhibit that is over an acre in size at the Mystic Aquarium.
What tools and/or technologies do you use in your work with belugas?
We train our belugas through what’s called positive reinforcement. This is when we reinforce the belugas for performing the correct behavior. We never use punishment with the belugas. We want to always make sure our sessions with the whales are positive and fun.
What projects related to belugas are you currently involved in?
I am currently teaching our newest beluga, Juno, shape discrimination. This is very important because it allows us to educate the public about how intelligent belugas are in their ability to discriminate between objects such as different shapes.
What have you learned so far from your work with belugas?
Not only am I teaching the belugas important behaviors, but also the belugas teach me so much about their intelligence, natural abilities, and their fun personalities.
What is the most interesting or exciting thing that has happened during your work with belugas?
A really exciting event was being able to ride with Juno from the airport to the Aquarium when he arrived here at Mystic. It was amazing to see how well orchestrated the transport was for Juno--his safety was always the top priority.
On Being a Kid...
What was your favorite subject when you were in middle school?
I loved science!
What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I just knew I always wanted to do something with marine mammals.
On the Rest of Life…
Who are some of the people you look up to or admire?
My parents and my family--they have always been there and supported me along the way to my dreams.
What do you like to do for fun?
Spending time with my family and friends and spending time outdoors.
Do you have any final thoughts or words of advice that you would like to share?
Never be afraid to achieve your dreams. Never think you are not good enough or outgoing enough, because if you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything.