Allison Tuttle

Director of Animal Care & Staff Veterinarian
Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration


General Career Information…

What is your educational background?
I spent four years on my undergraduate degree, four years in vet school, two years doing a specialty internship in aquatic animal medicine, and three years doing a residency in zoological medicine with a focus on aquatic health management. I am also a graduate of several special courses relating to aquatic medicine such as Aquavet I, Aquavet II, and Marvet.

How did you end up in the field you are in today?
Persistence and a lot of education!

What do you like the best about your job?
What I like about my job is that I work with a large variety of aquatic animals, which is very interesting.

What do you like the least about your job?
There is not anything I like least in my job.

What are some of the different career opportunities associated with the work you do?
Some of the opportunities include being a veterinarian at an aquarium, zoo, or in wildlife setting (both rehabilitation and conservation medicine), teaching at a university or for specialty programs such as those listed above, or doing research related to aquatic animal medicine.

What advice would you give to kids who are interested in studying science?
Work hard, focus on your passion, and be persistent. Those who have the drive can do whatever they put their mind to!  

On Belugas and the Arctic…

How and where do you conduct your work on belugas? 
At Mystic Aquarium I provide the preventative medicine program for the belugas and provide health care when they are sick.

What tools and/or technologies do you use in your work on belugas?
I do clinical pathology (bloodwork, chemical analyses, hormone monitoring, etc.), imaging (ultrasound, endoscopy, etc.), and physical examinations. None of this would be possible without the animal trainers doing the training portion.

What research projects related to belugas have you worked on in the past?
I have participated in a stress study and a study on a nutritional supplement. I mostly assist with sample collection in our resident belugas.

Why is it important to study belugas?
There is intrinsic value in studying belugas. It is also important because belugas are sentinels (lookouts) for the ocean environment.

What threats are currently facing belugas?
Some of the threats include pollution, disease, and population declines.

How do native communities interact with and depend on belugas?
Some native communities depend on belugas for subsistence hunting.

What one thing would you most like kids to learn from studying the Arctic?
Appreciate this environment and understand what it would take to conserve it and want to conserve it.

What actions can kids take to help protect beluga whales and the Arctic?
Practice conservation and encourage others to do the same. Also, work hard. Every individual can make changes.

On Being a Kid. .

What kinds of books did you like to read when you were a kid? Why? 
I liked to read fiction because stories are fun!

What was your favorite subject when you were in middle school?
English was my favorite subject.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I thought I would be a veterinarian or a marine biologist.

What advice do you wish that someone had given you when you were a kid?
Some science jobs pay less than other fields that require less education. If you are looking for a higher paying job, you might want to look into an area besides science.

On the Rest of Life…

Who are some of the people you look up to or admire?
I admire my parents.

What do you like to do for fun?
I enjoy yoga, running, playing with my dog, reading, and watching television.

JASON Learning: A Partnership of Sea Research Foundation and National Geographic