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Job Description: Senior Aquarist

Status: Full-Time, Non- Exempt, 37.5 Hours per week

Department: Aquarium Department

General Statement of Duties

The Senior Aquarist is responsible for all aspects of Museum’s marine and freshwater collections, both ambassador and exhibit animals, including but not limited to cleaning, feeding, inspecting/observing specimens, maintaining exhibits, implementing veterinary, nutrition, training & enrichment programs, and record-keeping. Acquires and maintains appropriate knowledge about animals, exhibits, museum policies, procedures, and facilities. The Senior Aquarist works in cooperation with Animal Welfare staff as well as other departments to achieve established facility/operational and AZA standards. Interacts with visitors routinely through formal and informal programs. This position recognizes the capacity to achieve greater results by integrating skilled volunteers, leveraging their diverse knowledge and skills. This position reports directly to the
Assistant Aquarium Curator.


  • A passion for animals, their welfare and conservation.
  • Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology, Aquatic Ecology, Biology, or Fisheries, or related field. Significant professional animal card experience may be considered.
  • At least 3 years experience providing daily husbandry to aquatic animals, preferably at an AZA- accredited institution.
  • SCUBA certification required.
  • Knowledge of freshwater and saltwater fish and common diseases.
  • Advanced knowledge of the Nitrogen cycle and common values for Aquarium settings.
  • Advanced record keeping skills: acquisitions, dispositions, transfers, etc.
  • Maintain USDA and AZA standards for animal care and welfare.
  • Proficiency in the use and operation of power tools, hand tools in order to make exhibit repairs/improvements while ensuring safety of coworkers, general public and animals.
  • Excellent reliability, communication, time management and observational skills.
  • First Aid/CPR certified or willing to become at the museums expense.
  • Must be able to remain calm, make sound decisions and provide clear directions in a crisis situation.
  • Be solution oriented, self-reliant, and motivated

Duties and Responsibilities

Be a positive, enthusiastic representative of the Virginia Living Museum.

  • Support the mission and Strategic Plan initiatives of increasing impact and expanding reach.
  • Support the museum values of integrity, stewardship, and community throughout their daily operations.

Support excellent animal welfare:

  • Maintain AZA standards of aquatic care and welfare.
  • Acquire, maintain, and deploy modern zoological processes in relation to aquariums, exhibits, museum policies, procedures, and facilities.
  • Maintain accurate cleaning, feeding, training, and enrichment records and charts.
  • Maintain adequate supplies for the department and keep Aquarium Curator up to date on the inventory and ordering schedule.
  • Ensure all quarantine protocols are followed and the area remains bio secure.
  • Manage daily water chemistry testing and parameters on all aquatic systems.
  • Perform daily training and enrichment sessions with animals and record sessions.
  • Report any animal concerns directly to the Aquariums Curator.
  • Assess the welfare of a variety of marine and freshwater fish and invertebrates.
  • Perform technical and complex tasks including:
    • Leading ad directing active and passive capture techniques,
    • Assisting with hands on Veterinary Exams,
    • Work with Aquarium Curator on aquarium acquisitions, as needed.
  • Discern animal emergency situations versus non-emergency situations and respond accordingly.
  • Properly secure all animal enclosures daily.

Support excellent Human welfare:

  • Enhance guest experience by leading engaging tours and educational enrichment activities.
  • Ensure high customer satisfaction by engaging with museum visitors and answering their questions.
  • Train all new staff on daily tasks, diet prep, and exhibit maintenance to ensure confidence and good integration into the team.
  • Train staff, volunteers, and interns on safe aquatic animal care and handling practices, as well as
    museum safety and security.
  • Work with Community Engagement Manager to manage department volunteers, including performing interviews, communicating schedules and training.
  • Communicate regularly with department leadership regarding animal and staffing activities.
  • Support department leadership in development of policies and procedures, make recommendations for improvement in work areas and implement approved changes when within scope of abilities.
  • Develop and implement animal training plans working with the Training and Enrichment Coordinator and evaluate Aquarist progress.
  • Verify and monitor the work of assigned employees for accuracy, proper work methods, techniques, and compliance with applicable standards and regulations.
  • Work with Ambassador Animal Manager to keep ambassador animals programmable.
  • Acts as department lead in the absence of the Aquariums Curator.
  • Participates in selection of Animal Welfare staff.
  • Perform other duties as assigned.

Exhibits Support and Safety:

  • Maintain life support system (LSS) and provide basic maintenance as needed.
  • Regularly perform and record water quality testing.
  • Notify department leadership of supplies that need to be ordered for the department.
  • Lead and manage collecting trips, and maintain professional work appearance while in the field.
  • Manage and maintain the cleaning, storing, and organizing of all collection gear.
  • Manage the ordering of live foods each week as well as frozen food needs.
  • Ensure all animal habitats are safe and look professional, create work order for maintenance.
  • Follow safety guidelines and report any safety concerns to the supervisor.
  • Maintain an accurate animal inventory of the aquatics collection.

Essential Job Requirements

  • Must be able to express or exchange ideas by means of the spoken word and perceive detailed
    information through oral communication.
  • Ability to lift and/or exert up to 50 pounds of force.
  • Must be comfortable around a variety of live animals and wildlife.
  • The candidate must have visual acuity to be able to operate motor vehicles and/or equipment.
  • Must be able to sit, stand, walk, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, reach, push, pull, lift, grasp, feel, and utilize repetitive motions.

Supervision Exercised: Aquarist

This job description in no way states or implies that these are the only duties to be performed by this employee. This position, Senior Aquarist will be required to follow any other instructions and to perform any other related duties as assigned by the appropriate Supervisor/Director. The Virginia Living Museum reserves the right to update, revise or change the job description and related duties at any time.

Qualified applicants please submit a VLM application, cover letter, resume and references. No phone calls, please.