Agricultural Sciences

Student Stories: Water world: Fisheries major interns at aquarium

Taylor Marino paused in front of a coral propagation tank at the Pittsburgh Zoo's Saltwater Aquarium. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Back in high school, Taylor Marino volunteered at the Pittsburgh Zoo with the hope that one day she would score a dream internship at the zoo's aquarium. In spring 2015, the Wildlife and Fisheries Science major made that dream a reality when she was offered a Saltwater Aquarium internship at the zoo.

The Pittsburgh native started her internship days at 8 a.m. by cleaning the outside glass of the aquariums. She also cleaned the inside of the glass using a long-handled scrub pad, which removed algae.

Then, she and the other interns carried the fish food -- lots of it -- from the basement to her work area. She prepared the food, which consists mainly of scallops, brine shrimp and krill, and fed it to the many marine animals. There are a lot of species at the aquarium, such as sharks, octopi, lobsters, eels and Marino's favorite, the stingray.

"I think stingrays are beautiful and interesting animals," she said. "They are so elegant."

After the animals' lunchtime, Marino tested the quality of the water in each of the tanks or received a special assignment from the lead aquarists. "One day, I built a surge device with my boss and the other interns," she said. "The device shoots water into the tanks to increase the flow of the water."

In addition, Marino assisted in presentations for high school students who visit the aquarium on field trips.

Marino's experience at the aquarium increased her fascination with marine life. "The internship helped me to narrow my interests down to a single field," she said.

She also learned from the experienced aquariasts. "In the Wildlife and Fisheries Science major [in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences,] I mainly learned about species native to Pennsylvania. At the aquarium, I learned more about saltwater species from the aquariasts."

Marino graduated in May and hoped to get a job or internship at an aquarium. "Maybe I'll get a job in Florida," she said.

Last Updated June 10, 2015