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Leo Hijikata

Ethnicity:

Japanese

Current position: 

Aquarist

Current facility:

Alaska SeaLife Center

Year zoo career began:

2020

Leo is an Aquarist I at the Alaska SeaLife Center, where he cares for a variety of aquatic species. He spends his day providing care for his assigned exhibits, including feeds, maintaining exhibit aesthetics, water quality monitoring, and working on long term projects. His favorite part of his job is tuning into a specific tank and getting to know the quirks of individual animals. After working with an animal for a long time, he also witnesses fairly strange and rare events, like the time he heard a Giant Pacific Octopus fart!

Leo’s passion for marine biology budded as a child, squatting around tide pools and feeding the crabs to the anemones (sorry!). He has always been drawn to the life sciences, but he focused his passion in college while he studied marine biology at UCSC. At the research focused institution, Leo developed the technical and observational skills to be an Aquarist. However, like many college students, Leo was not sure which direction to go with this skill set. After graduation, he tried on a few different hats, including a research technician, sushi waiter, boat hull cleaner, fisheries intern, outdoor educator, and Christmas tree salesman. These experiences helped Leo hone in on his passion and cultivate the skillset to become a curious and effective aquarist.

While Leo enjoys the priceless joy of raising sea creatures, he has a deeper appreciation for the animals as they remind him of the interconnected nature of our lives. For aspiring aquarists, Leo recommends that you volunteer, see if you can get dive certified, and find a pet fish. Volunteering is a great way to get your foot in the door and looks great from the hiring standpoint. You can also see for yourself if aquarist work is something you are truly interested in. Apart from the trend of SCUBA as a requirement for aquarist positions, it helped Leo build connections and stand out as a candidate for many of the non-aquarist positions Leo applied for. If you are looking for a teacher, a pet goldfish is a good start. The fundamental knowledge and the maintenance required for goldfish mirrors that of a large exhibit, just on a smaller scale. Lastly, Leo advises taking advice from multiple people. Everyone has valid and different insights.