Life Support Specialist
Smithsonian's National Zoological Park
Year zoo career began:
“There are many opportunities working in zoos and aquariums. Take the time to volunteer and learn the available paths to figure out what you like. Don’t let others steer you away from your dreams.”
Jalal Abdo is an aquatic life support systems (LSS) operator at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. In his position, Jalal works on a team of operators that ensure the quality of water remains healthy and livable for aquatic zoo animals like fish, invertebrates, pinnipeds, otters, and others. As an LSS operator, Jalal maintains filtration systems that include sand filters, bead filters, ozone and UV disinfection, just to name a few. He also does routine water testing throughout the zoo to insure proper parameters of pH, salinity, ammonia, nitrites, etc. It is important to make sure that water quality remains healthy for the aquatic animals' habitat to avoid any health issues and help keep them alive.
Jalal Abdo was born in Damascus, Syria to a Syrian mother and Jordanian father, lived in Saudi Arabia before coming to the United States with his family in 1986. Jalal studied different majors in college, including a few semesters of pre-med, electrical engineering, and game/simulation design. He was always interested in science and had an appreciation for computers applications. These interests led him to pursue jobs including working as an electrician’s apprentice, construction and telecommunications. In 2017, Jalal started looking for a change of pace from corporate jobs and started researching positions at the Zoo, where he has always wanted to work. Most importantly, Jalal wanted to do work that mattered and head home each day knowing that he made a difference. That’s where he learned about the Life Support Systems Operator position which involved his interests in computers, science, hands-on work and being around animals. He also appreciated that the Smithsonian National Zoo was more focused on conservation and animal wellbeing. Jalal began as an intern in the Life Support Systems department where he found the position to be a great fit. He was hired in his current role shortly after beginning his internship.
Jalal is happy with the opportunity to work at the zoo. He also loves that the position he found challenges him, allows him to problem solve and the ability to learn new skills, especially when it relates to animal welfare. For others interested in a similar career, Jalal recommends that you focus on what you love, and reevaluate what you think you need. Being able to go home happy with what you do makes it much easier to sleep at night and improves your overall health and well-being.