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Katie Leatherman

Ethnicity:

White

Current position: 

Animal Husbandry Associate

Current facility:

Disney- The Seas

Year zoo career began:

2007

Katie is a husbandry associate at The Seas with Nemo and Friends in Epcot, where she works assisting the Small Systems team manage and care for various fish and elasmobranchs. A regular day for Katie can include performing water chemistries, preparing food for and feeding various fish, rays, and sharks, monitoring and caring for coral colonies, and keeping notes on animal behavior. Katie is excited to work in a facility where she can reach out to people who may not have otherwise visited an aquarium, and she is especially excited to help out with conservation projects in the future.

As a child, Katie has a lot of fond memories of visiting the San Francisco Zoo, John Ball Zoo, and Potter Park Zoo. In high school, she completed an internship at the John Ball Zoo. While earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in Zoology from Michigan State University, Katie gained more experience by volunteering at the Howell Nature Center. She completed a Disney College Program driving Kilimanjaro Safari trucks, which she continued to do for about two years. She also completed an animal care internship with Discovery Cove, a marine mammal internship at Disney’s The Seas, and a six-month trainee position at Disney working with ambassador animals. Those experiences led to a more permanent position at the Animal Nutrition Center at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Katie went on to work as an animal husbandry associate at the Orlando Science Center and as an aquarium diver for SeaWorld Orlando. When Katie moved to Buffalo, New York, she worked for Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in their quarantine facility before working at the Buffalo Zoo with their education animals. She then returned to Orlando to continue to work in the Animal Nutrition Center before spending a few months working at Discovery Cove as an aquarist, and most recently moving to her current position at The Seas.

One of Katie’s favorite parts of her job is having a positive or mind-changing conversation with guests! Having someone change their opinion from being afraid of an animal, or not knowing about them, to being fascinated with the animal makes her day. If you are trying to break into animal care, Katie advises that you should be flexible and always open to learning new things! There are many different ways to accomplish a goal or finish a task, and we’re finding better and more welfare-focused ways every day. Also, be willing to move and give up holidays to work with the animals- it’s not like other jobs!