Biracial (Chinese/ Caucasian)
Year zoo career began:
Karisa is an Associate Veterinarian at the Shedd Aquarium where she works with a team of veterinary professionals to provide care for 32,000 individual animals ranging in size from a neon tetra to a beluga whale. She works with trainers and keepers daily to make sure the animals are in the best health possible. On a day-to-day basis, Karisa may be doing wellness exams, providing emergency care to animals in need, or checking up on patients with ongoing concerns. She also conducts research to improve the lives of animals within and outside the aquarium and spends time teaching veterinary students, veterinary technician students, and veterinary residents.
Karisa grew up mostly in Northern California where she spent time volunteering as a teen docent at the San Francisco Zoo and had a paying job as a receptionist at a veterinary hospital. She graduated from UCLA in 2009 with a degree in biology, and while in college Karisa working in a small animal veterinary hospital and completed unpaid internships in wildlife rehabilitation and wildlife conservation research. Karisa graduated with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from UC Davis in 2014, after which she completed an internship in small animal emergency and specialty medicine in San Diego and another internship in aquatic animal medicine at the Vancouver Aquarium in British Columbia, Canada. Karisa completed a three-year residency with the Illinois Zoological and Aquatic Animal Residency (University of Illinois, Chicago Zoological Society, and Shedd Aquarium) and earned a master’s degree in veterinary clinical medicine focusing on herpesviruses in South American pinnipeds.
Karisa’s favorite part of her job is when she is able to relieve an animal’s pain or discomfort. She especially loves when an animal is trained to participate in their own healthcare, which means that they don’t view a visit from the veterinarian as a particularly stressful experience. Every day, she is grateful to work with the animals and people at her job and would never have chosen anything else. Karisa advises aspiring zoo or aquarium veterinarians that the road to this career is long and winding. There are many, sometimes unavoidable, obstacles along the way. If you have persistence and support, you can do it, but it’s important to understand the required sacrifices and constantly question yourself about what is best for you. Reach out to the people who have the career you want- you never know when they can turn into an important mentor.