Biracial (Filipino/ Irish)
Aquatic Programs Keeper & Dive Safety Officer
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
Year zoo career began:
Ramon Villaverde is an Aquatic Programs Keeper and Dive Safety Officer at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium where he is responsible for the daily care of tropical saltwater animals in the aquatic area of the Shores Department. A typical day for Ramon includes doing observational checks on the animals and the life support equipment that keeps their aquariums running, preparing animal diets, performing daily maintenance on aquariums, and completing records in the zoo’s computer system. Ramon’s current work focuses on caring for rescued corals because of a project partnership through the AZA and Florida government agencies called the Florida Reef Tract Rescue Project (FRTRP). To counter the threats to corals caused by widespread stony coral tissue loss disease, AZA facilities like the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium are holding the corals as a genetic bank for the survival of the species, and Ramon is very proud to be part of the project. Ramon also spends half his day doing tasks for his Dive Safety Officer position that include diving, checking other dives to see if protocols are being followed appropriately, completing equipment maintenance, and training staff.
Ramon grew up in a small town in Eastern Ohio with lots of woods, and he spent time playing in the streams catching animals like snakes, fish, turtles, and crayfish. Ramon attended the University of Akron where he received a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and Ecology. While in college, Ramon became a Docent Volunteer at the Cleveland Zoo and worked at a local pet store that had freshwater and saltwater aquatic animals. In his junior year of college, Ramon had the opportunity to work with macaws in Costa Rica at a facility called Amigos De Los Aves. After earning his degree, Ramon continued working at the pet store while completing aquarium maintenance for businesses and personal homes and while working at SeaWorld Ohio as a maintenance diver cleaning large animal pools. After a few months, Ramon began working as a seasonal aquarist as well. After working all four jobs for a year and a half, Ramon accepted a full-time position at Discovery Cove in Orlando, Florida, as one of the opening staff. His responsibilities included collecting fish from Florida reefs for the facility and caring for the animals in quarantine. Ramon transferred to the SeaWorld Orlando park where he worked with a variety of aquatic species including amphibians and reptiles. After working for SeaWorld parks for five and a half years, Ramon became a Senior Aquarist at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. He received his SDI Scuba Instructor certification while working at the zoo and has been teaching classes since 2009.
Ramon’s favorite part of his job is learning something new about the animals he cares for, especially when breeding them and rearing their offspring. He advises aspiring aquatic keepers to network and take every opportunity to volunteer or work with organizations that work with animals and people you have an interest in.