Student Royanne Grafstrom-Westlund recently scored the opportunity to attend the Aquatic Animal Life Support Operators conference on a student scholarship following an exemplary score on the AALSO level one certification, in conjunction with her experiences in the aquarium lab.
The AALSO conference has long been an opportunity for those in the aquarium business to share their knowledge and equipment with each other. Students offered a scholarship to attend create posters that describe their experience with AALSO and their school’s aquariums for a poster session. Grafstrom-Westlund leaves March 24th for the trip, which includes numerous talks and trips to area aquariums and zoos.
While attending the conference Grafstrom-Westlund said she will “have the opportunity to make connections in the aquarium business, and learn commercial aquarium tips and tricks.” She added “I’m excited to meet the other students attending the event and learn about their schools and programs.”
Moving up at in the aquarium lab
Grafstrom-Westlund has held numerous positions in the aquarium lab over the last few years, though now she’s working on testing a health matrix on the octopuses.
Earlier this this semester, the aquarium lab took in an octopus that was in poor condition. Grafstrom-Westlund’s job has been to reference a beta Giant Pacific Octopus health matrix to assess the health condition of that octopus, as well as of all the other octopuses in the care of the lab.
For Grafstrom-Westlund an average day includes basic maintenance and care of the aquarium, ranging from water changes and quality testing to glass cleaning and simply trying to feed the aquarium.
“Octopuses will try to steal your feeding tool and squirt you,” Grafstrom-Westlund said, adding she also contends with, “Crabs who steal food and trying to lure the sightless brittle star out of hiding are all tasks we tackle every day, with much joy.”
Grafstrom-Westlund said one of her favorite memories of working in the lab involves another aquarist opening Darwin’s tank for a feeding.
Darwin got excited and projectile squirted across the entire room to where I was standing in the doorway,” Grafstrom-Westlund said. “I was drenched, my hair looked like I had just taken a shower, and I smelled like salt water all day.”
Before her time in the aquarium lab Grafstrom-Westlund post-graduation plans were completely different. Her time in the lab inspired her to change her major to Marine and Environmental Science with a concentration in Aquarium and Animal Husbandry. Post-graduation she hopes to work at the Sea Life Center in Seward or an aquarium in Hawaii.
“I hope students will be inspired to take the Aquarium Biology class, volunteer in the aquarium, or at least stop by to see Darwin and Sprite once in a while,” Grafstrom-Westlund said. “The more involved I’ve gotten in the aquarium, the more drive and direction I’ve had in my final years at APU.”