Anne Benolkin is the first APU student to complete her AAUS Aquarium Diver certification at the Alaska SeaLife Center. Through a directed study in Aquarium Diving and Husbandry in spring 2016 at APU, Anne gained skills in dive husbandry, dive safety and logistics, public communication, aquarium practices and natural history. Following is an excerpt of her experiences:
“When I was nine years old my Girl Scout troop went on a field trip to the Seward SeaLife Center. I stayed up half the night too excited to sleep, and the whole experience felt magical. Sixteen years later I still love going to the SeaLife Center, and this semester I got the opportunity to be a part of that magic. Through an independent study course in aquarium diving at Alaska Pacific University I got to become part of the team of skilled and qualified aquarium divers. On my first dive, I was particularly excited to learn that a large female wolf eel was one of the tank residents and that we would be hand-feeding her to condition her to swim back and forth between divers to receive food rewards.
Conditioning animals can be fun for exhibit purposes but it also helps caregivers. For example, the birds are conditioned to hop up on a scale for a food reward, so that their weight and health can be recorded. In the subsequent months, I did twelve dives totaling over six hours of bottom time in the three habitats: seabird, harbor seal, and sea lion.
Responsibilities included clearing shells from the bottom, cleaning algae off the glass, and siphoning the bottom of the tank. Diving in the tanks at the SeaLife Center has been one of the more noteworthy experiences of my life and I was thrilled for the opportunity to take part”. – Anne Benolkin
Since graduating in spring 2016, Anne has been accepted for a summer internship at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.