Leigh Clayton

Leigh ClaytonAs the vice president of animal care and welfare, a typical day for me includes overseeing any necessary animal procedures, checking on the animals, and dealing with any emergency cases that arise. My staff and I often give tours or have shadowing veterinarians and veterinary students to interact with. Outside of work, I love outdoor activities that take me to the water or up into the mountains. I think that it is important to be outside where there are plants, animals, water, rock, and sky.


What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wanted to be the owner of a world-famous riding stable.

What did you study in school?
Although I earned my undergraduate degree in political Science, I went on to study veterinary medicine at Tufts University and earned post veterinary school specialty certifications in avian medicine and reptile/amphibian Medicine.

How did you get started in your field of work?
I was interested in going to graduate school and liked working with animals. Veterinary Medicine seemed to offer a clear job at the end but it was also very flexible with lots of different paths in career development.

At the Aquarium

How long have you been at the Aquarium?
8.5 years.

I love what I do because...
At the end of the day, we’re taking care of amazing animals. This is just rewarding to me. Plus it is interesting… there is always something new to learn, something that has never been done before. That’s pretty cool. Finally, the zoo vet profession is filled with people doing the job they do because they have a deep passion for it. They are smart people who could have succeeded in other ventures that would pay a great deal more and likely have more reasonable hours. But they picked this. They are an engaged, interesting, tight-knit community. What we do means something to us!

Most memorable moment at the Aquarium
I’ve loved watching one of our dolphins, Beau, grow and develop!

Fun Facts

Originally Stow, Massachusetts, although, I now call Severna Park, Maryland my home!

Favorite Animal:
There is no way to pick just one. I do tend to favor animals that were species I worked with early-on in my career when it was all new and amazing. But, really, they are all interesting. I love doing work that touches on how animals learn. It’s an amazing system conserved across all species. This system is truly one of the most amazing developments on the planet.

If I could be anywhere in the world right now, I would be...
In Argentina, particularly Patagonia. I have wanted to travel there for years and see the amazing geography and animals of the region.

If you could have any other job at the Aquarium for one day, what job would it be?
I think it would be interesting to shadow the CEO for a day, so that I could get a better sense of the needs of the overall institution, beyond just my own area.

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