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National Aquarium Promotions in Animal Science and Welfare Department


The National Aquarium announced today the promotions of several members of its Animal Science and Welfare department. Previously called Biological Programs, the newly formed Animal Science and Welfare department and team advancements reflect the Aquarium’s dedication and commitment to the care of animals, ocean conservation and aquatic ecosystem health. Dr. Brent Whitaker has been promoted to senior vice president, chief science officer; Dr. Leigh Clayton to director of animal health and welfare; Jill Arnold to director of laboratory services and research programs; and Dr. Kat Hadfield to senior veterinarian. Additionally, Jack Cover will transition to general curator of living exhibits.

“The well-being of each and every animal at the National Aquarium is at the forefront of our entire organization, especially the Animal Science and Welfare department,” said Dr. Brent Whitaker. “Our goal is to continue to deliver compelling exhibits with the highest standards of animal care for those who reside here permanently and those who’re being rehabilitated to return home.”

As the leader of the newly named department, Whitaker will plan, direct and manage activities of all related programs, including husbandry, research and animal health and welfare. He also serves as a member of the Leadership Team, directing the organization’s strategic vision and priorities. Whitaker is a veterinarian and has been with the Aquarium for 26 years.

In her new role as director of Animal Science and Welfare, Clayton will manage the animal health team and expand the animal welfare program. She will work closely with all Aquarium departments to ensure that the well-being of the Aquarium’s animals is appropriately understood, prioritized and incorporated. She will also lead the Animal Rescue team. Clayton, a veterinarian, has worked for the Aquarium for 12 years.

As director of laboratory services and research programs, Arnold will further develop and direct the National Aquarium’s scientific study efforts. She will work with key internal and external stakeholders to ensure that the organization remains on the forefront of research, data analytics, translation and impact. Arnold’s tenure with the Aquarium spans over 30 years.

As senior veterinarian, Hadfield will now oversee the clinics and the preventive medical care of animals in the Aquarium and in the Animal Rescue program. She will also conduct clinical and conservation medicine research in aquatic animal health and serve as the primary manager of all veterinary training and mentoring programs. Hadfield has worked for the Aquarium for 12 years.

Cover will transition to general curator of living exhibits. On behalf of the Animal Science and Welfare department, he will provide expertise and guidance for the development of new exhibits and the renovation of existing exhibits. Using his many years of experience in developing recreations of natural habitats, Cover will ensure that National Aquarium exhibit standards are maintained in all exhibits displaying live animals. He has worked for the Aquarium for 29 years.