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Ken Howell

Ken HowellAs the Curator of Rain forest and Australian Exhibits (Upland Tropical Rain Forest, Amazon River Forest, Australia: Wild Extremes)I start my day early with an exhibit walkthrough to make sure everything is running smoothly. I keep a close eye on all our plants and animals to make sure that all our amazing species are flourishing! When I’m not at work, I enjoy gardening, reading natural history books and hiking with my dogs.


What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I have always wanted to work with plants and animals. When I told my school guidance councilor that I wanted to be a herpetologist, she had to excuse herself to go and look up the word ‘herpetologist’!

What did you study in school?

How did you get started in your field of work?
I have always kept plants and animals at home. As a child my room was filled with snakes, parrots, turtles, and a host of other animals. When I graduated from college, I packed the car and headed for Florida. My first paid animal job was at a primate facility which kept over 50 species of primates in its collection.

At the Aquarium

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

I love what I do because...
I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do. The study of biodiversity is incredibly fascinating. I have tried to develop an understanding of life on Earth by studying living organisms, and also by examining the evolution of those forms through time. Working with a diverse plant and animal collection allows for this continual learning experience.

Most memorable moment at the Aquarium
Our pair of screaming pihas producing a chick for the first time. While common in nature, pihas are rare in collections and few people have observed the nest building, egg laying and eventual chick rearing process. My most memorable moment was observing the piha chick for the first time. With a single-parent rearing strategy and the resultant need to remain camouflaged, piha chicks are most unusual and barely resemble baby birds at all.

Fun Facts

Hometown: Center Moriches, New York

Favorite Animal:
This is like asking a parent to choose a favorite child! I am very much drawn to unusual forms or those that have unusual and/or non-traditional life histories. Within our collection, sloths have become a favorite of mine and we have had three babies born right here in our rain forest. Young sloths are most peculiar looking and resemble sock puppets with push pin eyes and sharp little teeth. Who doesn’t admire an animal that sleeps 20 or more hours a day?

Three things you never leave home without?

  • Coffee (or the means to procure it)
  • My knapsack, usually with a good book in it
  • A mental plan as to how I think the day will go (P.S. - It never goes the way I think it will go!)

One lesson you wish you'd learned earlier in life?
I love this quote from the late surrealist painter Leonora Carrington: “Life should be lived with one eye plunged into a microscope and the other eye plunged into a telescope”. I try to live my life with a focus on the details but at the same time never losing sight of the big picture.

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