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Keeper Week: David Hersl

The Aquarium is home to an astonishing array of plants and animals. In celebration of National Zookeeper Appreciation Week, we’re introducing you to some of the talented team that keeps our living collection healthy and thriving!

Published July 24, 2015

Meet David Hersl, Aquarist, Jellies/Living Seashore

How long have you been at the Aquarium?

I started volunteering at the Aquarium in Jellies in August 2012. I was hired as an aquarist assistant in July 2013. In January o2014, I was hired as a full-time employee.

What interested you in pursuing your current career path?

I have always been interested in wildlife and nature (particularly anything aquatic). When I was five years old, my parents moved into a house on a creek on the Chesapeake Bay. That’s when it all started. I learned to fish, crab, boat and anything else you can imagine on the water. I have a passion for fishing and am an advocate for sustainability in the sport I enjoy most. Working with the sea nettles that stung me every summer only seemed fitting for me.

Briefly describe your day-to-day:

Each morning I harvest brine shrimp for the jellies to eat. I check to make sure all of the systems are operating properly and are at the correct temperatures. I spend most of the morning scrubbing exhibits and making sure they are ready for the public. After the Jellies exhibit is open, I go to the jellies lab. I do the same thing there, feed and clean tanks. Depending on the day, I make time for projects and other odds and ends. In the afternoon, it’s more of the same. I feed a second time, make sure all of the systems are running properly and then do closing checks before heading home.

What’s your favorite Aquarium memory?

My favorite aquarium memory is a tough one to pinpoint. I’ve been able to do a lot of interesting things here, but I will narrow it down to two. My favorite memory on-site was when I was able to successfully culture and display my first Atlantic sea nettle. I was able to raise it from the very beginning stage all the way through adulthood. My favorite offsite memory would have to be releasing rehabilitated sea turtles with Jenn Dittmar, our manager of Animal Rescue, in Jacksonville, Florida. Even though I was not involved with their recovery, it was very rewarding and encouraging to release them back into the ocean and watch them swim away.

Tell us about the next big project you’re working on.

I am currently working on a project to improve and maximize our warm water jellyfish culturing. I am designing a system to maximize as well as organize our polyps. This will make it easier for me to increase strobilation (jelly reproduction) as well as ensure more animals make it to adulthood.

What’s your favorite animal?

My favorite animal is a thresher shark. They have always fascinated me. I like how they are able to stun their prey with their long caudal fin. My hope is to one day dive with them.

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