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Keeper Week: Josh Leisenring

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 20, 2016


Meet Josh Leisenring, Senior Horticulturist, Australia: Wild Extremes

How long have you been at the Aquarium?

I've been at the Aquarium for a little over five years.

What interested you to pursue your current career path?

I have always had a keen interest in wildlife and the natural world as a whole ever since I can remember, and early on made it a goal to ultimately work in a field that would allow me to utilize and also cultivate my interests.

Briefly describe your day-to-day.

As a horticulturalist at the Aquarium, my day generally begins with scheduled watering around the Australia: Wild Extremes exhibit, as well as some routine cleaning before the exhibit opens.  Any special projects I have for Australia will also be attended to at this time.

After the Aquarium opens to the public, I then generally will water and care for plants in my backup spaces and check in on the green roof before moving out to the Waterfront Park for the rest of the morning.  On the Plaza, I will water a few spots that are off the irrigation system, prune, tidy up, and also work on any special projects I might have going there.  

After lunch, I will conclude the day continuing to work on what special projects I might have on the Plaza or in Australia backup, and prepare for the next day.

What’s your favorite Aquarium memory?

One of my favorite memories is of having to run around on the green roof with a bucket trying to carefully catch up mallard ducklings to safely take them down to the ground level,  all while being comically attacked by the mother duck.  I imagine it made for an entertaining sight.  Also, any time we have animals born on our exhibit is amazing.

What’s your favorite plant to work with?

My favorite plants to work with right now are probably the new Maryland carnivorous plants that just went into the Piedmont habitat on the Waterfront Park.  I am also very fond of pretty much any plant that I have propagated myself and have been able to watch grow from seed to thriving mature plant.

Are there any specific challenges you face with the green roof and Plaza?

Before the green roof transition to Maryland native plants, it was definitely a challenge to keep the weeds under control.  Since we started seeding it with native plants, though, they have done a much better job of squeezing out the weed species than I could ever have done by hand weeding.

As for the Plaza, my primary challenges are currently keeping up with the rapid growth of many of the plants to keep them from extending too far beyond their habitats, as well as keeping up with damage done by some of Baltimore’s more infamous native wildlife.

What's the best part of your day?

The best part of the day might actually be just sitting around the office table with the rest of the Australia crew during lunch and experiencing the bizarre directions our conversations might take!

What advice do you have for someone hoping to pursue a career similar to yours?

Don’t let what might seem like setbacks in your career path discourage you too much.  You would be surprised how seemingly unrelated jobs and experience can eventually lead you back around to where you originally wanted to be, as long as you don’t lose track of your ultimate goal and remember that a little bit of patience can carry you a long way.

Stay tuned as we highlight more staff for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! 

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