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Bailey Dawson
Manager of Education Programs and Operations

Hello – My name is Bailey Dawson and I am the Manager of Education Programs and Operations here at Georgia Aquarium. I have been working at the Aquarium for two years.

What inspired you to choose this career?

I have always worked in the education field. However, I really wanted to do something different. I wanted to have an opportunity to impact student learners on a larger scale. I also wanted to provide students with the ability to see and experience the world and its oceans. Georgia Aquarium gives me the ability to accomplish all of these things and so much more. Each year, the education department is able to reach some 200,000 youth through various education programs, summer camps, STEM Camps, and Education Partnerships.

What was your degree/major in college?

Bachelor of Science in Health Education from Alabama State University

Master of Education in Instructional Technology from Kennesaw State University

Education Specialist Ed.S. in Educational Leadership from Kennesaw State University

What are some things you do each day in your job?

Well, one of the beautiful things about my job is the fact that no 2 days are ever the same. My day can consist of a whole range of activities and adventures. However, normally I participate in a variety of meetings that help shape the direction and future of the Education Department. We can discuss things such as funding opportunities, obtaining education partnerships, as well as the daily operations of the department. My day is also often filled with lots of kids. Each year we normally see upwards of 175,000-180,000 visiting students and groups. Therefore, I also oversee the safety of all of our staff and visiting students.  

What is your favorite part about your job?

My favorite part of this job is being able to see the joy on the faces of each and every student that walks into GAI. Being able to witness children experience things that I didn’t get to experience as a child brings me so much joy. 

What advice would you give to anyone interested in a similar career?

My advice would be to keep your options open. You never know where the smallest opportunity will lead you in the future. There is no direct route to happiness or success. You have to find the path that you want to take and then beat that path. Gain as much experience in various situations, as you can never predict what may help you along your journey.

What type of education/training, technical knowledge, or experience is necessary for this kind of work?

Someone would need a working knowledge of the current formal education landscape. It’s important to have an understanding of your target audience. One should also be able to apply State and National Science Standards to the work that is done within the department. It is also very important to understand STEM/STEAM and how to integrate those practices into our everyday operations.

What type of interests, abilities, and skills would help a person to be successful in your occupation?

Understanding formal and informal education. A working knowledge of standards-based learning. Understanding 21st Century Learning. Great organization skills. Leadership development skills. Understanding classroom management. Ability to gain a growing knowledge and understanding of marine science.

What is your favorite part about working at Georgia Aquarium?

My favorite part of working at GAI being able to interact daily with the staff that works here within the building. I enjoy talking and laughing with all of my co-workers here at GAI. I am motivated every day by seeing the work that the staff does in their respective departments. The staff dedicates so much time and energy to allow the building to operate with such efficiency.

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Kerry Gladish 
Executive Assistant, Mammals and Birds Registrar, and IACUC Administrator 

Hello – My name is Kerry Gladish and I am the Executive Assistant, Mammals and Birds Registrar, AND IACUC Administrator here at Georgia Aquarium. I have been working at the Aquarium for over 16 years.

What inspired you to choose this career?

Since I was a kid, I was obsessed with sharks - whale sharks, in particular, were my favorite.  I was also lucky enough to live near Sea World growing up, so that was my career aspiration- to get into animal husbandry.  As far as becoming an Executive Assistant, my inspiration was my kids.

What was your degree/major in college?

B.S. in Environmental Sciences

What are some things you do each day in your job?

My daily duties include organizing various field activities for our research and conservation teams, coordinating inter-departmental communications, coordinating zoological operations and animal health travel, and assisting with administration needs.  As a registrar, I’m responsible for assuring all record-keeping and governmental protocols are followed regarding mammal and bird acquisitions and depositions. As IACUC administrator, I assist the committee with application procedures, researcher training, and coordination of inspections.

What is your favorite part about your job?

Sometimes I get the opportunity to participate in various field activities, like free swimming with dolphins and assisting with manatee health assessments. 

What advice would you give to anyone interested in a similar career?

In administration, I’d say keep your finger on the pulse of the departments you work for and step in where you can help. As an aquarist, get all the experience you can get. Whether that is volunteering, internships, anything you can do to get experience and understand the animals you work with.

What type of interests, abilities, and skills would help a person to be successful in your occupation?

You need to love the water and be comfortable in it. Being detailed oriented and flexible will also help you to succeed, that goes for any job at the Aquarium. It’s also good to familiarize yourself with whatever department you work with.

What is your favorite part about working at Georgia Aquarium?

The ocean is a part of my soul and my first love. I’m lucky enough to have kept my connection to it throughout my careers, and I’m equally lucky to work with people who share the same admiration for the aquatic world as I do.

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Sam Herman
Manager of Guest Programs

Hello – My name is Sam Herman and I am the Manager of Guest Programs here at Georgia Aquarium. I have been working here for almost three years.

What inspired you to choose this career?

Visiting aquariums when I was younger got me interested in the ocean. After going to school and exploring different marine biology options I tried an education internship at an aquarium on the Outer Banks. I fell in love with the idea of inspiring others to care about the ocean the same way I did and decided that was the best path for me. Now, 15 years later, this is the fourth aquarium at which I’ve interned or worked, and I still love it!

What was your degree/major in college?

I went to Northeastern University in Boston and majored in Biology with a concentration in Marine Science.

What are some things you do each day in your job?

Every day I learn something new and get to solve problems for my team and our guests. The less glamorous aspects of my day are things like creating schedules, budget planning, and lots of meetings but those are all important and play into the overall success of the team. I also get to spend time in the Aquarium teaching both my team and our guests about our animals and how we are connected to the ocean.

What is your favorite part about your job?

My favorite part of my job is getting to be creative in solving problems. Georgia Aquarium is a big place and I have a large team, so things change all the time. Especially over the last year, things are changing constantly! I really enjoy the challenge of coming up with solutions that benefit the guests, my team, and the Aquarium overall. 

What advice would you give to anyone interested in a similar career?

Stick with it! The aquarium field, in general, is really competitive and it can feel difficult to break into it. It’s a field where you really have to put your time in, but if you’re dedicated and patient things will work out.

What type of education/training, technical knowledge, or experience is necessary for this kind of work?

The great thing about a department like Guest Programs is that as long as you’re comfortable talking to the public you can be successful. A background in science is always going to be helpful and training, or experience in public speaking, is great but to get started in this field the passion for the ocean and for teaching others is really the most important thing.

What type of interests, abilities, and skills would help a person to be successful in your occupation?

You need to care about the ocean and you need to care about people. Strong public speaking skills, time management, delegation, and flexibility are all skills I rely on every day. On top of that, in this role you need to have an understanding of mission-based interpretation, which is a way to combine the interests of our guests with the mission of our institution into a fun and educational experience.

What is your favorite part about working at Georgia Aquarium?

Georgia Aquarium is such a different experience than working at other aquariums. It’s huge, for one thing! We have animals no one else has and we see more guests than just about any other aquarium year over year. The opportunity to inspire that many guests is really special, and I think we can have a huge impact because of that.

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Dr. Lisa Hoopes 
Director of Research, Conservation and Nutrition

Hello – My name is Lisa Hoopes and I am the Director of Research, Conservation and Nutrition here at Georgia Aquarium. I have been working at the Aquarium for 11 years.

What inspired you to choose this career?

Since a child, I have always loved the outdoors and the animals within wild spaces. Growing up in Michigan, my sister and I spent our summers on the lake with my grandparents, which cultivated a life-long love of the water. Watching documentaries with Jaques Coustous, Eugenie Clark, and Sylvia Earl made me want to be a marine biologist.

What was your degree/major in college?

Bachelor of Science in Zoology, Michigan State University

Master of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries, Texas A&M University

Doctor of Philosophy in Wildlife and Fisheries, Texas A&M University

What are some things you do each day in your job?

Design and participate in compelling research both at the aquarium and in the field, analyze data, read new research, share our research results with our guests and other scientists.

What is your favorite part about your job?

Every day brings something different. New questions to answer, new puzzles to be solved. 

What advice would you give to anyone interested in a similar career?

Follow your passion. Talk with others who are working in a scientific field you find interesting. Learn more about the different job opportunities within your area of interest. Volunteer. Take that chemistry class you’ve been avoiding!

What type of education/training, technical knowledge, or experience is necessary for this kind of work?

A masters or Ph.D. degree are recommended for positions within research, as these programs teach the technical skills required to think critically and ask good scientific questions, collect sound data and analyze it, and present your findings to the public and scientific community.

What type of interests, abilities, and skills would help a person to be successful in your occupation?

A curious mind is a must! Scientists are curious about the world around them. Persistence. Scientists often have to repeat experiments or one finding leads to another set of questions, and the cycle continues.

What is your favorite part about working at Georgia Aquarium?

I am lucky to get to work with an AMAZING collection of animals every day, both onsite and in the field. It’s my dream job!­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

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Manager of Marketing Events and Partnerships

Hello – My name is Roger Montiel and I am the Manager of Marketing Events and Partnerships here at Georgia Aquarium. I have been working at the Aquarium for ten years.

 

What inspired you to choose this career?

My whole family is rooted in hospitality; my parents and sisters have all worked for the airlines. We have been a service-oriented family my whole life, so it was very natural for me to fall into a hospitality role. When I was in school I was a resident's assistant and a hall director, and when I left college and got my first professional job, I worked in student housing. The hospitality aspect of working with students and their families is what I enjoyed most. So when the opportunity came for a job at the Aquarium, I naturally fell into a hospitality role.

What was your degree/major in college?

Bachelor of Science in Business Administrator with a concentration in Marketing and Advertising from the University of Miami

Masters in Education from Florida State University

What are some things you do each day in your job?

As part of my role at the Aquarium, I'm responsible for planning our revenue-driving and fundraising events. That includes events like our Red White and Brew, a popular program called Sips Under the Sea, wellness activities like Yoga by the Water, and our kid-friendly activities like Toddler Time. My favorite activity and program to plan is our New Year's Eve party because it's such a big celebration the years we are able to do it. It's a lot of fun, it's high energy, we have music, good food and the guests are really here to have a good time.

What is your favorite part about your job?

After working here for ten years, I have had the opportunity to serve in several different roles. I started as a sleepover staff member, then moved into managing the guest programs team, then the guest services team and now I work with marketing events. I have really enjoyed getting to work in a lot of different facets of the Aquarium and with a lot of different teams that involve the overall guest experience. One of the most rewarding things I've experienced is seeing those moments come together with our guests. Whether that's a wedding, a marriage proposal, a birthday, or even just celebrating an occasion like New Year's Eve or Fourth of July, or having a good time on a Friday night during a Sips Under the Sea event - seeing those moments finally come together is just so rewarding. 

What advice would you give to anyone interested in a similar career?

My advice if you have a passion for hospitality and serving people, is to gain experience. Whether that be working at a theme park, hotel, or even here at the Aquarium. That experience working and interacting with guests will give you the knowledge to succeed in any type of service-oriented role.

What type of interests, abilities, and skills would help a person to be successful in your occupation?

Planning events is a lot of details, so you have to be really detail-oriented and organized. Whether that's coordinating food, or entertainment, or space. It's a lot of fun work, but it's really teamwork so you have to be able to work with a lot of other teams and coordinate a lot of moving parts.

What is your favorite part about working at Georgia Aquarium?

My favorite part about working at Georgia Aquarium is being a part of special moments in people's lives. One of my favorite memories is, while we were closed due to the pandemic, we were able to put together a live Zoom session with our sea lions and some kids from Make-A-Wish. We were able to still grant some of their wishes of meeting a sea lion and their trainers, even though they couldn’t come to the Aquarium. That was a really special moment because, not only did these kids get a fun experience, but we were able to feel the joy it brought to them and their families during a hard time.

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Carly Pope 
Senior Manager of Content and Development  

Hello – My name is Carly Pope and I am the Senior Manager of Content Development at Georgia Aquarium. I have been working here for just shy of ten years.

What inspired you to choose this career?

My enthusiasm for science and the natural world, coupled with my talent for writing and communications.

What was your degree/major in college?

Creative Writing and Anthropology

What are some things you do each day in your job?

Every day can be different! That’s one of the things I like about this job. But I would say confidently that every day I create new content for communicating to the public interesting information about an animal and its conservation. This might be for a sign, an audio tour, or any other Aquarium medium. Another thing I do pretty much every day is review material that will be used in guest communications, for example, Educational programs, to ensure it’s up to date and in line with our goals as an institution.

What is your favorite part about your job?

My favorite part of my job is the moment I see a guest read and understand an animal sign or id I wrote. To see someone learn something new about an animal, and by extension, the world around them, through something you created is very rewarding. 

What advice would you give to anyone interested in a similar career?

Hone your writing and editing skills, create and keep up-to-date a portfolio with your work, and create ties with places you would enjoy working through volunteering and internships! Don’t be afraid to intern or volunteer in a department or role that isn’t exactly what you’d like to pursue – it’s at very least a foot in the door with other professionals, and potentially may introduce you to a new passion!

What type of education/training, technical knowledge, or experience is necessary for this kind of work?

Technical/practical talent for writing and editing in many different mediums is very important. I would say a close second to that is having a high comfort level with shifting priorities and being able to balance multiple goals for any given project.

What type of interests, abilities, and skills would help a person to be successful in your occupation?

Interest in the always-changing nature of science, research and conservation, a passion for communication, patience and the ability to change priorities on a dime.

What is your favorite part about working at Georgia Aquarium?

Seeing the animals all the time! Nothing beats getting to work early in the morning and walking through the empty galleries, seeing all your favorite animals swim by.

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