Taking the classroom to the aquarium

By Caroline Haviland

Students in Marine Ecology with Gabriela Smalley had the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey, earlier this semester. 

Smalley, an associate professor of earth and chemical sciences, came to Rider in 2004 with a background of research in plankton ecology. She takes her students in this higher level marine course on the aquarium trip every year. 

For her other lab courses, she has brought students to various places, like a local research institution that does climate and ocean modeling, to get them out into different settings. 

“Showing them different options of what they can do with a marine science or environmental science degree is important. They could go into research in graduate school or into environmental consulting or aquarium-type careers,” said Smalley. “These trips are hands-on which is easier to learn from to see what others do in the field.”

Grace Mangold, a sophomore marine science major, was very excited to be one of the participants on the trip, as she felt it was a great experience that allowed her to learn what it would be like to work at an aquarium

Mangold added on to this, saying, “I was in complete awe of how well kept everything looked, and how big was the variety of sea creatures.”

The tour guides gave the students in MAR 401 a look at any sick animals being kept in “quarantine tanks,” said Smalley, to prevent a spread of disease. 

Additionally, they were shown a room designated for the reproduction of jellyfish for the aquarium’s public exhibits.

The aquarium tailors its tours for different age groups; for these students, they were provided with a career-geared inside look, as many of the participants desire to eventually work in the setting. The students got to see the food supply for the sea creatures, the water treatment operation that filters the tanks and the area that most of the staff works in.

“The tour guides did talk to us a little bit about the hands-on opportunities available through an internship there which was really great,” said Smalley. “To get even a little bit of an idea of what things look like behind the scenes and what type of work would be involved is good for them to know.”

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