Caption: Hamish Tristram, Picture by James Knowler.
Henry BuddDiving alongside a hungry 3.5m, 200kg shark isn't most people's idea of a stress-free day, but for Sydney Aquarium's senior aquarist Hamish Tristram it's all part of a day's work. Three times a week, he gets into the tank alongside the aquarium's grey nurse, lemon, reef and wobbegong sharks for feeding time.
"All the sharks are fish-eating sharks," Tristram says. "The grey nurses are large and imposing looking but don't see you as a food item."
That's not to say feeding them isn't dangerous and divers do run the risk of being bitten if they make mistakes.
"The grey nurse shark has a very fast snap," he says. "The shark doesn't want to bite you, but if you're holding a fish you certainly have to calculate where it's going to snap, and how fast."
Part of the job is to collect fish for display. "The sharks will, from time to time, eat fish in the exhibit and that is something we have to continually top up," Tristram says.
Aquarists are also responsible for cleaning and maintaining the aquarium's tanks and systems.
"On any given day, I can work with any of the animals here from seals to fairy penguins to sharks," Tristram says. "Some days you find yourself in your wetsuit most of the day; other days you might dry out a bit."
Despite the toll on the body, Tristram loves his work. "I get the train home [with] people in suits who have probably being sitting at a desk, and I think, `I'm pretty lucky -- today I was hand-feeding a shark and I got to pat a seal and feed a fairy penguin'," he says.
How to be an ... Aquarist
Qualifications: Hamish Tristram (pictured) says most aquarists study marine science at university. Marine scientists study the oceanic and coastal environments. The fields of research for students include the physical and biological aspects of the broad marine environment.
Course description: Some universities offer marine science as a specialist degree, while others offer it as a major as part of a general science degree. The course is generally three years full time. Students typically study general science subjects, such as chemistry, maths and geoscience, in their first year before specialising in an area of marine science, which can include topics such as marine biology or marine geography.
Costs: Undergraduates can expect to pay $7118 per year, government-supported. Tuition fees are reviewed annually and may be varied during the period of study. The exact fees may depend on the specific units of study in which you enrol.
Assumed knowledge: Students are expected to have studied HSC maths and chemistry. Taking other science subjects such as geology is also recommended.
From the inside: Students should also look to get a diving licence. "We do have dive instructors here on staff who can get employees up to scratch, but usually we would source people who have a diving history and have their ticket," Tristram says. "We legally have to be rescue and scientific divers and most of that advanced training is done on the job."
More information:http://www.usims.org.usyd.edu.au, www.marine.unsw.edu.au
Dear Ms. Jacobs
When I saw the ad for an Aquarist at the nationally known Pacific Aquarium I rushed to submit my attached resume for your review and consideration. With a degree in Marine Biology an internship at the Springfield Aquarium and five years experience as an Aquarist at the Columbus Zoo I would bring my expertise and love of the field to the Pacific Aquarium.
In my current position at the Columbus Zoo’s Aquarium I am responsible for maintaining exhibit aaesthetics and water quality acquiring specimens feeding and maintaining animal health developing the education training and media relations and assisting in the design and installation of new exhibits. My efforts in these areas have elevated the Zoo’s reputation to compete with other larger aquariums in terms of visitor interaction and satisfaction as well as the variety of specimens available for viewing by the public.
I understand that my primary focus as an aquarist is care-giving by ensuring that life within the aquarium is conducive to the plants and animals that the creatures have all the need to live well and that the exhibits and displays remain clean for public viewing.
I look forward to your call to discuss how I can contribute to the already stellar reputation of the Pacific Aquarium. Thank you for your time and consideration.