Student Stories: Fisheries grad swims with sharks

By Cassidy Holmes
April 11, 2013

To most people, swimming with sharks in an enclosed area would be terrifying, but to Jenifer McAndrew, it is just another day on the job.

"People ask if it is scary being in a tank with 13 sharks, but the truth is that we over-feed them, and they are so used to divers in the tank that they don't see us as any type of threat or food source," she said.

The Brockway, Pa., native works as a husbandry aquarium technician at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island near Manteo. She helps take care of the fish and sharks there by cleaning the tanks, preparing food and feeding the animals. She also participates in the dive shows.

"In a dive show, the divers communicate to an educator with a group of visitors outside of the tank," she said. "The visitors ask questions, and we answer them from inside the tank. While half the dive team is doing the dive show, the others are cleaning."

McAndrew graduated from Penn State in May 2011 with a degree in wildlife and fisheries science. She worked as a summer camp educator at the Brandywine Zoo in Wilmington, Del., until her current job opened. Before she could take the position, though, she needed to earn her scuba certification, which is a requirement for the aquarium.

"When I saw a position had opened at the North Carolina Aquarium, I applied because I had done an internship there the summer before my senior year," she said. "I loved living on the Outer Banks, and the people at the aquarium were all so nice."

Not only has she interacted with unusual animals, such as sting rays, nurse sharks and sandbar sharks, she also has done a lot of hands-on work with some of the reptiles and amphibians that live in the aquarium.

"This job has given me the opportunity to experience things most people never get to," she said. "It also has taught me more about marine and coastal animals than book learning ever could."

Learn more about the Wildlife and Fisheries Science major.

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    McAndrew noted that sharks in the tank are overfed and are so used to divers in the tank that they don't see them as any type of threat or food source.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated April 12, 2013