Growing up in Randolph, Stephanie White participated in 4-H and spent a lot of time outdoors, gardening and camping on her grandparents' farm. In high school, she and her mom become certified scuba divers together.
"After we did a few trips with the diving, I knew exactly what I wanted to do," she said, influenced by her time spent diving and being around animals.
She graduated from Ohio University with a degree in marine biology and environmental science. She moved to north Florida for about 12 years and worked for state agencies, researching fisheries, sea grass and water quality.
"I was always out in the water, diving, [or] out in the boat, doing research," she said. "I would be at sea for anywhere from a day to a couple months."
Yet she missed her family, and they missed her. Then one day, her grandmother called her about a new opportunity.
"When it was first announced on the news that Cleveland was getting an aquarium, my grandmother called me and said 'Oh you're going to get to come home. You have to apply for this job,'" she said.
Because of that call, White now works as curator for the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, which opened January 2012.
She said her time in Florida "gave [her] an appreciation for having an aquarium and bringing [her] field experience then into a controlled environment such as an aquarium."
As curator, she manages the maintenance, the aquarists and the nine-person dive team. Maintenance covers general repair and life support systems to maintain the animals' healthy environments. The aquarists are in charge of daily animal care, also known as the husbandry, and includes animal feeding and health, water quality and exhibit maintenance. The dive team works in the tanks, vacuuming the sand, observing the animals to make sure they are healthy. They also dive to entertain guests, dressing as skeletons around Halloween or "Scuba Santa" at Christmas.
She also helps with the conservation committee, doing beach clean-ups at Edgewater Beach at Lake Erie and tracking spotted turtle in Northeast Ohio.
However, she doesn't get to spend as much time with the animals as she would like, but she still interacts with them.
"I'm in charge of all of their care, so it helps for me to get downstairs and do some hands-on too," she said. "Whether it's feeding or if I get in the shark exhibit and do a dive with the divers, just so that I can keep myself refreshed and see if there's any issues going on."
White said she enjoys bringing her passions to the aquarium to give people a chance to see animals they have never seen before.
"Everyday when there is a school group or a family that walks by and the kids are so engaged in the exhibit and the fish, that really is a passion of mine to help to educate people about what is under the ocean," she said.
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