SHARKS, CROCODILES, SPIDERS AND SNAKES ...AND AUSTRALIA
(Did that get your attention?)
Career Corner---calling all ANIMAL lovers!!!!!
It's not too early to start thinking about a topic you might want to explore for the 4th quarter research paper. Many many students through the years have expressed their desire to find a profession that somehow deals with animals.
This led me to contact Brett DePoister, another one of my Holy Guardian Angels students who also is a Central Graduate.
Brett now lives in AUSTRALIA
(no, I didn't go there, but maybe some day...)
but he kindly answered the questions I emailed him.
I was planning to paraphrase his responses, but he did such a wonderful job himself, I didn't feel the need to alter a word.
Here's Brett, and his interview:
1. First, what exactly were the animals that used to live in your bedroom at your old house?
This is not a very easy question to answer as there were many! Anything that most people consider creepy and crawly was in my bedroom! It all started when I was in kindergarten - with newts, which are aquatic salamanders from there the collection grew and I had iguanas, skinks, geckos, chameleons, tarantulas, mud puppies, frogs, and the list goes on…. The collection got to the point where I literally had no room in my bedroom. At one point I was sleeping on the couch in the living room because of such a large collection. My very supportive parents allowed me to refurbish our basement into a “reptile and amphibian breeding facility” so I could return to my room!
2. When did you graduate from Central?
3.What was the title of the science fair that led you to the National Fair? (Any details about that ....)
I attribute much of my success and where I am today to the required science fair projects at HGA and CCHS. I embraced my love of frogs, interest in science, and school requirements to develop a research project that examined the world-wide problem of abnormalities in frog populations. Ultimately frogs are like the canary in the coal mine, and they are bio-indicators of the environment. Large population declines and abnormalities (such as extra legs, not enough legs, multiple eyes, etc) were being found worldwide. The cause was not known, in many areas pollution was suspected to be the problem. My parents were always supportive in my interests and at the age of 15 allowed me to travel to Australia by myself to work in a lab that was trying to discover what was causing these problems. During my stay there I developed my science fair project which received international attention: presented at two International Science and Engineering Fairs, the Stockholm Junior Water Prize sponsored by the Royal Family of Sweden, and the Intel Science Talent Search.
The title of my project was: “The effects of Zinc and Diazinon on the Embryonic Development of Xenopus laevis” Here I looked at two common environmental pollutants (zinc used in many industrial manufacturing products and batteries and diazinon is an insect killer) on the development of a frog – in summary they are bad!
4. Where did you attend college? Major? Year of graduation?
I attended Stony Brook University in New York on a full scholarship. My major was biology with a minor in neurobiology gained through completing research in nerve regeneration in zebra fish. I graduated in 2003.
5. What was your first position after college?
Career choice after college was not a straight forward path. During college I became involved in a start-up company that created customised software for science college professors and also provided tutorial services to college students. After I graduated, I put my love of animals on the back burner and devoted my time to this company. Entrepreneurship, the hope of being the next Google or Facebook and billions led me down a different path – the reality of working for a start-up company is long hours and depending on the funding no pay. I persisted for over three years, even working night jobs loading Fed Ex trucks to the pay the bills – there was always light at the end of the tunnel of making it big but we never got there. My, now wife, also worked for the company, when we were on our honeymoon we had a major life evaluation and decided to pull the plug on the start-up company. My love of animals and science prevailed and I decided to apply for veterinary school – this too was not a straight forward path. Long story short two months after our honeymoon we packed up our bags and dog and moved to Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands in the Caribbean to attend St. Matthew’s School of Veterinary Medicine. After a year of study and lots of SCUBA diving the opportunity to move to Australia arose and in 2008 I returned to Australia to study veterinary medicine at Murdoch University in Western Australia.
6. I feel like you always knew what you wanted to "be" even in middle school...is that accurate? Is the position you have now close to what you envisioned?
I really am living the dream. I always wanted a profession that I worked with animals, especially the unusual ones. My current role as a veterinarian for The Aquarium Vet allows me to look after and care for all of the animals that have been a lifelong fascination.
7. (I'm getting a little ahead of myself). Where do you live now? For how long?
I currently live in Melbourne, Australia. I have been in Australia for just over nine years now. I arrived on a student visa, after my wife completed her masters in Australia we qualified for permanent residency, and in 2016 my wife and I officially became citizens of Australia. America and Australia relationship allows dual citizenship, so we are still also US citizens, along with our two children we have eight passports so when travelling I feel like we are in the Bourne Identity!
8. Where do you work? What do you do?
I work for The Aquarium Vet and we provide to veterinary care to public aquariums, research facilities, and government controlled fish import facilities. I am primarily based at Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium in city centre Melbourne.
9. Is there a typical day for you?
Driving into work I never know what my day is going to be like. At the aquarium I look after all the animals from small one inch fish, three metre sharks, our 16.5ft and 1700 pound saltwater crocodile, and king and gentoo penguin colony. Day to day I provide preventive medicine – i.e. keeping the animals nice and healthy and preventing disease. I also play a role in maintaining the welfare for all the animals held in a captive environment. I am also involved in developing reproductive techniques in sharks – with the ultimate goal of protecting wild shark populations, which unfortunately are experiencing rapid population declines. I also look after and rehabilitate sea turtles that are found sick in the wild in Victorian waters.
10.What is most rewarding about your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is helping the animals. At the end of the day that is why I went to vet school, directly related is educating the public. Many of the animals that I look after and love, are not perceived in the same way by the vast majority of the public. Sharks, crocodiles, spiders, snakes etc are such amazing creatures and are so important to our ecosystem. Teaching the public to appreciate these animals and protect the environment they live in is rewarding.
11. What are the biggest challenges?
In vet school we received a very through education on how to treat a dog, cat, horse, cow, chicken, etc. Treating animals outside of the norm comes with its own challenges – especially those that are not terrestrial and live underwater. Aquarium vets are constantly presented with challenge that we need to come up with solutions. Very often we cannot open up a textbook for the answer.
12. Do you envision something else in your future?
Nope. I really am living the dream.
13. How did you meet your wife? Where did you get married? Your children's names and ages?
I met Ada in college at Stony Brook University. We had mutual friends throughout school, but during our senior year we were in the same sign language class (language requirement) and the rest is history. She has been so supportive with my career path. She encouraged and supported our international moves while at the same time studied and worked on her own career – she received her masters and CA in accounting and now works in resourcing for an international accounting firm. We now have to children, Tyler – my birthday buddy (same birthday as mine) and will be three this year, and Viera is 1.5 years old.
14. Do you have any advice for students who want to explore your field?
Get involved. The animal industry as a whole is a very completive industry – there are a lot of people that want to work with animals. Veterinary school is very competitive, not only do you need the grades but you need to show initiative. Vet schools want candidates that have been involved – volunteer at your local veterinary clinic, wildlife rehab centres, participate in school projects. Don’t look at the science fair as a burden – embrace it and come up with a project that you are passionate about!
I knew Brett since he was younger than you, freshmen. He really did know what he wanted to do even then. The lesson learned, obviously, is that you CAN achieve your dream. Notice his advice: Get involved, show initiative, volunteer, and see school projects as opportunities to learn.
THANK YOU ,BRETT DE POISTER FOR YOUR TIME AND WILLINGNESS TO SHARE....AND THE WORLD SHOULD KNOW---ONE OF THE NICEST, KINDEST GUYS I KNOW --- THOSE ANIMALS ARE LUCKY!