Erik waves during a scuba dive into the aquarium at the Oklahoma Trails Big Rivers building. Dives are made for cleaning and maintaining the environment and checking up on the health of the fish.
Name: Erik Kalen
Title: Animal Area Supervisor, Aquaticus
Tenure at the OKC Zoo: 7.5 years
Residence: Midwest City, OK
1. What are your primary responsibilities at the Zoo?
Maintaining all aquariums in healthy and thriving conditions, creating a great aquarium team so all animals in the Zoo are given the best care possible.
2. When did you know you wanted to be a Zoo keeper?
I have always had the knowledge that I would be working with aquatic animals in one form or another.
3. Pick an animal in your area and tell us a fascinating or little-known fact about that animal.
I have always enjoyed the strange and unusual fish species. I find it very interesting that many fish can actually drown in water! We exhibit three species here which are classified as "Obligate Air Breathers." The giant Asian snakehead, African lungfish and the electric eel are exhibited here at the Zoo and all breathe oxygen to survive.
4. What do you love the most about your job?
Every day is not the same and things are always changing, from babies to corals reproducing - all days are different. I never lay in bed and dread going to work and that is a wonderful thing! I am very grateful to be working for the Zoo.
5. What is your favorite Zoo memory from when you were young?
One would be when I would visit relatives in Tulsa and would be taken to the Zoo. I was in awe of the sharks; they were small nurse sharks at that time. Later as an adult I was scuba diving with those same sharks that had grown to approximately 325 pounds each!
I am from Kansas City, Missouri and currently live in Midwest City. I have a degree in Ichthyology (the branch of Zoology dedicated to the study of fish) and a degree in Wildlife Biology, with minors in geology and chemistry. I am currently working towards my Master's Degree in Ichthyology. I worked at a veterinary clinic in high school and have also worked for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Tulsa Zoo & Living Museum. I enjoy kayaking, scuba diving and motorcycling. I like to go on "catch and release" wilderness fishing expeditions. I have a wonderful family and a fantastic son who is eight years old and is a budding paleontologist.