Rick Quintero

Saving salamanders one PVC elbow at a time.

Saving salamanders one PVC elbow at a time.

My job: Conservation Plumber

Real title: Animal Keeper, Reptile Discovery Center (RDC), Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park

Education: B.S. in Biology from University of Maryland.

How I help save sallies: I specialize in all things aquatic. At the zoo, I designed and built the tanks for our hellbenders and their cousins, the Japanese giant salamanders.This means I also get called in when there’s a water-related problem (everything from water quality issues to leaky tanks), or when a new system needs to be set up. Right now I’m spending a lot of time at the zoo’s new Seals & Sea Lions Exhibit. Maintaining good water quality in a new exhibit can be a challenge, especially when you’re working with animals that eat fish and sometimes regurgitate their food. But it definitely keeps my job interesting!

Best salamander story: Last Halloween I took my daughter, Reese, to visit our Haunted Salamander Lab during Boo at the Zoo. She seemed a little nervous stepping into the lab (I don’t blame her – that witch looked freaky!). But she became super excited when she saw all the hellbenders swimming around in their tanks, and she eagerly grabbed the giant hellbender model to pose for a picture. Now she finally knows what her dad does all day…

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