Exciting Encounters

By 27 years old, she had her dream job—diving with sharks—and Andrews helped!

Meet Jennifer Janssen, senior aquarist at the Georgia Aquarium and alum of Andrews University. For more than four years, Jennifer has worked in the 6.3 million gallon “Ocean Voyager” gallery, caring for the world’s largest collection of whale sharks and manta rays in the world’s largest marine habitat. But that’s not all; Jennifer also cares for a variety of jellyfish from around the world in the “Tropical Diver” gallery.

The Daily Routine—Far From Boring

Jennifer’s day begins by taking water samples to the lab for analysis and doing rounds on the exhibits to check animal health and life support systems. She also maintains exhibits (diving in some of them), prepares animal diets, feeds animals and manages water quality in addition to a variety of other projects.

"In Florida and Taiwan, I’ve babysat amazing animals like whale sharks, manta rays and bowmouth guitarfish."

She participates in animal physicals, field research, collecting and animal transports. She’s also been a part of a diving/coral survey project with Georgia Technical Institute and the Environmental Protection Agency on the Ocean Survey Vessel Bold, as well as being sent multiple times to Florida and even Taiwan.

Janssen tends to "favor the smallest and least-noticed animals in the aquarium.” Though she loves the underwater life at the aquarium, she claims that one of the best things about her job is the people.

From Andrews University Back to the Aquarium

It was “seeing their passion for all things biology” that attracted Jennifer to the professors in the Andrews University Department of Biology. After Jennifer completed her undergraduate studies,  she decided to pursue her dreams and education at Andrews. She worked closely with Jim Hayward, research professor of biology, and David Steen, professor of biology, and maintains strong friendships with them today.

"Jennie is one of the most upbeat, enthusiastic and energetic graduate students with whom I worked—a pleasure to be around,” says Hayward. “She's passionate about marine life, particularly sharks and marine mammals."

"The greatest influence that studying at Andrews has had on my professional career was simply surrounding me with mentors and colleagues within my field of study that helped me shape my view of the world and how we go about living in it as Adventist Christians," Jennifer says.

My favorite aquarium animal is Lucille; a 2.5” bright yellow mantis shrimp.

In 2007, Jennifer graduated from Andrews University with a Master of Science in biology and was hired as an aquarist at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tenn, and later joined the Georgia Aquarium team.

Outside of the water, Jennifer enjoys quilting, playing oboe in a New Horizons band and volunteering as a sound engineer at her local church.

All Things Biology

The same department that helped Jennifer on her path to success can help you on yours. Our biology program integrates Christian values with academic excellence. The nationally recognized program, curriculum and award-winning faculty can advance your interest in not only sharks, but biomedical science, behavioral neuroscience, botany, zoology…and much more.

Go to andrews.edu/biology to find that path.