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On the Banks
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60 Seconds

My Fine-Feathered Friends

 

Pam with penquins
Alumna Pamela Schaller is a senior aquatic biologist at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Photography by Jock McDonald

Pamela Schaller DC’91

As a senior aquatic biologist at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, what do you do?
Mostly I care for captive animals—from invertebrates to southern white rhinoceroses to African penguins, which I’m now specializing in. However, I consider myself more of a naturalist.

What is the status of the African penguin?
When I first started working with them, in 2000, the population was 179,000; today, it’s 52,000. So they are on the endangered species list. I’ve raised penguins from embryos to when they begin to mate themselves. 

You majored in economics, concentrating in environmental science. When did you know this line of work was for you?
While working at the Catalina Island Marine Institute, I found I didn’t mind putting on a wet suit and diving at night in cold water. I loved it, every day was different, and every animal was new to me.

You must have a lot of variety in your job.
I’ve been handed projects like, “OK, you need to get these sharks out of this 64,000-­gallon tank. We need you to set up a truck. We need you to drive the truck.”

Do you have a fish tank at home?
I live on a sailboat. I live on top of a fish tank.
                                                                             — William Abernathy