Candace Rupert ‘18 is truly living the motto of Saint Francis University, “Become That Someone.” Candace remembers falling in love with the ocean when she was in second grade and presented a research project on stingrays. From that moment on she knew she wanted a career in helping save the ocean and all of its inhabitants. Candace chose to attend Saint Francis with a double major of Aquarium & Zoo Science and Biology with a Marine Biology concentration.
Candace has fond memories of taking care of a California stingray named Hooper in the SFU marine lab. “She was brought into the Marine Lab to be trained for my honors research thesis on stingray cognition and food preference,” says Candace. “I really miss spending time in the lab and taking care of her.”
After graduating, Candace interned for the Walt Disney Company at the Seas with Nemo and Friends in EPCOT. She was an intern with the aquatic research team where she assisted with dolphin cognition sessions, data input and analysis, monitoring the behavior of resident animals, assistance with a coral rehabilitation project, and analysis of dolphin acoustics.
Honored as a Hero
Another way in that Candace has “Become That Someone” was when she was recently honored with the Disney Heroes Award. In June 2018, just weeks after starting her internship, Candace saw a young mother, who was pushing a stroller in the Animal Kingdom parking lot, get struck by lightning during a severe thunderstorm. The impact put the woman in immediate cardiac arrest. After getting the child who was in the stroller to safety, Candace began to administer CPR until the woman was breathing on her own and an ambulance could take her to the hospital. Thankfully, the woman did survive. “It is the most meaningful award I have ever received,” says Candace. “I would recommend that everyone of all ages should take a CPR course to learn the skills. You truly never know when you may need to use those skills.”
In January 2019, Candace began working as a marine mammal intern at Disney where she cares for two West Indian manatees and three Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. “One of the greatest parts of my job is that I get to connect with hundreds of people from around the world every day and share our conservation messages with them,” says Candace.
Advice to Others
“My best piece of advice to anyone considering a career in this field would be to apply yourself and to not just do the bare minimum,” says Candace. “The field that I am pursuing is very competitive, and you need to distinguish yourself from other potential job candidates. What will set you apart will be your experience. Working in the lab, participating in research, volunteering at a shelter, or interning at a zoo, aquarium, rehabilitation center, or nature center will be very beneficial. Internships allow you an opportunity to test if a career choice is really for you.”
If you are looking to work at an aquarium, Candace recommends taking advantage of the many diving courses offered and getting as much diving experience as possible. CPR and first aid skills are also beneficial to have when applying for positions, as it is often a requirement. Another important thing to take into consideration regarding a career in the animal care field is the emotional side. “This field can be very emotionally difficult,” says Candace. “There are going to be days where you lose an animal, which will always be tough. But in the end, it’s very rewarding to know the work I’m doing will help protect the ocean and its inhabitants for future generations.”