From Reading Jaws to Running Renowned Aquarium’s Lab
NOT MANY KIDS find their lifelong calling in the third grade—even fewer find it by reading Jaws.
Growing up in Southern California, eight-year-old Laurie Shaw (‘03, Fisheries Biology) picked up a copy of the book that inspired the blockbuster film. It was the first time she’d heard the term ichthyology (the study of fish), and she was immediately hooked.
It was the beginning of what would become her lifelong passion for marine biology. She began writing down the scientific names of fish on Post-it notes and affixing them to her bicycle so she could memorize them on the way to school and to friends’ houses. By college, she had a singular vision to work with fish at Steinhart Aquarium, the California Academy of Sciences’ world-renowned aquarium in San Francisco.
It was no surprise that Shaw chose to major in Fisheries Biology at Humboldt State. During her time at HSU, she worked both in the marine lab and on the research vessel, soaking up as much information as possible. Her drive did not go unnoticed; she had three aquarium job offers during her senior year.
Soon after graduation, Shaw landed her dream job at the California Academy of Sciences in 2005 as the aquarium’s sole lab manager. Today she is the head of the museum’s animal health department, where she and her team of seven—the aquarium “pit crew” as they like to call themselves—are in charge of the museum’s 48,000 living creatures that include fish, birds, penguins, frogs, butterflies, alligators, and, of course, sharks.
Every living creature that enters, lives in, and leaves the museum goes through Shaw’s department, where it is registered, quarantined, fed, treated and protected during its stay.
“My time at Humboldt State was key in preparing me to achieve my goal of working in marine biology, and especially at Steinhart Aquarium,” Shaw says. “It really is achieving the dream I’ve had since I was a young child.”