Alumnus of the Month: July 2007
Todd Gardner '04
What is your edge (strength)?
Enthusiasm for my work. I love what I do!
What at Hofstra gave you your edge?
I had the freedom to research whatever I wanted. I was given the latitude to choose a problem that was of interest to me, and focus my work on that. The freedom to focus on something of interest to me definitely helped prepare me for my career.
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
Fish are my specialty! More accurately, it is aquaculture – the raising and propagating of marine life. Prior to attending Hofstra, I worked on a commercial fish farm in Puerto Rico, developing technology for the production of new ornamental fish species.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
I am still working at my first job post-Hofstra – at Atlantis Marine World Aquarium as an aquaculturist. I use my experience to help produce marine life for Atlantis and other aquaria across the United States. The most valuable thing I have learned at Atlantis has been how to work on the very large marine systems – the enormous tanks [like the shark tank] with huge plumbing systems. I have also been able to continue my research on seahorse nutrition at Atlantis and publish various scholarly articles on the subject.
What is the single most rewarding experience in your career thus far?
My work allows me to have experiences that most people never have, even on vacation! On a recent collecting trip in North Carolina, I was swimming in the middle of the Gulf Stream in clear blue water, observing passing sharks. I recall thinking, “What other job would pay me to do this?” It really is a fantastic opportunity.
Who in your field do you most admire?
Dr. Eugene Kaplan, former biology professor at Hofstra.
What was your major?
I was a biology graduate student.
What was your favorite class?
What is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
Late-night study sessions with people from my Ichthyology class in the basement of Gittleson Hall – sometimes we would be there all night, and just get up and go to class in the morning!
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
I have to use three – full of opportunity!
What advice would you give current students?
Take advantage of the opportunities you have at Hofstra. Once you are no longer a student, life will change a lot. Take the time to do well and get good grades, because it ends up being important in the long run. Figure out how to study – learn what works for you, and discipline yourself to do it. You CAN work hard, get A’s, and still find time to have fun. You’ll find you enjoy life more this way!
How do you balance work and life?
There is a very hazy line between the two for me – my work IS my life. I take work home with me, since a lot of what I do at work would be my leisure pursuits anyway. One of the ways I balance the work I love with other pursuits I enjoy (I am an avid runner, gardener, and I play in a band) is to cut certain things out of my life that are time eaters and aren’t as important to me, like television.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I always have several plans. I’ve been thinking for a long time about moving south to continue pursuing my work in aquaculture. In my field, winters are rough on marine/reptilian/amphibian life and, like the animals, I prefer a mild winter, or none at all. I will probably eventually end up pursing a Ph.D.
You’ve taught at Hofstra as an adjunct professor of biology. How have you found teaching, as opposed to being a student here?
When I was a grad student, I was teaching freshman- and sophomore-level biology lab sections. Teaching presented some challenges that I wasn’t completely prepared for, but I enjoyed the experience very much. A memorable teaching moment for me at Hofstra was trying to corral one very vocal student who inserted a vulgarity into a class discussion. The turn of phrase actually was relevant to the conversation, and therefore somewhat appropriate – while being totally inappropriate. Teaching presents all kinds of gray areas like that!
What current research are you conducting for Atlantis Marine World?
I am currently conducting small aquaculture-related experiments. Whenever we get eggs or babies from our fishes or invertebrates, it is my job to hatch them, raise the animals, and document their growth and development. Our collection activities produce data which I compile for research reports. My continued research on seahorse nutrition is presented at aquaculture conferences every year. For several years now, I have also been collaborating on lionfish studies with NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration), as I was the first person to identify baby lionfish in the Fire Island inlet on Long Island.
What is your favorite part of working with the marine life at Atlantis?
I really enjoy watching the animals grow. I am constantly learning more about the animals each day – learning first-hand about the different marine species and how they adapt and survive in their environments.
Todd Gardner has been studying marine life since he was old enough to walk. He has an extensive background in marine sciences and has written numerous scientific and popular articles about his research and experiences collecting, keeping and culturing marine organisms.
In 1993 he graduated from East Stroudsburg University with a Bachelor of Science in biology and marine science. After graduation, he spent a year working for Blue Earth Films, assisting in the production of a National Geographic Explorer feature film about coastal marine life. Todd spent the next three years at the world’s largest marine ornamental fish hatchery, where he worked on developing technology for the production of new marine species. In 1998 Todd left commercial aquaculture to pursue a Master of Science in biology at Hofstra University, where he completed a thesis on the early nutrition of the lined seahorse, Hippocampus erectus.
Todd is currently working as an aquarist at Atlantis Marine World, where he cares for a number of exhibit tanks, leads collecting expeditions, and continues his aquaculture research behind the scenes, supervising the aquarium’s aquaculture program. In his spare time, Todd photographs marine life and is a member of a blues band.