Krystel Lacasse-Aubin is an energetic ball of fire, a smile on two legs who finds her happiness in caring for animals. She has an endless passion for fish and everything related to the marine world. For this animal health technician, Aquarium du Québec is a great playground wherein to make a big splash each and every day!
Krystel has always loved animals. At the age of four, she already said she wanted to become a veterinarian! A bookworm, Krystel leaves the library after each visit with encyclopedias on animals and marine ecosystems, weighty tomes from which she copies out passages word for word, with drawings to boot. "When I was 11 years old and made one of my first visits to Aquarium du Québec, I told my parents that one day I would work here," she recalls.
Her ”Krystel ball” didn’t mislead her! She started working at the Aquarium in 2016, at the age of 18, while studying animal health at Cégep de La Pocatière. Informing and entertaining visitors at the Aquarium’s stingray tank and Coastal Zone, providing guided tours behind the scenes… she even played the role of a fairy at the legendary Festilumières!
A passion…for blood tests
After working as an aquarist and a facilitator/guide, she became an animal health technician, a job she still holds today. Administering treatments to animals, injections, x-rays, preparing the material for a fish operation… Krystel loves everything that touches the medical world. No two days are alike and that’s what she enjoys most about her profession. At the Aquarium, she’s in her element… like a fish in water!
But what she adores most of all is taking blood. "I love seeing the blood go up the needle! After drawing blood from an animal, I feel like I've just gone for a run; it gives me such a high," confesses Krystel. “It's difficult because you can't see their veins like in humans. You have to use palpation or anatomical markers, as if operating with your eyes closed."
To gain the trust of creatures such as walruses and seals, she participates in their biomedical training. She accompanies the marine mammal trainers during routine examinations or certain procedures, all so that the animals recognize her. She also sometimes gives them rewards so that they don’t systematically associate her presence with treatment that’s less than pleasant.
An unusual job
Of course, the profession of animal health technician is pretty exotic, especially at the only aquarium in Québec. And what does it take to do this job? “A good technician knows what she’s doing and sticks to what she knows. If you aren’t sure where to insert a needle in a creature, you don't do it, you ask for help. You have to swallow your pride, because you don't know everything," she explains.
The other key asset is curiosity. " You have to stay abreast and keep your antenna up. There's a lot of information on the Internet and in encyclopedias, and you can also attend lectures by specialists," she asserts. In her opinion, working in a shelter or an animal boutique and doing observation internships in zoos are good ways to gain experience.
A thirst for learning
Krystel has this need to learn more and more. Recently, while assisting the veterinary team with the beak and claw trimming of Junior, the hyacinth macaw, she learned that its anatomy has some really amazing features.
Another example of her curiosity? Our technician keeps abreast of advances in treatments to improve wound healing in fish. In fact, veterinarians in Australia have obtained interesting results by adopting new methods that could well be tested at the Aquarium.
Since the Aquarium's residents are constantly changing, there’s no shortage of challenges. In the next few months, new fish will make their debut in the Deep Sea Pavilion.
Krystel and her animal health colleagues will have to prepare quarantine plans to ensure that the fish are healthy and do not contaminate fish already there. They will also develop a diet for each new species.
Another challenge awaits her: the arrival of sea otters and new seal species. "I love this challenge! Plus, sea otters are huge. I can't wait to take on all sorts of tasks, especially the blood sampling! Since this is a species we've never had at the Aquarium, we have to learn all there is to know about these marine mammals." The Louphoque project will see the light of day in 2024.
Her dream: to become a veterinarian and a diver
Since Krystel loves diving and already has her full scuba certification, she aspires to join the Aquarium's team of divers in the near future. By participating in the various cleaning and feeding tasks at the Deep Sea Pavilion, she could detect sick fish, those with wounds, and those that are amorphous or that are not feeding properly.
Her other dream is to become a veterinarian, although Krystel admits that she prefers to wait a little longer before doing so. "It could be part of my retirement plan, as I want to finish founding my family first. I love to learn and I love school, so I’d like to pursue these studies above all to expand my knowledge," she explains.
Given her passion and her future career prospects, Krystel will never be a fish out of water!