Beyond Living the Dream: Psychosocial Dimensions of Working in a Modern Aquarium
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Reynolds, Jennifer Olivia
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This research explores the psychosocial dimensions of a poorly understood profession: the professional aquarist (fish caretaker) in a modern aquarium. Using a qualitative and psychoanalytically-informed methodology, this study explored how aquarists at the Vancouver Aquarium navigate and negotiate any tensions, dilemmas and stressors they experience in their work, including public scrutiny of their occupation, the stressors and traumas inherent in caretaking work and the political, social and organizational challenges specific to the Vancouver Aquarium. Through interviews with five professional aquarists using the Dialogic, Relational Interview method, a thematic analysis illuminates the complexity of the work, including sources of resilience and the forms of defensiveness such as defense mechanisms and coping strategies the aquarists appeared to employ to stay functional. Findings suggest that aquarists experience moral distress regularly throughout the course of their work, often leading to feelings of ambivalence and guilt, and increasing the occupational risk of burnout.