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Name: Tish Hannan

Job title: Displays Department Supervisor

Location: SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium

Area: Animal Care

Tish Hannan - Displays Department Supervisor SEA LIFE Sydney

Career journey:

I have a bachelors degree in biology, specifically genetics and evolution. I spent a year in Paris as a tour guide after university and when I got back to New Zealand I luckily secured a penguin keeper role at Kelly Tarlton’s. I’ve always wanted to work with animals, so penguin keeper seemed like a good fit!

When SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium announced they were starting a new penguin exhibit I knew I wanted to be involved. Since moving to Sydney I have had the opportunity to run not only the penguin teams but also the Dugong and parts of the Aquarist team as well, which has been a huge help to diversify my skill set.

Current role?

The main role of an aquarium is to educate the public on the conservation needs of the animals we look after. It is my job as the Displays Department Supervisor to make sure that message is being delivered to the best of my ability through the care, innovation and development of the display areas. On a typical day first thing in the morning we check all the penguins, this includes all the sub Antarctic King and Gentoo penguins in the Penguin Expedition exhibit and our adorable Little Penguin colony as well. We then clean both exhibits which takes around 3 hours with a team of 5 people and bringing in between 2 - 4 tonnes of fresh ice every day.

Best part of working for Merlin?

I think the best thing about working for Merlin is it gives you so many opportunities to further your career in so many different countries. I’m one of those people that loves experiencing new places and it’s great to know that I can work for a company that has supported me moving  to new Merlin locations.

Most memorable experience?

My favourite part of my role is the volunteer work we get to do with NSW National Parks and Wildlife service. Recently we had a day where a group of us went to a site to redevelop the area for the Little Penguins of Manly to use! This is the colony of mainland Little Penguins left in NSW so it’s such important work and could really make a difference for them. It mostly involves a lot of weeding and planting and very little to actually do with penguins but it’s extremely satisfying to see the site before and afterwards!

Timeline in Merlin:

  • Displays Department Supervisor at Sea Life Sydney Aquarium: Present
  • Senior Penguin Trainer at Sea Life Sydney Aquarium: September 2016 – August 2018
  • Penguin Keeper at Sea Life Kelly Tarltons Auckland NZ: May 2015 – September 2016


  • Bachelor in Science, majoring in Biology at Auckland University