SARASOTA – Being in the same tank with sharks is a worst nightmare for many of us, but for 28-year-old biologist Amando Hodo, it’s just another day in the office.
As an African American woman, she forges a career that she hopes will change trends in the industry.
She can be found feeding sand runners and black nosed sharks with blue runners, mackerel, and herring at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota each morning, but despite their reputation, these sharks can be picky eaters.
“Some of them like certain types of foods more than others. So if I have the kind of fish that they don’t really want this morning, they just swim by,” Hodo said.
Even as a child, Hodo wanted to work with animals, especially those that live in the ocean. Ironically, she attended college in the Midwest near her hometown of Chicago.
“Was in the middle of the Iowa cornfields, far from the water, and I couldn’t stop thinking about aquariums,” Hodo said.
So she did an internship at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, which eventually led to a full-time position as a biologist. One of their many jobs is training sharks.
“You’re very food-driven, just like me, so it works really well,” said Hodo. “We can monitor exactly how much they are eating. We actually give them vitamins so we can track their vitamin intake.”
She said working closely with sharks can be challenging, but she is used to overcoming obstacles.
“Minority women are not common in this area, and minorities are generally not common in the field of aquarium biology,” Hodo said.
She said one of the best parts of the job is interacting with young girls and minorities. She takes on the responsibility of leading the way for a whole new generation of scientists.
“Can hopefully serve as someone to look up to, someone that kids can see, like, ‘Oh man, she looks like me. Maybe I can do that, ”said Hodo.