May 09

Getting to Know Discovery Cove's Supervisor of Aquarium, Denise Swider

by Staff

Want to know what fish just swam by while you’re snorkeling at Discovery Cove in Orlando? Just ask Denise Swider, Discovery Cove’s very own fish girl. Passing up a suit for a wetsuit back in ’93, Denise is now the Supervisor of Aquarium, working not only with hundreds of species of fish, but even rays and sharks!

What’s her latest project? Selecting the fish that will make up the park’s new area, The Grand Reef, set to open this June. Denise and her team have been busy developing everything from habitat design to the correct water chemistry for the more than 10,000 residents who will make the reef their home. With more than 150 different species of fish, including eels, lionfish and zebra sharks, The Grand reef will be a great addition to the already amazing, all-inclusive Discovery Cove.

We sat down with Denise and asked her a few questions, here’s what she had to say:

What’s the coolest part of the new reef?
The fact that you’ll be able to see aspects of the reef at different levels is something new and cool -- snorkeling through deep water, wading up to unique exhibits or viewing from above while staying dry. The lionfish exhibit will showcase these dangerous animals, safely behind glass, while also helping the natural environment. How? Lionfish have infiltrated the Atlantic and Caribbean waters and are rapidly growing in numbers, making it dangerous to the indigenous species in the area. In an attempt to help conserve the native species, all of the lionfish cared for by Denise and her team at Discovery Cove have come from the Atlantic and Caribbean to help the situation.

What does your job involve?
Besides conservation efforts and constructing new habitats for thousands of fish, Denise works on a daily basis to ensure that water quality, plumbing and life support, diet, habitat and all other aspects of the fish world are taken care of.

What does Denise like best about preparing the fish for the new reef?
For Denise, having the chance to work with some of her favorite newcomers, such as broomtail wrasses with their beautifully colored tails that look like the base of a broom, or the rooster hogfish that can change their color to display their mood, is the experience of a lifetime.

On your next visit to Discovery Cove, be sure to explore The Grand Reef. And if you spot Denise, ask her to point out her favorite fish!