She Can “Talk To The Animals”
Allison Tuttle ’98 grew up thinking she wanted to train marine mammals, but it was a humble turtle that put her on the path to becoming head veterinarian and Director of Animal Care at Mystic Aquarium, a division of Sea Research Foundation in Mystic, CT. During a high school internship at New England Aquarium, she shadowed a veterinarian who was treating a painted turtle for an eye wound. “It hadn’t dawned on me that there were people who did that job,” she says. “That was the ah-hah moment for me.”
Tuttle double-majored in psychology and biology at Washington College, shadowing and interning with local veterinarian Michael Forney at Chestertown Animal Hospital to get as much hands-on experience with as many animals as possible. She attended veterinary school at North Carolina State University for its strong aquatic program, then did a post-graduate internship in aquatic animal medicine and research at Mystic Aquarium. After a zoological medicine residency focusing on aquatic health management back at NC State, her previous mentor at Mystic retired and hand-picked her to take over.
Tuttle’s daily work includes routine check-ups on everything from beluga whales to poison dart frogs, as well as treatment and rehabilitation of wild animals like sea turtles and seals that have been injured or stranded. Though turtles of all kinds remain her favorites, she particularly enjoys working with the aquarium’s African penguins. “They remind me of toddlers. They are opinionated, they don’t like to share, they have temper tantrums if they don’t get their way, but they have a lot of personality so it’s really fun to work with them.”