CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Sophia Timmons grew up in Dallas, and would take trips to different Sea World camps when she was younger. She said the care and passion the trainers had towards their shows and the education of the public inspired her to want to work with dolphins when she got older.
Timmons was so eager to work with dolphins, in fact, that it influenced her decision to attend Texas A&M-Corpus Christi for college.
“While I was at orientation, I realized that the campus is on the ocean and that there’s a really great aquarium nearby," she said. "One of my goals when I first started college was to come to the Texas State Aquarium and join their volunteer team, and that’s really how I got started."
Timmons did volunteer at the Texas State Aquarium, logging more than 900 hours of volunteer work over three years.
“While I was volunteering, I got to feed different sharks, jellyfish, turtles, with our Fish and Herpetology team and our Bird and Mammal team. I got to get to know our sloths and our flamingoes, and all the birds they have at the aviary. So, it really was just a great introduction to how an aquarium functions, and everything it takes to take care of all of these animals,” she said.
Over the course of all those hours, she didn’t spend any time with the dolphins at the aquarium, except for one day that solidified her goal.
“I got to shadow the dolphin team for a day, and that sold me," she said. "I called my mom right after that, and told her what a great day I had, and how marine mammals was something that I really did want to work with."
Timmons graduated from TAMUCC in December 2019. One year later, her dream came true as she was hired by the Texas State Aquarium as husbandry assistant for the Marine Mammal team.
“It was fantastic, it was a dream come true, I texted my family right away,” she said.
Jesse Gilbert, the Chief Operating Officer at TSA, said all the work Timmons put in as a volunteer helped her land the job.
“Somebody comes in and they volunteer, you can see that commitment and passion for caring for the animals, understanding that it’s not all glamour, there’s a lot of cleaning involved and a lot of different things that happen. That commitment is really strong in what we look for in future employees,” Gilbert said. “She’s incredibly dedicated, she’s got one of the more positive attitudes we’ve got at the aquarium, she’s a great employee.”
Timmons now works with the dolphins and otters at TSA every day, but she said her favorite part of her job is educating visitors on the animals.
“I think the education they put in their daily shows is something I was very interested in, just seeing the impact it had on me, personally," she said. "Being able to now participate in our shows here, and get to talk to kids who have never seen dolphins before. The team is great, the animals are great. Everything this team does is something I’m really proud of."