MDI Biological Laboratory

Sharing MDIBL Career to Inspire Young Scientists

  • December 10, 2021

Recently our Animal Facility Manager, Karlee Markovich, was invited to take part in Maine Bioscience Day, a statewide event that aims to get middle school students excited about science by introducing them to different career paths and opportunities that are available in the life sciences industry in Maine. 

Held virtually this year, Karlee was one of three Maine scientists chosen to share, via video, a bit about what life science is, the variety of jobs within the industry, about MDI Biological Laboratory, and what her day-to-day job looks like. She also wrote the below blog to give more insight how she came to be at MDIBL managing our animal core, which is home to four distinctly different models.

When I was five years old, I told my parents that I wanted to be a marine biologist. I was always “that kid” who loved the ocean and the animals within it. As I grew, so did my love of and passion for the sea. In high school, I took as many ocean and animal related courses as I could, and when I was 16 years old, I started volunteering at Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut. At Mystic, I couldn’t work with the whales and dolphins until I was 18, so I begrudgingly started out in the Fish and Invertebrate department, just to get some experience with animal husbandry, biding my time until I could work with the whales. To my amazement, I fell in love with marine invertebrates, and ended up specializing in them when I embarked on my Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Rhode Island. I ended up taking multiple Invertebrate Zoology courses at URI and at the University of Alaska Southeast, where I studied, lived, and worked as a Naturalist on the whale watch boats for a year during my undergraduate studies.

During college, I worked as a Vet Tech at a local Veterinarian Hospital, as an Aquarist and a Marine Educator at a private aquarium, and I continued to volunteer with Mystic Aquarium as an aquarist and helped them with special projects like necropsies, tank design and building, and exotic stray animal husbandry. I have been very fortunate to work with a lot of incredible marine animals, including whales, dolphins, porpoises, sharks, sting rays, Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, moray eels, and more. After school, I used my knowledge of animal husbandry to work at different farms in New England, eventually starting my own off-the-grid dairy goat farm in Maine. The ocean called to me, though, and in 2013 I started working as a Naturalist on the whale watch boats out of Bar Harbor. While working on the boats, I fell in love with Mount Desert Island and decided to make this my permanent home. In 2016, I applied to be an Animal Technician at the MDI Biological Laboratory and made the move to the island.

Since becoming the Animal Facility Manager at MDIBL, I have overseen so many changes and watched this lab grow and thrive. Over the past two years, we have grown from a small zebrafish facility to the only medical research center to house three different aquatic species – the zebrafish, the axolotl (or the Mexican salamander), and the African turquoise killifish. I love working with these diverse and exciting animals, and love setting up and maintaining the aquatic life support systems for them. My job is dynamic, exciting, and it changes daily. As research models, these animals give so much to us every day, and it is my job to make sure that they have the best lives that they can possibly have while they are here at our lab.

When I’m not at work, I love taking my 11 year old son tidepooling to look for cool new marine invertebrates and sea glass. We also love to go kayaking, swimming off the docks, and hiking in Acadia National Park.