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Staff Spotlight: Kelli Golota

Meet Kelli

Kelli is a trainer in our Marine Mammals and Birds department who has been with the Aquarium for nearly five years!

This basketball-loving dog mom hails from Commerce, Michigan.

She has participated in some pretty cool projects at the Aquarium — she’s helped the marine mammals learn complex husbandry behaviors, and she even took part in Medusa’s cataract removal surgery.


Curious Critters


Get To Know Kelli

What’s your position at the Aquarium:

Where are you from?
​Commerce, Michigan

How long have you been at the Aquarium?
​Five years in September!

Tell us a bit about your background/your life before coming to the Aquarium of Niagara.
I graduated from Central Michigan University with a major in Biology. I completed 3 internships (one being at the Aquarium of Niagara) and a seasonal position at Busch Gardens, Tampa working with small primates and Great Apes! My life before college was all basketball. Basketball was my life & I miss the game to this day!

What inspired you to choose a career in this field?
​Swimming with the dolphins at Discovery Cove and visiting SeaWorld in Ohio. Thanks, Mom & Dad!

Have you held any other positions/jobs at the Aquarium?
​I completed the Aquarium’s full-time Marine Mammal internship in 2014.

What is your favorite thing about your job?
​Training complex husbandry behaviors & watching Stryker get the zoomies. 

What is something about your job that many people wouldn’t know/realize is part of it?
​We are required to pass an annual swim test & annual dive skills class!

What’s one thing you are most proud of accomplishing at the Aquarium?
​Being able to participate in the pre and post operative care of Medusa’s cataract removal surgery. It was a very emotional time for me, but I was and still am extremely grateful to have been alongside her during the journey. I was also able to share her success story at an IMATA conference! 

Tell us about your life outside of the Aquarium.
I spend the majority of my free time with my precious pup, Wilmer! We like to check out new parks & any dog-friendly places! I always find time to go home to Michigan to see my wonderful family and friends. We enjoy time on the lake, boating & fishing. When I’m feeling ambitious, I like to experiment with new recipes & scrapbook. Lastly, I enjoy visiting other zoos and aquariums when traveling to network & share/learn new ideas!

If you were an aquatic/marine animal, what would you be and why?
Manatee because I enjoy warmth, relaxing & eating!