Senior Director, Marine Mammals
Lisa Takaki supervises Shedd Aquarium’s Marine Mammal department staff members and volunteers, managing the habitats, care and training for beluga whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, sea otters, California sea lions, penguins, birds of prey and dogs.
Takaki has more than 30 years of experience in the science of animal behavior and training. She started at Shedd in 1989 as lead dolphin trainer, one of the first staff members to work with the aquarium’s Pacific white-sided dolphins. Since then, Takaki has played an integral role in developing top-quality care and training programs, including work with pregnant dolphins and belugas and hand-raising rockhopper penguin chicks. Takaki has used her expertise to guide Shedd’s animal care experts as they integrate animal training into the care of many other species, including river otters, pygmy marmosets, sharks, turtles, octopuses and birds.
Takaki also supports Shedd’s rescue and rehabilitation efforts, including for the aquarium's rescued sea otters and California sea lion pups. In 2012, she was part of a team of marine mammal husbandry experts from leading U.S. aquariums that provided around-the-clock intensive care to a newborn beluga whale calf that had stranded in Bristol Bay, Alaska. This was only the second time such a rescue had been attempted at a North American zoological facility.In 2001, Takaki traveled to South Africa to assist in an international rescue effort for more than 20,000 African penguins after a disastrous oil spill.
Takaki’s love for the oceans began as a child, when she spent summers visiting family in Hawaii. She began her career in 1982 as a trainer for Busch Gardens of Florida and became the supervisor for the marine mammals team. Takaki also worked as head trainer for Dolphin Quest in French Polynesia where she was responsible for the care and training of rough-toothed dolphins and melon-headed whales in an open-ocean interactive program. She has also consulted on stranded dolphin rescue and rehabilitation with the Clearwater Marine Science Center. Takaki is skilled in many areas related to aquatic animal care including operant conditioning, scuba diving, modern husbandry techniques and public presentation skills.
Takaki is an active member of the International Marine Animal Trainers Association and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. She has co-authored several publications on marine mammal training. She studied science at Prairie State College, liberal arts at University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and business administration at the University of South Florida.