Director of Animal Planning and Dive Operations
With three decades of experience at Shedd, George Parsons oversees animal husbandry, habitat design and staff development for the Fishes department.
George Parsons’ job requires several areas of expertise, including staff development, habitat design, general husbandry and development of an animal collection of more than 250 species. A biologist with more than 25 years of zoological animal care and diving experience, Parsons first joined Shedd as a volunteer in 1982 and was hired as an aquarist in 1988.
At Shedd Aquarium, Parsons began working in the Oceans Coast gallery, a cold-water marine collection, where he immediately became interested in invertebrates. Since that time, Parsons has developed new husbandry techniques for invertebrates that have set many longevity records for these species. After his work in Oceans Coast, Parsons began to care for the tropical marine gallery and became involved with coral propagation.
Since that time, Parsons has conducted research surveys on coral reefs in Belize, the Philippines and the Bahamas for the Wildlife Conservation Society and other organizations. Over the years, Parsons has coordinated and led collection expeditions for Shedd in the Bahamas and central California. He was the lead husbandry designer for the Shedd Aquarium’s 600,000-gallon Wild Reef exhibit, a $47 million dollar project, and traveled to the Philippines on several information-gathering expeditions. He serves as a spokesperson for Shedd on animal husbandry, invertebrates, tropical fishes and many other topics.
A recognized expert in invertebrates, Parsons has given lectures at many institutions, including the National Geographic Society, on topics including coral reef ecology, invertebrate biology and alternative foods for obligate coral feeders. He has taught invertebrate identification, natural history and coral reef ecology classes at the College of DuPage and Prairie State University. Parsons has worked as a consultant on exhibit design and development for other zoos and aquariums, and he is a team member at Aquamoon, which designs custom aquariums for private and commercial clients. Additionally, Parsons serves as a consultant to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in evaluating coral importations into the United States and assists the agency with training new inspectors.
Parsons sits on the AZA steering committees for the Marine Fish Taxon Advisory Group and Aquatic Invertebrate Taxon Advisory Group. He received a Bachelor of Science in biology from University of Illinois at Chicago.