The Deep is a treat for the whole family, not only a visitor attraction but also playing a key role in global conservation projects. Operating as an education and conservation charity they are dedicated to informing visitors about the worlds oceans.

“We are more than just a tourist attraction. Put simply, we are “for the oceans, for their future”


In 2014 The Deep launched Project Penguin, working with The Galapagos Conservation Trust, money raised has been used to allow scientists to carryout essential ecological observations. These have helped to identify what penguin behaviours reveal about their biology and how they interact in their environment.

The Deep’s own colony of Gentoo penguins successfully hatched 2 chicks in June 2016 from parents Leo and Diane and Nessie and Shackleton. The chicks are now fully grown and have adult, waterproof feathers, you can still see them when you visit The Deep.

ERMs meets aquarist Emma who’s main role is to look after the penguins, her role is very important to her and after returning to The Deep after maternity leave and having two new penguins to get to know was a real treat!


Emma, tell us about yourself, family, interests and how you gained the role of Aquarist at The Deep?

I’m 35.  I have two children, a 5 year old boy and 12 month girl.  I love being a mum and spending time with my children – but sometimes being a parent can be hard and very demanding, so I also love the ‘break’ that I get coming to work – it helps that I have an amazing job and a fantastic team of people to work with.  However it can be hard and sometimes stressful juggling work hours with nursery times and Hull city centre traffic, thankfully I have supportive family and an understanding workplace. 

Like many mums I do feel guilty (although we really shouldn’t!) and I do miss my children, especially when I’m tucking them in at night and realise how little I’ve seen of them that day.  At least with my job I am fairly guaranteed to be home in time for bedtime, which I’m grateful for.

Other than my work and my children I enjoy baking, my colleagues enjoy my baking too! I wish I could list some other hobbies or talents, but right now I don’t have enough hours in the day to even think about a hobby!

I started my career as a teenager working in a small local aquarium in my hometown, Macduff, then I gained a degree in aquaculture at Stirling University and spent some time volunteering at Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium.  Then around 14 years ago I started working at The Deep!

After returning from maternity leave, how does it feel that you are now looking after baby penguins? A new mum yourself and in your profession too, how fantastic!

To us penguin keepers, sometimes it does feel a little like being mum –we spend a lot of our time feeding them and cleaning up their poo! We are responsible for their welfare and like any ‘parent’ want the best for our ‘children’ but this is where the similarities end – wanting the best for a penguin doesn’t mean showing it that you love it, it doesn’t mean giving it a cuddle when it’s had a hard day.  Our responsibility to the penguins and our visitors is to allow the penguins to be penguins, we want them to be as wild as they can be within our captive environment.  A penguin keeper’s job as ‘mother’ is as much about looking after the penguin’s environment as it is about the animals themselves. We try and leave the real mothering to the chick’s penguin parents, its own mother and father – it’s very much shared responsibility in the penguin world!


However the penguin parental care period is over for this year, our baby chicks, although still classed as juveniles, have grown up and are now just like the adults; they look and act the same so they don’t really seem like babies at all.  Unfortunately I was on maternity leave looking after my own baby girl when our penguins had their babies! I did pop in for a day here and there though so I didn’t completely miss out on the ‘baby days!’ hopefully next year we’ll have more baby penguins!


Tell us more about the Penguins, how many are they? Do they have names? How many babies have they had?

We have 13 penguins, they all have names, I’m not sure however if they know their names or not!  We can tell who’s who from their behaviour and mannerisms and small physical differences like their size, beak length and the small differences in the white bands on their heads. However we mostly use their individual wing bands – this is a failsafe solution to who’s who!

We have two ‘chicks’ who are now fully grown – Attenborough named after Sir David Attenborough and Lizzie – who hatched on the Queen’s birthday!

Are you responsible for feeding the Penguins and cleaning out the exhibit?

I’m part of a team responsible for the penguins, however yes, on my days in work penguin care is my main responsibility.


Do you find the Penguins to be a great family attraction to The Deep?

Yes! Penguins are such fun, charismatic animals; from their comical waddle to their graceful flying through the water they really capture children’s imaginations – inspiring our future conservationists!  Our penguins help us to raise awareness of the problems facing their wild counterparts such as ocean acidification and human pressures, they are ambassadors for our project penguin campaign, which raises vital funds for wild penguin conservation.

Other than the Penguins, what other family events are on the calendar?

After interviewing Emma, she gladly showed my son and I around The Deep including a peek behind the scenes. She told us how the sea water is made by themselves and how important monitoring the filtration systems are to the variety of exhibits. One experience which sticks out in Emma’s mind was that of Leo the Penguin and how one day during the mating season, he found a pebble and gave it to Emma as a token of affection. Emma kindly let Leo know that she was just his keeper!

Visiting The Deep and meeting Emma was such a joy, the Penguins were so playful and interesting. They acknowledged audiences watching them through their display windows and interacted with them, swimming past us and stopping to have a look. I would highly recommend visiting The Deep and supporting their conservation work. Displays change often and there is always something new to see, that is the beauty of a conservation attraction. I was pleased to view the fish in the Cool Seas flashing their beacon lights in the dark! Also being able to get hands on in touchpool sessions at Discovery Corner.

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