National Aquarium director, curator to join future S.C. facility

January 27, 1997|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

Two key players at the National Aquarium in Baltimore -- Chris Andrews, director of biological programs, and Bruce Hecker, curator of fishes -- will leave next month to take top jobs at a new aquarium planned for Charleston, S.C.

Andrews and Hecker said last week that their last day at Baltimore's famous fish tank on East Pratt Street will be Feb. 28. A search is on to replace them.

"I kind of hate to go, but it's a great opportunity," said Hecker, 44, who has been at the aquarium since 1985. "I've always wanted to open up an aquarium."

Andrews, 44, has been in Baltimore since 1991. He is leaving to become executive director of a $50 million, 90,000 square-foot Charleston aquarium scheduled to open on the banks of the Cooper River by 1999. He will bring Hecker with him to be director of operations and animal husbandry.

About $10 million remains to be raised for the Charleston project, which will be about half the size of Baltimore's facility and concentrate exclusively on plants, fish and animals native to South Carolina, such as the North American river otter. Andrews will begin his new job looking for funding while he and Hecker design the aquarium nearly from scratch.

"It's not only running the show, it's being able to create the infrastructure and provide directions for an institution down the road," said Andrews, a native of Great Britain. "And I wanted to take somebody with me who knows about animal care and facilities," he said. "Having worked with Bruce for six years, I can go down there confident that he's taking care of a part of the operation that's near and dear to my heart."

Hecker grew up in St. Louis, holds undergraduate degrees in biology and psychology from California's Pitzer College and began his love affair with fish at age three with goldfish in a bowl.

He began in Baltimore as an aquarist -- an entry level job checking water qualities and other fundamentals -- and worked his way up. Hecker was in charge of building the aquarium's coral tank in 1986, was intimately involved with opening a popular jelly-fish gallery last year and helped supervise renovation of the 225,000-gallon shark tank and 335,000-gallon model of an Atlantic coral reef.

He said: "I only hope that Chris Andrews and I can build an aquarium that will rival the one in Baltimore in its quality if not its size."

Pub Date: 1/27/97

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