55 Music Concourse Dr.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco CA
Regular Hours:


9:30 am – 5:00 pm


11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Members' Hours:


8:30 – 9:30 am


10:00 – 11:00 am

Please note: The Academy will be closing at 3:00 pm on 10/24 (final entry at 2:00 pm). We apologize for any inconvenience.

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Bart Shepherd

Bart is the Director of the Steinhart Aquarium.


Briefly describe your job and your area of expertise. I manage a team of about 30 talented and dedicated animal-care professionals.  This group is responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of the living collection.  I also spend a fair amount of time developing and implementing exhibit enhancements, and brainstorming and reviewing ideas for new exhibits.  Personally, I am interested in just about everything in our collection, but my favorites are coral reef organisms, tropical freshwater fish, aquatic plants and butterflies.

What got you interested in becoming an Aquarium Director? I have kept fish as an aquarium hobbyist since I was 6 years old.  My childhood home aquarium was a project that my mother and I worked together to maintain over many years.  I was lucky enough to grow up on the Chesapeake Bay and explore wild salt marsh and coastal habitats before they were developed.  I also travelled to the Caribbean at an early age, and snorkeling on coral reefs certainly impacted me greatly.   I began keeping corals in aquaria in the late 1980’s, and continue to do so more than 20 years later.  

What do you like most and least about your job?  My favorite things about my job are diving in the Philippine Coral Reef exhibit, accompanying colleagues on research and collecting trips, and watching the Steinhart biologists develop new exhibits highlighting plants or animals that they are passionate about.  My least favorite things are e-mail and that I don’t get to spray the hose anymore, except when I am watering my garden.

What college did you go to and what degree did you receive?  I have a Bachelor’s degree from The College of William and Mary.  My two majors were Art/Art History and Anthropology.  I have Master’s in Science from Vassar College.  My thesis was “Convergent Evolution and Swimming Mechanics in Anguilliform Fishes”.  Basically I spent 2 years chasing eel-shaped fishes around with a stick trying to get them to swim backwards in a straight line and at a constant velocity.   

What influenced your job choice and when?  My childhood aquarium, and growing up right on the water certainly led me in this direction.  I worked at The Virginia Aquarium between college and graduate school, and at this time made the decision that I wanted to pursue a career in the public aquarium world.  

Do you have pets at home? What and how many? I have a backyard pond with koi and a collection of desert succulent plants.  I have a freshwater aquarium in my office.  

Advice for someone wanting to go into your field. You should develop expertise in a group of organisms about which you are passionate: whether frogs, fish, plants, birds.  But, don’t let this be detrimental to your understanding of other organisms.  In my job, I need to have strong, specialized skills in certain areas (fish, coral reefs), as well as a broad, general understanding of all of the organisms in our collection  (penguins, birds, reptiles and amphibians).  Over my 15 years at the Steinhart Aquarium, and in prior jobs, I have worked with most of these at one time or another.

More about Bart


Selected Articles and Publications

Williams, G.C., J.C. Delbeek, B. Shepherd, S. Wolters (2010) Zooxanthellae in Ellisellid Gorgonians of the Philippines. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences. Series 4, Vol. 61, (18) pp.647-648.

Robert G. Root, Hayden-William Courtland, William Shepherd, and John H. Long, Jr. (2010) "Flapping Flexible Fish:  Periodic and Secular Body Reconfigurations in Swimming Lamprey, Petromyzon marinus," in Animal Locomotion Graham K. Taylor, Michael S. Triantafyllou, & Cameron Tropea, ed.s (Springer Verlag: Berlin Heidelberg) 141-160.

Shepherd, Bart (2008) Chapter 25: An experimental prototype coral reef tank at the Steinhart Aquarium’s temporary museum. Chapter 29: Design and development of the Steinhart aquarium’s Philippine coral reef exhibit.  Advances in Coral Husbandry in Public Aquariums. Public Aquarium Husbandry Series, vol. 2. R.J. Leewis and M. Janse (eds.), pp. 227-238 © 2008 Burgers’ Zoo, Arnhem, the Netherlands.

Root, Courtland, Pell, Hobson, Twohig, Suter, Shepherd, Boetticher and Long. (1999). Swimming Fish and Fish-like Models: The Harmonic Structure of Undulatory Waves Suggest That Fish Actively Tune Their Bodies. Proccedings of the 11th International Symposium on Unmanned Untethered Submersible Technology, Pg 378-388.


Long, Pabst, Shepherd, McLellan (1997). Locomotor Design of Dolphin Vertebral Colums: Bending Mechanics and Morphology of Delphinus delphis. The Journal of Experimental Biology 200, 65-81.



Bart’s Suggested Reading:

“Song of the Dodo” by David Quammen, 1996 (Touchstone)

“The Reef Aquarium” series by Charles Delbeek and Julian Sprung, 1994-2005 (Ricordea Publishing)

“Sharks and Rays of Australia” by Peter R. Last and John D. Stevens, 2009 (Harvard University Press)

“Goulds Book of Fish” by Richard Flanagan, 2001 (Grove Press)

“Anilao” by Scott Tuason and Eduardo Cu Unjieng, 1999 (Bookmark)



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