Erica Gabel, BA ’17

A photo of Erica

Erica Gabel finds joy in knowing that her work—even in a small way--is contributing to the conservation of aquatic life.

As a constituent team lead at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, she assists guests before and after their visit over the phone and takes on some supervisor responsibilities.

She moved to Chicago shortly after graduating from Ohio Northern to pursue a career in theatre. She only intended to stay three months to complete an internship, but ended up with a part-time position at Shedd that evolved into full-time.

The animals—and the people—make her work enjoyable.

“It’s a dream to be up close with these beautiful animals and to interact with the animals and their care teams,” she said. “But I also really love meeting and working with new people. Everyone here is amazing at what they do, and it’s great connecting with so many different people and learning about their work.”

Photo of Erica and Heather

Erica especially enjoys working with fellow Polar Bear Heather McLaren, BA ’03, senior manager of guest relations at Shedd. The two discovered they were both ONU alumnae when they were having a conversation one day about a holiday theatre production. It dawned on them that they were both referencing the Holiday Spectacular at the Freed Center for the Performing Arts.

“We had both worked on the show during our time at ONU. Such a small world!” said Erica.

Last year, as part of her role at Shedd, Erica had the opportunity to assist Channel Islands Marine and Wildlife Institute (CIMWI).

“We were listening to and transcribing calls because CIMWI was getting 30-60 reports an hour about stranded or sick pinnipeds in California. Assisting with the voicemails, while a small role, was a bit emotional, and it made me happy that I could help in some way.”

A theatre major at Ohio Northern, Erica still participates in the industry by acting in theatre productions and short films on the side. She says her theatre background also helps her to connect with Shedd’s visitors.

“I know how to find empathy in many situations,” she explained. “And I bring a different dynamic to the team.”

She added: “Because ONU is small, people can easily build relationships with one another and make connections. These connections build over the years and people can find paths to places they may not have considered working at before. ONU helped many of us find things we love and people we enjoy working with, and it connects us to these amazing attractions!”