My name is Matt Tartaglio and I am from Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. I grew up and went to school in Malvern and attended Millersville University. I graduated with a Major in Fine Art with an emphasis on stone lithography, printmaking and graphics. I have two younger brothers and a younger sister.
During my college days, I worked at a large fish store called Aquatic Design Studio and once I graduated, I began producing aquarium installations and designs for them. I would meet with the client to understand their vision, draw up a custom aquarium design and then build and install the tank in their home or business. I’ve also worked in construction, landscaping, retail sales, printmaking and I was a delivery driver and a lifeguard.
Back in 2007, I decided to move to St. Thomas for a fresh start. I started working at Coral World as a first mate on their Harbor Cat party boat. We ran tours for guests to Water Island where I gave snorkel lessons and served painkiller cocktails. Eventually I moved into the park where I have had my hands in every department from Aquariums, Life Support Systems to Sea Trek Diving.
I love being creative and working hands on with exhibit projects. But if I had to pick a favorite, it would probably be collections for aquarium species. Diving and fishing to collect different animals that will educate and entertain guests is a great day at work. I have been fortunate enough to lead quite a few collection dives for various fish as well as a roundup of sharks.
What’s the grosses thing you’ve had to do at Coral World? Well, now that’s a loaded question. Unclogging the sea lions drain pipes? Crawling through clam slime under the food prep trailer? Fixing pumps in the septic lift stations? Animal necropsies? Removing cockroach infested walls? Wearing the same dirty clothes for weeks after a hurricane? Dealing with rats? Sucking diesel fuel into my mouth with starting a siphon? I seem to have my hands in all the grossest stuff and it gets worse every day, so I would say ask me tomorrow!
Sorry sea lions. Sorry turtles. But the tarpon is my favorite animal at the park, hands down. The ones off the tower right now. One of the coolest fishes, prehistoric and very aggressive looking with their big eyes and up turned jaw. They stay calm and hover and then when the tides change, they go after all the baitfish with slow rolls and big jumps flashing their silver scales. They are called silver kings and are probably the fish that has intrigued me the most over the years. I could watch them for hours. But I do love all animals.
What advice would you give someone wanting to work in the field? Get dirty and be hands on. Work hard and don’t be afraid to try something new. I think that sometimes people will shy away from something that they don’t feel comfortable with or they don’t feel is pertinent to their job. This career specifically but really any job has many different skills and experiences that tie together. The more of those things you can understand and adapt to the better you can perform your job and make decisions.
If I could meet any superhero in real life, I guess it would be Superman. If he could let me grab on and just fly me around so that I could see the whole world and visit every place that exists that would be great. I would love to see all the wonders, countries and continents in the world at some point so maybe that would help me reach that goal quickly. I’m not saying I want to be Lois Lane but I would sport and wig and heels if that’s what it takes!