Dr. Matt O’Connor — Veterinarian

Chicago, Illinois

Dr. Matt O’ Connor, senior staff veterinarian at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, oversees the care of 32,000 animals at the aquarium, which includes everything from a 700-pound California sea lion to a less-than-10-gram juvenile Amazon dart frog. Through his commitment to providing animals with the best possible care, he works closely with a variety of teams from aquarists and trainers to researchers and students.

Dr. Matt also works tirelessly on a wide spectrum of research and fieldwork – a key pillar of the responsibilities of Shedd’s role in innovating and furthering animal care knowledge and processes at the aquarium. This past year, Dr. Matt flew to Madagascar with the Turtle Survival Alliance to provide onsite medical care and relocation assistance for nearly 10,000 critically endangered radiated tortoises. He also joined a collaborative head-start program with a local forest preserve district to benefit a state endangered species, welcoming 23 Blanding’s turtle hatchlings for a year until they are big enough to be released back into the wild at a protected site.

Prior to his time at Shedd, he completed conservation medicine projects involving health assessments of the amphibians in Georgia, mortality rates of red-eyed tree frogs in Costa Rica and radio tracking of endangered populations of indigo snakes and hellbenders. He also helped in the recovery and release of a critically endangered turtle species in the Philippines when thousands of the turtles – once thought to be extinct – were found kept by smugglers.