Fish in the middle of a desert? How about sharks? “I never thought that I’d work in the middle of the desert as a marine biologist,” said Rob Brown, life sciences manager at Golden Nugget. Brown and a team of seven other biologists take care of and maintain the property’s 200,000-gallon tank, filled with more than 200 inhabitants that include sharks.

“I always knew I wanted to do something with animals, and fish were my biggest passion,” said the Pittsburgh native. After graduating college, Brown’s first foray into the aquatic world was the Pittsburgh zoo and aquarium. From there, he headed to Texas, where he worked at aquariums in Galveston and Houston. In 2010 he moved to Las Vegas and joined the Golden Nugget. Brown’s day is filled with “animal observation, cleaning the tanks, food preparation, animal nutrition, water chemistry and cleaning the filters,” he said.

Brown also puts on a wetsuit and dives into the shark tank every day. Inside the giant tank, he mingles with sand tiger, zebra, black tip, brown and nurse sharks, as well as large red fish, jack fish and giant trevally fish.

Part of Brown’s and his colleagues’ jobs also include playing tour guide for guests wanting a behind-the-scenes look at the tank. “If anyone has ever wondered anything about sharks, has questions about sharks, wants to talk with someone that knows about sharks, this tour is the thing to do,” Brown said.

The Tank Tour

Guests that take the tour leave with a pretty cool parting gift: real shark teeth. Some species of sharks will go through nearly 30,000 teeth in their lifetime, Brown said. Over the years, Brown and his team have collected thousands and thousands of teeth from the bottom of the tank when they’re doing their dives. “It’s a neat little souvenir and reminder of your tour,” Brown said. Guests also learn some pretty interesting facts along the way, such as that more people are killed per year in vending machine accidents than in shark attacks.