You can thank Adrienne Rowland for your close encounters with some of the ocean’s most fascinating predators. “The big change that I think I’ve brought to the aquarium—meaning when I first started it was restrictive to bring someone behind the scenes or even above the exhibits because they were very concerned because it was new and everything—what we’ve really done is open up the aquarium front and back of house to the guests,” said Rowland, director of Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay.

Rowland joined the aquarium in 2002 as the operations guest services manager, and for the past 10 years she’s been the director. She oversees the entire aquarium, which includes three main areas: guest service, education and animal care. Rowland’s background is in hotels—she’s a graduate from UNLV’s hotel management program and she’s worked for MGM Grand and New York-New York. But it’s at Shark Reef that she’s had the chance to fulfill her passions for both animals and guest experiences. “It’s been an amazing journey,” she said.

A big part of that journey has been expanding opportunities at the aquarium—welcoming schools to their classrooms to learn about the Shark Reef’s inhabitants and animal care. It was also Rowland and her team that introduced the feeding program with sharks and sea turtles, and the diving-with-the-sharks experience. It all gives visitors a more memorable, up-close and educational experience, she said.

“I’m really lucky because I got this opportunity. I’ve been here 16-plus years and it would take a lot to rip me from this place,” Rowland said. “I’m so happy and fulfilled when I go home at the end of the day, that maybe I’ve made a little bit of a difference.”

Shark Reef Retail Store

Shark reef retail

Shark reef retail

There are tons of fun goodies to purchase after you’ve made your way through the aquarium. Inside the Shark Reef Aquarium’s retail store you’ll find funny T-shirts and plush toys of sharks, sea turtles, jelly fish and more. There’s also a large selection of collectibles and souvenirs, educational books and games, clothing for both adults and kids and Shark Reef-branded items.