Bagpipes and Seahorses

August 1, 2003

 

If Andrew Thaler’s accomplishments as a Duke student are anything like what he’s already done, they will be nothing short of wet, wild, and maybe even a little Scottish. The list includes playing the bagpipes, scuba diving, and helping breed endangered species of sea horses.

Thaler says his father always liked the bagpipes, and so, after taking lessons for a few years, he made his son begin as well. “Those first few years, it was really forced,” he recalls. “But then, when I was around thirteen-years-old or so, I really got into it and have loved it ever since.”

The bagpipes aren’t hard to learn, the Baltimore native says. The main difficulty is mastering the mechanics of keeping the bag inflated; the right pressure must be maintained in order to keep all the reeds going. Thaler has gotten good enough to play solo at his high school’s graduation ceremonies for the last few years and to perform regularly with a band called Clann ‘na Eireann. And he and his father play for their local police department at funerals for fallen officers.

The bagpipes are just one of Thaler’s passions. He is also a certified scuba diver and avid underwater photographer. Both of those interests stem, in turn, from a lifelong fascination with marine biology. For the last three years he has worked as an intern at the National Aquarium in Baltimore for one of the world’s leading experts on sea horses. A lot of their attention is focused on breeding endangered sea-horse species, and Thaler says they’ve achieved some success with various species, including his favorite, the Weedy Sea Dragon. “It’s big, exotic, and from Australia.

We have nine of them now. They’re great.”