Peter Larson, 38, is a senior aquarist at the National Aquarium in Baltimore and cares for giant Pacific octopuses. He lives in Savage, Md.

Okay. It’s “octopuses,” right?

People say that, or octopi. Technically the name is Greek, so octopodes is correct. I prefer to go with octopuses.

My Octopus Teacher” [won] an Oscar. What did you think of the movie?

From the viewpoint of a casual observer, I thought it was interesting. There were very good camera images and angles underwater. That’s always fun to see. The kid in me loved that. The biologist in me found it a little not likable in terms of the fact that we want to respect animals in their home and nature and leave them alone.

Pippa Ehlrich, director of the Oscar-winning documentary “My Octopus Teacher,” reflects on the bond between filmmaker Craig Foster and the octopus. (Reuters)

In terms of the film, it’s just one of those things where people might think: I need to go develop a relationship with an octopus. We need to try and refrain from that. We’re in their home, their habitat and their environment. Be a casual observer and join the beauty of being a casual observer.

What octopus have you had the closest personal relationship with?

The first one I ever trained, Minerva, at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. Every animal I’ve worked with, the training may be the same, but how the animals interpret depends on them. She would want me to place my free hand on her, for want of a better word, face. Not the mantle, which is the big sac, but in front where her eyes are. She would take the area where my hand was placed and change it to white, attempting a sort of outline.

What’s a moment you had with an octopus that made you go, Whoa.

A negative whoa, when I really learned their power and strength: Georgette had a very strong relationship with her aquarist, who looked nothing like me. I went to work with her and she latched on. I allowed one too many arms to get ahold of me. I was kneeling on a platform at the top of the enclosure. She was trying to pull me in. Most of her body was on my arm, and she was still holding on to the side of her enclosure. I stood up, and she was still on me. She was a large animal. She had about five of her arms wrapped around my left arm, and her mantle was out of the water. It was a little terrifying. I developed such great respect for their strength and cunning.

In another animal that could be seen as affectionate.

I took it to be aggressive based on the coloration of the animal. In defensive posture, they tend to be very white. It was not anywhere near the same response as the trainer she liked.

You can almost, as you’re looking at them, watch their mind just cranking away to solve a certain puzzle — as you’re watching them they find something they enjoy; you watch the colors and textures on their body change. Watching them go from white, if they’re asleep, to this dark maroon color when they wake up and realize there’s someone there to interact with, to mottled when they receive their treat, over one 30-minute session.

How many octopuses do you have at the aquarium now?

One in backup, Koji, he came in recently from Japan. He’s a little guy, and then we have Daphne, who is the display animal.

When the aquarium was closed for covid [last March-July] did Daphne miss us?

When we first put her into the display enclosure, she was about seven pounds, and terrified of all the people. She stayed in a defensive posture. As soon as we closed up, she opened up. By the time we reopened she was ready for people. They grow exponentially, and when we opened back up she was 25 pounds.

She put on quarantine weight! That’s happened to a lot of us. What has an octopus taught you?

Patience. It’s taught me a lot about having to look at myself in terms of a teacher, how to get the behavior you want from the animal in a way that’s not stressful for either of us. It’s just like if you have a kid and you want to give candy as a reward. The last step of the training is to get them to respect that they’re not always going to get food. It goes back to the candy and kids thing. Can they still respect you if you’re not giving them candy?

Have you raised a child?

I became a father this past year. I adopted my son from Korea, which is where I was adopted from. I told them I didn’t think it would be too different from training an octopus, and explained it, and they said: Yeah, actually.

And has it been?

It’s a little more challenging because the child can talk back.

How old is your son?

He’s 2.

If you had a tight situation that depended on clear thinking, would you trust a mature octopus or a 2-year-old child?

My son’s being great right now, so I’d say the 2-year-old child.

Do you eat octopus?

I do! Not often.

Is that weird?

I don’t think it’s weird. But I don’t look at the animals I take care of and think: Oh, you’d be delicious.

This interview has been edited and condensed.