Animal Training, Marine Mammals, and More!

So, it’s been quite a while since I updated (when DOESN’T this happen??). I’ll try to give a good summary of what I’ve been up to.

I finished my summer internship with SeaWorld in August. Over time, I really started to love my job. I loved working with the people, and it wasn’t uncommon to see me working 50 hour weeks. After a few weeks settling in at the job, everything became a lot easier. Lots of hard work, with lifting and moving stuff, dealing with guests, but it was still a lot of fun.

Near the end of my internship, I had re-applied for the Animal Training internship at Discovery Cove. I got the first interview, was selected to do the swim test, and even got the second interview! (For those who don’t know, your performance on the swim test decides if you get to go through the second interview, later that day.) I practiced for about a month and a half, every other day, in my apartment’s pool. I was told that I had to swim 80 ft underwater with no breath, 160 ft ¬†freestyle, and I had to pull myself out of the water, ideally to my feet. These are all subject to change, from the impression I was given. A few days after the swim test, we got our calls. I was told that they would be moving on with other candidates. I was super bummed. But I moved on. I stayed on with Discovery Cove, becoming a part-time worker. This meant that I got trained in the Dolphin Cabanas, handing out the waivers and helping the trainers get the dips started. I also was trained in part of SeaVenture, which was still pretty new. I gave the initial safety spiel, and took care of the waivers there.

A few weeks later, I was visiting Discovery Cove as a guest, and I got a call from SeaWorld. They told me that if I was still interested, they had some people drop out of the internship and they wanted to get me in. I immediately accepted, and started the Animal Training internship a few days later!

I love this internship. We work mainly in three different areas, the aviary, the aquarium, and dolphin. I started in the aquarium, and quickly found my love of stingrays. Working in the aquarium means a lot of staffing, which is talking to guests in the water, feeding both fish and stingrays, swimming, to ensure health of the animals, and taking some water samples. I had never worked in an aquarium setting before, and honestly was not very interested, but since I started working at the aquarium here, I have strongly considered aquarist as a future career.

The aviary mostly consists of providing food to guests to feed the birds with and answering their questions. You also do some hourly feeds, clean various areas, and sometimes create enrichment for the animals.

The dolphin area isn’t quite what everyone expects. 90% of your “dolphin” time is spent in the fish house, and you don’t see one living animal during your shift. This is an 8-hour shift that starts at 4am and consists of breaking out a LOT of frozen fish (about 1000 pounds, on average). We have 44 dolphins at Discovery Cove, and three people a day prepare all their food. This is easily the most stressful shift I have ever worked. Once you get into the swing of it and know what you’re doing, it’s not that bad, but it can ¬†still be pretty hectic.

The other part of dolphin is actually getting to shadow the trainers occasionally. This is the part everyone thinks of when they think about this internship. It is really cool to do, seeing what all the trainers do on a regular basis, and finally getting to understand how all the work you do in the fish house translates to the dolphins. I’ve gotten to see a lot of cool stuff, lots of husbandry, and I even got to give a dolphin a fake ultrasound!!

This internship is really great, and I really should update more about it. I just get so busy that this blog becomes less of a priority.

The other big news for me is that I just accepted the Marine Mammal internship at Disney! The one I was applying for this summer, just like the Animal Training internship. I start Jan 12, and will be working at the Seas in Epcot with the manatees and sometimes the dolphins. I’m really excited and glad I have a job after this internship, but I am going to be really sad to leave SeaWorld.

This update is loooong enough, I will add more later!

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Life at Discovery Cove

Well, it’s been quite a while since I last updated. Things got pretty hectic after that, with finals and moving and my grad party and all that stuff. Anyways, here’s the deal now.

I started my job at Seaworld! Let me tell you, it is a lot different than Disney. I attended orientation and a tour of Discovery Cove, and then was told they would call me about my schedule. Two days later, they told me one day to come in, and that I would get the rest of my schedule then. It was a day-by-day basis for almost a week. There was also some weirdness where I had chosen to work in Guest Services, and they switched me to Reception. After I finished most of the Reception training, they moved me to Guest Services again. But either way, it’s all sorted out now.

My job consists mostly of standing around the park and helping guests. We greet them, tell them where everything is, size them for wetsuits, give them lockers, and answer any questions they have. The job is hot, and the hours are long, but it’s not too bad. Another good portion of my job is spent in the laundry rooms, cleaning wetsuits or towels, and making up the bags with the masks and snorkels in them.

I’m still in the process of trying to get back to Disney. I really didn’t think it would take this long. I’ve been talking with the current (new) area manager at Safaris, who confirmed that they are hiring now, but I still haven’t heard back from casting. I am going to try to call soon to hear something.

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Unexpected Outcome

Well, there’s a week and a half until May 1st, the deadline to hear back from Disney. I’m losing faith pretty quickly that I’ll get one. It’s kind of a bummer – this was what I’ve been setting my hopes on since freshman year of college. But thankfully, Animal Programs lets you continue to apply up to I think a year after college.

On the bright side, I got offered an internship at Binder Park Zoo, and I got a call from Sea World. I was offered the education internship at Binder Park, which I wish I could have done. I used to go there a lot when I was little, and I would have gotten to help out with the things I used to do there, like the overnights. Unfortunately, they could only give me $50/week (before taxes!).

The call from Sea World, I expected (again) to be them telling me I was out of the running. Turns out, I’m not quite, but I am in the backup pool. This Friday, their first choices are interviewing and swim testing, but if they need to call someone in because something happens, I might be the person they call. I told them I’d be willing to stay in the backup pool, but they also offered me a job in their College Experience program. I told them I’d take it, and the lady I spoke with even suggested that I could be working attractions at Discovery Cove. So, as of right now, that’s my plan. I should hear officially on Monday what’s going on, but it’s looking like I’ll be working May 23 to Aug 23 as an attractions host with the dolphins! Not exactly what I had been expecting, but at least I get to network during this job, and I can live with my friends in the place I want to live.

I’ll be busy, moving out the week after my grad party, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy it. Still crossing my fingers over Disney, though.

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A little trickle..

Well, I’m crossing my fingers that when it rains, it pours.

I was asked to interview with Binder Park Zoo last Friday, which went very well, and was offered an internship with them on Monday! While exciting, this internship only pays $50/week, and is too far from home for me to commute, so I won’t be able to take it. They got me really excited about the job during my interview, and this is a zoo I used to frequent when I was younger. Doing zoo overnights and things like that would have been a lot of fun!

Then, today, I got a call from Sea World. I honestly thought that again, this would be them telling me I’m no longer being considered, but it turns out that that is not the case. The HR lady told me that I’ve been placed in their “backup pool”, so if one of their first choices doesn’t cut the mustard, I’ll be called to come down to Orlando with short notice to interview and swim test. I have to call them back with my decision to continue in the backup pool, or to back out completely, or another choice. This other choice is to be accepted as a worker at the theme park, but not as an animal care worker. They said there were some Discovery Cove positions open, which do get to interact with some of the animal care workers, which I might be considering, especially if I don’t end up getting any other offers.

I’ve been getting worried about not hearing anything from Disney, and I’m crossing my fingers and constantly checking my email for an invitation to a second interview. They’re still my first choice, and I hope I at least get the option!

On another note, I’ve begun to call and email some of my old safaris managers, asking about the possibility of coming back to safaris. I know they can’t help much, but I figure it can’t hurt to ask. Lately I’ve been missing Harambe so much, I just can’t sit around and not do anything about it. And, of course, my friend is leaving in 2 hours to work for 2 weeks down there, a plan he decided on yesterday. I just wish school was over!

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Busy busy week

Oh boy, a lot has happened since the last time I posted. But I’ve been super busy because of that and other things, so I haven’t gotten to update much.

First off, my Marine Mammal interview went really well, I think. I felt really passionate about all my answers that I gave and the interview itself didn’t feel very pressured at all. Hopefully my interviewer understood how much I’d like this position and how well I (think I) am suited for it. Many of the questions were similar to the Conservation Presenter role, asking how you’d deal with a guest who did not agree with animals in captivity, what I thought of it, and if I’m okay not being really hands-on with animals. The conservation education role is much less hands-on, but the Marine Mammal one has the potential, so that was a little more relevant this time. Of course I’m still interested, though! Part of the job is blending fish as well, for meals, which I had to confirm I was okay with too. It’s a good thing pretty much nothing icks me out.

The next day, I got a call from Binder Park Zoo, a zoo I used to live right near, and is really successful. They’ve got a huge Wild Africa savannah, and they also recently raised a baby snow leopard. Anyways, I had talked with them at a job fair about a month ago about a few internships and other job opportunities. I gave them my resume but hadn’t applied for anything because I got busy with school, and didn’t really intend to stay in Michigan anyways. But during this call, the woman I had spoken with at the job fair asked if I had applied, mentioned that my resume had stuck out to them, and said that they thought I’d be a good fit with them. SO, I applied. I talked with them again yesterday after my application went in, and it sounds like they might have filled the education internship (which gets a stipend), but not the Animal Care internship (which does not get a stipend). I don’t know what I’ll do about all this, but if I get the Animal Care one, I don’t know if I can afford to live there without any sort of income.

As if that wasn’t enough, on Friday I talked with Sea World again. I missed their first call, and was wondering if this was a call to tell me I wasn’t going any further, since they said this internship was so competitive. Turns out, they wanted another interview with me, which is now scheduled for later today. It should be a half an hour, they said, and unfortunately I haven’t been able to find much out about this internship in general. Lots of Disney people chronicle their experience, but apparently not so much with Sea World. I have heard about a pretty intense swim test, which I should probably start working on soon if I think I have a shot at even doing the swim test.

That’s all for now, I’ll update again after my internship.

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Manatee Queen, here I come!

I just checked my email (like I have been all day, every day) about 20 minutes ago, and what do you know, I’ve got an email from Disney!

This one is considering my #1 internship, the Marine Mammal one. It involves working with both the manatees at the living seas, and the dolphins there as well. For this internship, you have to be SCUBA certified, which I was rushing to complete (I wish I hadn’t had to put it off so late because of money!), but I became certified just in time! (IE: 2 days before the deadline of the internship!) I’ve already had the interview for Conservation Presenter, so I’m hopefully doing good there as well, but this is the one that I would be over the moon for.

In case you didn’t realize, The Living Seas in EPCOT is actually great at rehabilitating manatees and other aqualife. Even though these acts aren’t publicized, I think that almost makes them more sincere. These animals aren’t just being helped because it makes the company look good, they’re being helped because the people who work there truly care about them. It’s so great to see Disney putting in so much effort to help their local wildlife.

This really is an effort I’m passionate about, and getting to work with and around these animals while telling guests about them and answering questions would really be a dream come true for me. Just ask 8-year-old me. She’ll back me up.

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1st round interview!

Well, I’m back and recovering from spring break (mentally… it’s so hard to focus on school again when I’m so close to being done!). Break was super busy, mostly because of my SCUBA certification and my first interview!

SCUBA certification was for the Marine Mammal internship at the Seas, which I REALLY want. I wish I had been able to take this much earlier, rather than finishing the class the week before spring break, certifying over spring break, and needing my application in by the friday of spring break. Oh well. I’ve passed, and my application is in, and now it’s just hoping I’m one of the more qualified applicants.

My interview was for Conservation Education. I was emailed about setting up a phone interview a few weeks ago, but I had the bright idea of offering to do an in-person interview the week of spring break, since I would be in the area. I really think my interview went well. None of the questions were too unexpected. Honestly, the ones that gave me the most trouble was the one asking to describe myself in 3 words, and then an incredibly similar question immediately following. I really think and hope that I got my point across of how much I love animals and Disney and seem like the friendly, helpful type that they want at the Kids Discovery Stations.

After the interview, I was able to get into the park with my friend and visit all the Kids Discovery Stations. I wish I had been able to visit these beforehand so I could have chatted a bit more in depth about them.

Now it’s back to the waiting game. One person has already had their second interview and been offered a Conservation Education Presenter internship, so hopefully my potential next interview isn’t too far behind.

Plus, I’m crossing my fingers about that Marine Mammal Internship!

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The Process Begins Again!

Alright. It’s been quite a while, but I’m starting this up again. I got bitter because I got let go at safaris, and I was busy with school, but now I’ve got some irons in the fire and I figured I should document it!

Anyways, a few weeks ago, I applied for 2 (3?) Professional Internships with Disney. DAK Conservation Presenter, Animal Behavior, and I’ll officially apply for Marine Mammal when I am SCUBA certified (in a little over a week).

So, I suppose I’ll talk about the process so far. First off, I went to the Disney Professional Internship site, and picked out the internships I wanted to apply for. There were about 4, maybe 5 I wanted, but Animal Programs (AP) has a limit of 3 that you can apply for, which is probably a good guideline anyways. Applying consists of uploading your resume, transcript, and possibly cover letters to their site, and selecting which ones to send for each application. About 4-5 days later, I got the first email.

The first email is pretty much a form email, and required me to reply back confirming I knew basic things about the internship, such as that it was 6 months long, when it started, that I needed reliable transportation (a requirement!!), that I was a college student, etc. You are required to reply to this within 24 hours. I was also asked to indicate which three internships I was applying for. This is where it gets a little tricky for me, because I was going to apply for the Marine Mammal internship but technically couldn’t, yet, because I needed SCUBA certification. I told them that in this email, though.

The next email came a day later, with a personal note tacked on for me. They explained that I wouldn’t have to separately apply for the Marine Mammal internship, they would simply do it for me once I confirmed my SCUBA certification. After that was another form letter, this one containing two questionnaire documents for Animal Behavior and Marine Mammal. These were questions such as “are you earning a 3.0 gpa?” and questions about previous experience.

Once I returned that, I got another form letter pretty much telling you the deal about phone interviews. Some internships have them, some do not. Nothing real interesting there.

Yesterday, I got the email for DAK conservation presenter to schedule a phone interview! They gave me a huge list of dates and times, and asked me to pick three, and confirm my phone number. I responded, but I also added in that I would be in Orlando the week after the week they suggested for the phone interview, and would be available for an in-person interview. They agreed that this would be possible, and I am now scheduling that interview (pending my SCUBA class).

So, it’s been pretty busy. The next entries shouldn’t be nearly as long, but hopefully just as interesting!!

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Kakapo

It’s been far too long since I actually wrote about an animal.

This is a Kakapo, also known as the parrot owl. They live exclusively in New Zealand. Because New Zealand contained no mammals other than bats for millions of years, these parrots have few defenses against mammalian predators, including humans. In fact, according to the official Kakapo website, there are only around 62 birds left, who have been relocated to safe islands for breeding.

These birds weigh around 8 pounds, and are the heaviest parrot. They are also flightless, due to their years without predators. Because flight is so energetically expensive, it makes sense that if they did not require it for survival, that it would slowly degenerate away. If you look at their coloring, you can see one of their adaptations to their flightlessness. They are greenish on their backs, and brownish on their bellies. Similar to how a shark or dolphin is colored, this helps them blend in to the ground when something looks down on them from above.

No post about Kakapo would be complete without this video.

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Seduction and Sex in the Animal World (SFW! … kinda)

Sooo, I’ve been having a bit of worry over my status at Safaris. Because of the new operating procedures, I’ll need to be re-trained, and they’ve already dumped a lot of seasonal workers already, because it’s not worth re-training people who will only show up occasionally. I’ll be in Florida for 3 days, and hopefully they have time to train me on one of those three days. If so, I’m apparently set. If not, just excuse me, I’ll be quietly sobbing in the corner for the next year or so.

Enough about me, I know no one cares.

Anyways, I was surfing around on the internet, like I tend to do a lot these days, and I got reminded of the wonderfullness that is Isabella Rossellini. A few years ago I came across her Green Porno videos. And now I see she’s continued the series with Seduce Me. These videos, while they may sometimes seem vulgar (you may not want the little kiddies watching them) are incredibly captivating. With artistry, biology, and a little bit of humor, she shows the reproductive lives of animals you may not have thought were all that interesting.

Green Porno focused on the sexual act, while Seduce Me focuses more on courtship rituals. Both are equally entertaining. I would love to see something like this used in a college general biology class to instigate a discussion on why different strategies are implemented. Either way, I think these are wonderful introductions to even non-science people to the wonders of the animal world. Isabella Rossellini is a genius (and also the daughter of Ingrid Bergman, as well, for you GMR/Casablanca fans). I’ve included some videos below. Mostly SFW, depending on on where you work, I suppose.

EDIT: Apparently the videos won’t work. So, I’m sorry. I’ll work on it. In the meantime, pictures!
Isabella Rossellini and a shrimp Credit to sundance.com
Isabella Rossellini as a duck Credit to sundance.com

And, because I LOVE Creature Feature Fridays, care of AZA on twitter, I bring you these. Any good safari driver should know exactly what it is!

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