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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About Katie

I'm a student at MSU, but I drive safari trucks on my days off. I love animals, and I love trying to tell people about them. I also have an incurable obsession with Disney.
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