Spotlight on our Students: In Depth with Dolphins

Skyler (far right) and the intern team at Dolphin Plus Marine Mammal Responder.

“During Scholars Forum, I was blown away by the fluidity of the weekly presenters and I was determined to become as competent a public speaker as many of them are. This helped me develop a flow in my briefing and incorporate things to engage my audience.”

In this edition of Spotlight on Our Students, we are heading to sunny southern Florida to check in at the Dolphin Plus Marine Mammal Responder Center in Key Largo. There, Universty Scholar Skyler Prowten is completing a dolphin rescue and training internship. Skyler will be getting hands-on practice with feeding, cleaning, training, and working with dolphins. Skyler is a rising senior University Scholar from Kent, OH double majoring in Psychology and Animal Science. Read on to learn more about her fascinating work with this amazing animals.

USP: Skyler – first of all, this sounds like such a cool opportunity. Everyone likes dolphins! What inspired you to pursue this internship?

SP: I have known that I wanted to pursue a career working with animals since I was very young. Previously, I thought this would be accomplished through becoming a veterinarian. Since veterinary school is such a big commitment, I wanted to be sure I explored all the options. When applying to this internship, I expected simply to do hard work all summer. What has really happened is that I have found my passion.

USP: Woah! That’s really bold. How exciting to have tapped into something you’re really passionate about. What do you hope to learn from your time with the Dolphin Plus Marine Mammal Responder Center?

SP: What I have learned, and continue learning, is all about flexibility. We have to adapt not only to the weather and the public that comes in, but also the dolphins! Each dolphin has a unique personality, and there is a high emphasis on reading body language, knowing when a training session would be a positive experience for them. I hope to further develop my skill in reading and responding to these animals, as well as communicating with the public about why they are so important and deserve our protection.

USP: Oh, flexibility is so crucial to so many positions in life. It’s good to practice that and be aware of it. What do you think you’ll be able to accomplish in your time there?

SP: By the time this internship is over, I hope to be able to be able to be hired in the field. Being a dolphin trainer is a common dream when kids are young, but pursuing it and putting in the work is what sets you apart. It’s a highly competitive field, and I am hoping this internship will allow me to stand out when applying to positions across the country after graduation.

USP: So you want to go all the way to the big leagues it sounds like. Can you tell us more about your specific responsibilities on site?

SP: A lot of it is cleaning. This sounds mundane, but you have to remember that everything we touch directly impacts the dolphins. I also prepare the dolphins’ diets, assist during training sessions by asking for behaviors, and give a public briefing focused on conservation, research, and how to continue helping marine mammals even after leaving our facility.

USP: You’re serving as a mediator between these amazing marine mammals and the public that loves them and needs to be educated about them. That’s really fascinating. How would you say your time in the University Scholars Program helped prepare you for this experience?

SP: During Scholars Forum, I was blown away by the fluidity of the weekly presenters, and I was determined to become as competent a public speaker as many of them are. This helped me develop a flow in my briefing and incorporate things to engage my audience.

USP: What advice would you give other University Scholars searching for a unique internship opportunity?

SP: The biggest thing I can say is don’t doubt your abilities. I was so excited when I received the offer but also very nervous. The fact that people in the field choose you as an intern should inspire confidence. They see your potential, and now it’s just about showing them why they were right about you.

USP: Skyler – thanks for sharing this with us. Sounds like you really are learning a lot about yourself and your chosen career path. We can’t wait to hear more when you get back to campus.

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