Marine Mammal Husbandry: Turning a Dream into Reality

Journalist: Anastasia Sapirstein | Editor: Ethan Gagnier | Photographer: Riley Watson

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Hannah McCollam ’18, is a senior at Eckerd College who is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Following graduation this May, she will spend the summer working at SeaWorld San Antonio as a seasonal employee in their dolphin husbandry.

McCollam has always been a marine animal lover. When she was younger, her grandmother took her to Mystic aquarium in Connecticut, and McCollam fell in love with the marine species’ housed in the aquarium. There was a rescue dolphin at Mystic named Stormy who McCollam was particularly fond of due to his injured dorsal fin, which meant he required extra care, compared to the other cetaceans. McCollam knew after meeting Stormy that she wanted to be the person to help administer that extra care and affection to dolphins, like Stormy, when she grew up.

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Ever since Stormy, McCollam has been working hard to achieve her new position at SeaWorld. Since arriving at Eckerd, she has held two previous aquatic mammalian internships. During her freshman and sophomore summers, she interned at Mystic Aquarium, where she worked with California Sea Lions while they were showcasing behaviors onstage for the aquarium audiences. This past summer, McCollam interned with Dolphins Plus in Key Largo, Florida, which helped her pass the SeaWorld swim test, in addition to preparing her for her interview with SeaWorld.

McCollam’s plans post graduation are to finish her three month job at SeaWorld before traveling abroad. Unfortunately, McCollam cannot apply to SeaWorld until ninety days after her position, but she will continue to work towards achieving a permanent position at SeaWorld after the completion of her seasonal position.

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When asked about her opinions on the negative connotations recently surrounding SeaWorld, McCollam spoke only positive things of the corporation. She shed light on the amazing veterinarian care the company provides for the marine animals in its care, and McCollam advocated for the educational benefits and opportunities offered to the public concerning marine mammals because of the animals housed in their facilities.

Her advice to current students is to remember that internships are a “double edged sword” because “you have to have experience to get experience.” She wants current Eckerd students to know the best way to accomplish your goals is to volunteer in any institution that shares a similar goal, mission, or area of research that will help you achieve your goals. McCollam’s previous volunteer experience at Mystic Aquarium was a key reason for her being offered an intern position with at Dolphin Plus, which eventually led to her landing her dream job with SeaWorld. Getting a foot in the door by volunteering is the best way to start building up a resume, and with hard work and determination, McCollam knows any Eckerd student can achieve their goals as she has achieved her own.

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