Magazine article Techniques

SeaWorld Camp Turns Spectators into Scientists

Magazine article Techniques

SeaWorld Camp Turns Spectators into Scientists

Article excerpt

Thousands of tourists annually visit SeaWorld water parks and marvel at the marine animal shows featuring dolphins, sea lions and killer whales. But few are aware of the work it takes to care for the animals.

SeaWorld Adventure Park in San Antonio is doing something about that. Students and educators now can live the lives of marine scientists through the park's Careers Camp program.

The week-long camp sessions allow teachers and students to live in dormitories at the park and participate in hands-on experiences and shadow SeaWorld zoological staff as they perform daily duties. Campers monitor the health of sea lions, weigh killer whales, prepare food for dolphins and whales and more.

"For that week, they work side-by-side with trainers," says Rebecca Esparza, SeaWorld San Antonio's public relations representative. "The trainers treat them just like a member of the staff." Esparza says that despite the brevity of the camp, former participants often decide to pursue marine sciences as a career. "A lot of the job is hands-on, so the experience helps them to get their feet wet, so to speak," she says. "It lets them know right away what it's like to be an animal trainer. Some decide it's for them and others opt for another avenue --like being a veterinarian or marine biologist. But most [students] know once they leave."

It's a good thing, since the job market is competitive. At SeaWorld, out of about 100 applicants for training positions at the park, only about a dozen are hired each year and job turnover is low, Esparza says. She adds that not all applicants need four-year degrees. "Plus, not everyone has a degree in marine science. One of our trainers has her degree in hotel management. The real deciding factor is how you interact with the animals."

Careers Camp can help students get started. High school students at any grade level are eligible for Careers Camp. …

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