Q: When did you know you wanted to work with belugas?
Lindsey: I knew I wanted to work with marine mammals, like belugas, when I was a child after my sister did a school project on manatees. I found them so interesting and I just wanted to learn more about all marine life!
Q: How did you become a beluga trainer (school, volunteering, etc)
Lindsey: I started to volunteer at Mystic Aquarium while attending the University of Rhode Island. During that, I learned about the amazing internship opportunities at the aquarium, in which I applied, and then did two consecutive internships with the beluga whales. I learned so much about positive reinforcement training during my internship that it solidified my desire to work with marine mammals as a professional career. I was lucky enough to receive a temporary employment position for about a year, which then lead into a permanent position working with the beluga whales, seals, and sea lions that I’ve held for the past 10 years.
Q: Is there a specific memory of working with belugas that stands out to you?
Lindsey: Every day working with the marine mammals brings new exciting memories to cherish. Most recently, I have been working with our female beluga whale, Kela, on a research study looking at the impacts of diving on immune systems. Research studies like these are so important in the worldwide conservation of marine mammals, like beluga whales, and I feel lucky to be able to help in that pursuit to make sure beluga whales and all their counterparts are here on earth for future generations to admire and learn from just like I was able to!
Q: What’s your favorite thing about working with belugas?
Lindsey: There’s so many amazing qualities to being a marine mammal trainer that it’s hard to pick just one. But being able to train with the diverse species of mammals I work with so closely and educate all of our aquarium guests on a daily basis is rewarding in itself.
Q: What does your job entail?
Lindsey: My job entails not only hands on training, but also, providing environmental enrichment to all exhibits, thorough fish examination before every training and feeding session, cleaning exhibits and behind the scenes areas either on land or under water while scuba diving, providing educational microphone presentations and encounter programs for our guests, and keeping detailed records of behaviors, diets, and healthcare. We not only try to make each day as enriching as possible for our animals, but also it’s very enriching for all of us trainers.
Q: If someone wants to become a beluga trainer, what are some helpful tips for them?
Lindsey: If you are interested in entering the field of marine mammal training, definitely look into wonderful volunteering and interning opportunities at your nearest aquarium or zoo! Through these opportunities you will learn the most about positive reinforcement training and why it’s important to build a strong trusting relationship between yourself and the animals – because trust is the foundation to every good trainer
Adam Cilley | January 11th, 2018