As reported by Kathryn Justice, Mystic Aquarium’s Trainer of Cetaceans and Pinnipeds
NOVEMBER 6-14, 2017: After arriving in Seward last Monday, November 6, I immediately headed for Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) to meet up with our Senior Trainer of Cetaceans and Pinnipeds, Nicole O’Donnell, who was halfway through her evening shift with Tyonek. After a brief reunion with Nicole and an even briefer introduction to the beluga calf, I met Kristen Hannigan, a senior trainer from Georgia Aquarium, who showed me to our shared house where I would be staying while in Seward. I was glad to get some much-needed rest after a long day of travel.
Following a short period of exploration the next day, I met back up with Nicole, who I shadowed for my first two nights at ASLC. Every person I met that night and every day since has been so wonderful, welcoming, and accommodating as I learned my shift and settled into my routine. The morning before my shift, the management team had assessed Tyonek’s condition and determined that he had acclimated very well to the colder water temperatures to which he had been exposed to gradually by lowering the water temperature one degree per day. The decision was made to transfer him to a larger outdoor pool.
I am very lucky to be working with this incredible group of trainers. Over the past week, I have learned to make Tyonek’s formula, prepare and administer his bottles. Part of my routine also includes accomplishing other cleaning tasks set forward by the management team. Kristen was also my shift partner for this past week. Due to her sharing of past experiences with Tyonek, I have been able to learn very quickly.
I am incredibly honored and humbled to a part of such an amazing team of people caring for such a remarkable little animal. Tyonek’s progress is attributable to all of the dedicated professionals from around the continent coming together to share their expertise. And, this level of expertise would not be possible if it were not for facilities like Mystic Aquarium and our colleagues who specialize in beluga husbandry and behavior. My first week here has been nothing short of amazing and I cannot wait to see what the next two weeks bring.