Name: Cecile Mercado
Major: Animal Ecology
Hometown: Guaynabo, Puerto Rico
Company/Organization: Dolphins Plus
Location: Key Largo, Florida
Describe your internship responsibilities:
Assist staff in daily maintenance: diet preparation, setup of training sessions, cleaning, guest relations, take pictures, participate in mini lectures about dolphins. Work on my own research by collecting behavioral ethograms to study the social hierarchy on a pod of five dolphins, looking to compare the dominance of the mom versus her calf.
What did you enjoy most about this internship?
The dolphins! They are the smartest animals! To work with them every day for a month was a dream come true. It didn't even feel like work. Learning about their anatomy, behavior, and social interactions was the most interesting thing. Also, conducting my own research was a really good experience.
How has this experience impacted your future career plans?
My future career plans have changed a bit. Before I wanted to be general wildlife veterinarian, but now I'm more specific, I want to be a marine mammal veterinarian. Observing the two vets at Dolphins Plus made me realize that marine mammals are the choice for me. It would be the ideal job. However, if it doesn't work out I would still want to work with marine mammals by being a trainer.
What resources did you utilize to obtain this internship?
I used the Job Board on the NREM website. I just looked at the summer internship section and there it was. I had to send two letters of recommendation, my transcript, a photo of myself, and an application form.
What advice would you offer to other students seeking similar internships?
I would say apply to each internship you think fits your interests. Also, don't be intimidated. It's really easy to think it's not worth trying, that the chances of getting it are close to impossible. But there is always a chance if you work hard and show you really want it.