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Woods Hole Science Aquarium update: One internship ending, new doors opening

By Jessica Perelman

Jessica is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in biological sciences. She will attend veterinary school next year and plans to pursue a career in wildlife and conservation veterinary medicine.

Volunteering with the aquarium at the Woods Hole Science Stroll, I finally got my picture with (a piece of) the deep-sea submersible, Alvin!
Volunteering with the aquarium at the Woods Hole Science Stroll, I finally got my picture with (a piece of) the deep-sea submersible, Alvin!

When I first stepped through the doors at the Woods Hole Science Aquarium ten weeks ago, I was prepared for a summer of typical intern duties in animal care and public education. This expectation, however, was met and surpassed before the end of the first week. Not only have I learned every aspect of working as an aquarist and naturalist, but I have been introduced to the wide range of opportunities available to me in marine science.

Because of the nature of collaboration in this small science village, and the willingness of Woods Hole scientists to involve students in their work, I find myself exploring every opportunity that is thrown my way. From attending exciting lectures, touring research vessels, and volunteering in a sensory ecology lab, it is safe to say that there has yet to be a dull moment during my time here.

Bumper, one of WHSA’s two harbor seals, peeks out of the water in hopes of receiving a fish.
Bumper, one of WHSA’s two harbor seals, peeks out of the water in hopes of receiving a fish.

For the past few weeks, the aquarium has been hosting a group of high school students from all over the country. The diverse and eager bunch is a blast to have around, and I have gone from being an aquarium trainee to a teacher. They have accompanied us on beach collection walks, talked with guests about organisms in the touch tank, and assisted us in feeding many the animals.

Educating these students about the importance of animal husbandry and showing them how to best interact with visitors reinforces just how much knowledge I myself have gained this summer. It is so fulfilling to pass on this expertise to other aspiring marine scientists. I hope they take away as much from their experience here as I have, and who knows- maybe some of them will take over as college interns in a few years!

Thanks to the new connections I am making in Woods Hole, I have discovered many opportunities to continue gaining hands-on experience in research and conservation. This fall, I am being given the opportunity to participate in the Marine Mammal Stranding Internship Program through the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

Touring the NOAA fisheries research vessel, Henry B. Bigelow, during the second annual Woods Hole Science Stroll.
Touring the NOAA fisheries research vessel, Henry B. Bigelow, during the second annual Woods Hole Science Stroll.

Cape Cod is known around the world as a “hot spot” for live strandings due to both natural and anthropogenic causes. Working in a field response unit here will allow me to gain invaluable experience and a much greater appreciation for the work that goes into such a critical marine conservation effort.

As sad as I am to be ending my time here at WHSA, I can rest assured that this internship has been only the beginning of a lifelong adventure. Words cannot express how grateful I am to The Safina Center, to all the staff at WHSA, and to everyone with whom I have had the opportunity to work for giving me such an unforgettable summer experience.

I am thrilled to continue learning and teaching about the marvels of the oceans, and to incorporate all that I have learned into my future studies in veterinary medicine.

Walking down to the beach to see this beautiful Buzzard’s Bay sunset has been one of my favorite activities this summer Credit: Theresa-Anne Tatom-Naecker
Walking down to the beach to see this beautiful Buzzard’s Bay sunset has been one of my favorite activities this summer Credit: Theresa-Anne Tatom-Naecker