Discrimination:  The tendency for a behavior to occur in the presence of a certain stimuli but not in their absence.

“As trainers it is important to be very clear with our animals to prevent frustration. When giving hand signals to our animals they have to be able to discriminate between the signals. By discriminating they are then able to give the correct corresponding behavior. Each hand signal should be clear and different from the rest, thus decreasing the probability that the individual will mix up between behaviors.

Here at the aquarium our training staff utilizes a variety of hand signals with our collection. Our training staff works together to come up with new and inventive hand signals so that our collection can easily distinguish between which behaviors we are asking for. Each signal should be different but yet simple enough that every trainer is able to replicate it.

People and several species of animals have the capability to discriminate between different stimuli to produce different behaviors. This concept is not only applicable to the training world but also to everyday life. For example, you see some one smile and say hello to you. What do you do? In most cases you return the smile and greeting. What was the stimulus? The stimulus was the other person smiling and saying hello. What was the behavior given? The behavior was your return smile and greeting. People and animals are very observant creatures and its behavior is affected by different stimuli throughout everyday life.”


Name: Erin

Title: Associate Marine Mammal Trainer

Hometown: Opelousas, Louisiana

Education: Bachelor of Science – Animal Science

Pastimes/Hobbies: Horseback Riding

Bio: “I was born in Opelousas, Louisiana. There, I lived on a horse and cattle ranch where I first learned to ride horses before I could even walk! We lived there until my family and I moved to the Bay Area in Northern California. Through high school I worked at a vet clinic, starting as a volunteer when I was 14, and then continuing as a vet tech by the age of 16 up until I graduated. I then went to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo as an animal science major. After my freshman year, I did a summer internship at Dolphin Quest Bermuda where I learned a lot about marine mammal training. This was an extremely beneficial and hands on internship. Next I completed a summer internship after my junior year with the Navy Marine Mammal Program in San Diego, CA. This was also a very hands-on experience in which I was able to further develop my skills in dolphin training, and learn to interact and work with California sea lions. I finished my bachelor’s degree in 2011. Just before coming to CMA, I was a zookeeper at a small, nonprofit zoo in Paso Robles, CA called Zoo To You. This was a very fun position in which I was able to work with all sorts of animals, from mountain lions, tigers and bears to primates, birds of prey and various hoof stock. Outside of work, I continue to enjoy horseback riding. I also love taking my Great Dane, Max, to the beach on my days off!”