Training Vocabulary:

Target:  a tool used to pinpoint the critical location for an animal in training.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium Training Department uses several different targeting tools when working with their resident animals.

With the otters, they use their fists and target poles with colored tape edges.  With the dolphins, they use their palms and target poles with buoy on the end.  Even though their hands are greatly different from the target poles, their function is the same.  Through the use of a target pole or their hands, they can guide and direct an animal.  This direction can be a body contact point when stationary, a destination point, or a direction of movement (example: Front Flip – following target pole around).

Any animal can be target trained, but a very important factor to keep in mind when working with different species is knowing what portion of the body that particular species use to explore its environments.  For example, when working with Rivir Otters, they target their snout (nose) because they are very olfactory-oriented and that is the first part of their body they use to investigate new environments.  With Sea Otters, on the other hand, they would target their paws and not their noses becasue they are more tactile-oriented and will use their paws first to explore their environments.

Want to learn more about CMA’s current resident animals?  Please visit Meet Our Animals.


The CMA Stranding Team has been extremely active this past month!

The CMA Stranding Team Workshop Series has been going great! This month we offered two separate workshops, including “Equipment and Sanitation” and “Marine Mammal Biology and Identification”. During the “Equipment and Sanitation” workshop, volunteers had the opportunity to learn all about stranding equipment and most importantly, how to properly sanitize EVERYTHING after a stranding event. This is one of the most important parts of responding to a stranding, because we want to ensure that no zoonotic diseases are transmitted to our beloved, resident dolphins. After the workshop, volunteers put their new skills to the test by sanitizing our stranding van and boat. The “Marine Mammal Biology and Identification” workshop was all about teaching our members the biology of cetaceans and how to identify the 28 species of dolphins and whales that could potentially strand in South Florida! We had a large turnout for this workshop, and members had the extra special opportunity to experience the anatomy of a dolphin firsthand, via a hands-on activity with our dolphins Nicholas and Hope. A huge thanks to trainers John and Talia for making this happen for our spectacular volunteers! 

Our Stranding Team has also been assisting Dr. Ann Weaver with her research on wild dolphins! Specifically, Dr. Weaver studies involves photo identification of the wild bottlenose dolphins that live near Johns Pass. She has been studying these animals since 2003 and has identified 291 individuals by their unique dorsal fins! The CMA Stranding Team has been able to contribute to Dr. Weaver’s research, by providing her with all the dorsal fin photos of bottlenose dolphin strandings that we have responded to. Although we had only a handful of pictures to give to her, to our surprise we found that many of the photo’s matched her animals! Therefore, Dr. Weaver now is able to “connect the dots” of what happened to the animals and also learn more about that individual (e.g. how old it is by a tooth sample). The Stranding Team will definitely continue to aid Dr. Weaver in her future research! 

Thanks to our amazing Stranding Team volunteers for all of their hard work, dedication, and positive attitude! We truly cannot do our mission without you! Looking forward to what next month has in store.

Title: Associate Marine Mammal Trainer

Hometown: Sun Prairie, WI

Education: Bachelor of Science in Biology – Emphasis in Organism Ecology. Minor in Chemistry.

Hobbies/Favorite Past Times: Scrapbooking, playing with my dog, running, volleyball & swimming


Growing up, I have always wanted to work with marine animals. First, I have always loved learning about the oceans and the creatures that grew in them. Second, I love water! I was a competitive swimmer since fourth grade through my senior year in college.

After high school, I pursued my collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Shortly after starting, I began to doubt my ability to actually become a marine mammal trainer and began to focus on other possible careers with animals (veterinarian, rehabilitation specialist, etc.). My junior year I did a wildlife internship with the Four Lakes Wildlife Center (Madison, WI). They too were a rescue, rehab, and release facility that specialized in small mammals, songbirds, and raptors. I received the unique experience to work with several types of animals and help out with several of their releases. After my internship I thought that this would be something that I would want to do for the rest of my life, so I decided to stay on as a volunteer. As graduation grew near I found myself constantly thinking how much I wanted to work with marine mammals and train. Despite the odds against me I decided to go for it and give it a shot. What did I have to lose; at the very least I can be content knowing I tried. Right before graduation, I began to fill out any and every application for marine mammal training internships for the fall of 2011.

I had filled out several applications and ultimately I chose an internship at Clearwater Marine Aquarium due to their unique mission of rescue, rehab, and release, which is near and dear to my heart. I loved the internship it gave me not only a large amount of information on animals, but also training concepts. After I finished I decided to stay on as a volunteer and continue my learning in the hopes that one day I would become a trainer somewhere. Shortly after an opportunity presented itself, a job posing for an associate training position had opened up. After the swim test and interviews I finally received my big break, I was hired in February 2012! Currently I am one of the associate trainers that work with our Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, North American river otters, African great white pelicans, and nurse sharks! My motto: Better to have tried and failed than not try at all!