Update: Week 6

Hello Everyone!

This week, we students had our first ever unsupervised session from start to finish! What a surprise that was. We spent some time with Louie, Jax and Gambit. Jax was rescued from Jacksonville, MS after he had an encounter with a bull shark. He is missing part of his dorsal fin and tail flukes, and has multiple scars on his side. Interestingly enough, he was not unrelease-able because of his injuries but because of how young he was when he was found. He had not learned all of the behaviors from his mom that were necessary for survival. Louie was found in Louisiana after the BP oil spill in 2010, he was actually the first dolphin that was rescued after stranding. Gambit was born at DRC and is the youngest dolphin in the “flipper lineage.”

So, what exactly happens in a session? It is usually when time is spent at one lagoon with one group of dolphins. Each dolphin has a symbol that they recognize as theirs (similar to name tags) which will tell them where they will be and which trainer they will be with. All of the signals are put into the water at the same time, signaling the start. Sessions are when the dolphins are fed, they do better if they are fed throughout the day so each lagoon will have multiple sessions during the day. In the process of feeding, the dolphins will be assessed each day to keep an overall idea of an individual’s health, relationship building between dolphins and trainers will take place and they will also get some exercise by doing some high energy behaviors. Each dolphin’s session is also concluded at the same time so that the nobody thinks anyone else is getting more fish than them. Guest are also able to participate in sessions. So, while it might look like just playing around – each session is primarily for the health and well-being of the dolphins which can be assessed through playtime and being close to them.

Update: Week 5

My out of the ordinary “first” that happened to me this week was that a fish bit me. Like drew blood and left a bruise kind of bit me.  I had been feeling rather good about myself because one of the other students has been bitten multiple times, with my record of none that must have meant that I was doing something right, right? Nope.  Pride comes before a “bite,” I guess. Apparently, my fingers just didn’t look as tasty until Friday and then my pinky finger bravely took the brunt of the startling incident. Why share that random story? Because unfortunately, it seems that it will be a common occurrence while working in the natural lagoons. Not necessarily something people at other facilities have to worry about, so don’t go around worrying about all trainers’ fingers now.  It usually happens when we are feeding the dolphins and the resident aggressive fish that come and go have figured out that the dolphins are getting fed tasty fish and they don’t have to work as hard.  While feeding the dolphins you really do have to make sure to place the fish in the dolphin’s mouth because if the fish think they have a chance they will even bite the dolphins. I have already seen multiple trainers be bitten while feeding and when they bring their hand up it begins to appear bloody and they have to reassure the guests that it was just the fish. The usual fishy culprits are smaller snapper fish which have canine looking teeth. There is also a damsel fish that has appeared to have laid some eggs near one of the docks and will nibble your legs when you get in the water, they do not usually draw blood.  A hazard you never thought you would have!

On another note, one of the interns was able to get some pictures of us while we were working on a training swim. So, I officially have a picture of me with a dolphin! Atocha enjoys practicing splashing people.

Update: Week 4

Hello Everyone!

Wow! What a full week it has been. We started the week off by being approved to water the dolphins and it definitely moved quickly from there! Watering the dolphins is when they are given drinking water for extra hydration. Dolphins do need fresh water but they normally receive their hydration through the fish that they eat. You will sometimes see facilities helping them by supplementing them with extra water, especially here as the water they live in has been warm at about 85 degrees. This week also marked the first time that we were allowed to get in the water with the dolphins! Each individual dolphin is approved at different times to be part of educational programs, us students were able to pose as participants to help Atocha enhance her program behaviors – such as saying hello, back rubs and in-water handshakes. We were also able to do this with some of the older males – Tanner, Flagler and Rainbow.  Continuing with big happenings, on Friday we were expecting to do a feed from the dock but were then told we would have our own play/ feeding time in the water. I was able to play with Jax which was very enjoyable. He liked playing with dive rings, rubber balls and having splash fights.  Then to finish off the week (which already had a lot of firsts) I had my chance to have a session with TWO dolphins. I was able to finish off the week working with Cacica and Atocha. They both enjoy games of moving from dock to dock.  One thing I didn’t realize about working with dolphins is how quickly you become covered in fish scales!

Update: Week 3

Hello Everyone!

I am glad to report that I aced my dolphin identification exam this last week! It took a lot of intense staring at the dolphins but I can now say I can identify the dolphins; it might take a minute but I can do it! This week we continued in our public speaking course; we have each been assigned a presentation to learn that is usually given to the public. I received the topic of baby dolphins, so I am sure that I will be sharing more about that in the future.

This last week I was also able to be closer to the sea lions and observe the trainers with them. There are 4 sea lions here, their names are Lina, Kilo, Diamond and Karen. They have all come from different facilities/ were rescued and have DRC as their forever home. One of my favorite movies is called Andre (some of you may have heard of it), it’s about a seal in Maine. The interesting part is that in the movie, Andre is played by a sea lion. If you haven’t seen it, go watch and enjoy it.  What I am realizing about Sea Lions is that I won’t actually get to have a “friendly” buddy sea lion. Most of the sea lion interaction is through protected contact with a fence between you. That makes me a little bit sad but it is still fun to watch them and prepare to work with them. We also had a course on sea lions and dolphins this past week, and it has been interesting to learn how they are different but also about the similarities they share by being designed as deep diving animals. This week we begin our animal handling course which should be very interesting!

Update: Week 1

Hello everyone!

I have officially had my first week at Dolphin Research Center! I arrived on Sunday, August 23rd and jumped right into classes on Monday, August 24th.  Classes begin at 8 am and go straight through until 530pm. We have also been told that classes will begin to be at 7am this week and go until 6pm! Talk about having non-stop days. The initial classes have been introduction to the facility and animals, building relationships with the animals, conservation, physical education and public speaking.

While mainly focusing on lecture this first week, we will begin to have more labs this week and have more specific time with the marine mammals. Dolphin Research Center houses 25 dolphins and 4 California sea lions, as well as some exotic birds. For one of my class projects, I am required to be able to identify each animal and be able to tell others how to identify them. I never thought of identifying animals as a difficult task but apparently, I hadn’t spent much time considering how to identify dolphins before! Mainly relying on scars or very uniquely shaped fins – if it’s a “perfect dolphin” they all look very similar and I just have to decide who is a lighter grey in a specific area! Definitely finding it to be a bit of a challenge. I will hopefully have them down by the exam next week!

About Jessica

Hello! My name is Jessica Massie. Born in Georgia to a military family, I have had the privilege of growing up and living in many different places (7 states (some multiple times) and Germany (twice)). While living a life that required moving often, my life is also unique in that I was homeschooled all the way until college, which provided countless learning experiences and called for many different and exciting field trips. I went on to study biology at Central Christian College of Kansas, in McPherson, Kansas where I obtained my Bachelor of Science.

Since graduating I have gone on to volunteer with multiple non- profit organizations. I spent time with Heifer International, at Heifer Ranch in Arkansas, where I was able to facilitate programs concerning world hunger and sustainable agriculture. After my time there, I volunteered with the African Children’s Choir as a chaperone for 2.5 years. I was able to care for 43, absolutely wonderful, Ugandan children. Our mission was to raise awareness and educational funds for Ugandan children through choir performances. 

Throughout my life I have loved and wanted to work with animals in some capacity. I had many different animals growing up, enjoyed being a part of 4-H animal projects and volunteered at conservation facilities.  After interning at a zoo, I decided to focus more on animal training. Now, I am planning to attend Dolphin Research Center Training Institute to pursue a degree in Marine Mammal Care and Training. I am hoping to use this to work with animals to further important conservation, create educational opportunities or work in animal and human therapy.

Click the Donate button below to support Jessica!

Help Jessica Follow Her Dreams

Have you known what you wanted to do in life from the time you were a child?   I haven’t met many who do, so those that have such clarity stand out!   From the time this young woman was five years old, she talked about being a marine biologist.  I remember her so clearly talking about it though it was twenty years ago!  

When I learned that she had been accepted to the Dolphin Research Training program, the memory of her being so little yet so clear came back to me immediately and I knew I had to help her.  This prestigious training is intense and costly, but not if those who can pitch in a little each month.   If you would like to support Jessica  – who doesn’t love dolphins?!!! Click the Donate button below to support Jessica!

She will be giving us a weekly update for the next 36 weeks!

A Testimony

The following is from a post originally shared by Bec Kinderman on Facebook, and is shared here with her permission.

My family. So blessed by these humans, but my story getting here, was a whirlwind.

I was raised in church with parents who were pastors, and our home was filled with the Holy Spirit!

I remember telling my mum I wanted to pray in tongues at 8 years old, so she baptized me in the Holy Spirit and for the next few months I practiced and practiced until I found my own language.

When I was 16 I walked away from God. I never stopped believing in him – when you experience that strong presence it’s virtually Impossible not to believe – but I wanted to live for myself, not for him. I wanted to experience the world.

I started partying, doing drugs, staying out all night, and doing that walk of shame out of the clubs at 5am.

I got engaged when I was 19, and didn’t follow through with the wedding, I dated a drug dealer after that, and after years of the same old crap, felt so lost.

I would at times, feel God tapping on my heart, saying he was there waiting for me to come back into his arms. I kept pushing him away.

I thought maybe a child would be the answer so my bf and I started trying for a baby. I never got pregnant. Never even had a “scare”.

I thought something was wrong with me, but I’d had a miscarriage at 18, so I was confused.

I left that relationship which was incredibly toxic, and with no desire to date anyone, I met Jonathan Kinderman within weeks of moving out of the house I shared with my ex.

We were inseparable right away, and only 4 months later, I found out I was pregnant. That was scary. But he is a good good man and said he wanted to marry me and raise this baby together.

The second I got pregnant I knew I wanted to be back in church and raise my kids in church.

Jono wasn’t a christian and wanted nothing to do with church, but overtime, he saw how happy I was and started coming and gave his life to the Lord.

I always say that Caprice saved me. She was the reason I came back to Jesus. God can use all things for good , and he used a surprise pregnancy, to bond me to the man he knew I needed, and to bring me back home to him.

Now we have 3 babies, and each one perfectly chosen by God, for us.

Photo credit: Chris N Chelly Nunes
Bec Kinderman is a Young Living Diamond. Click or tap here to start your Young Living journey with Bec!