CLEARWATER MARINE AQUARIUM 

Immerse Yourself Into the world of Marine Life Rescue

 

www.seewinter.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) is an amazing place. It is dedicated to the protection, rescue, rehabilitation and release of marine life back into the wild. It is home to rescued dolphins, sea turtles, river otters, stingrays, nurse sharks and more.

Sick or injured animals are delivered to the staff and volunteers at CMA by local residents, fisherman, park rangers or even visitors to the Florida area. A team of experienced CMA staff biologists, veterinarians and volunteers create a rehabilitation plan specifically developed for the rescued animal based on its injury or illness. Every animal who comes into CMA is given a name, to reflect their individual personality. Once recovered, where possible, the animals are returned to their homes in the wild. Those whose injuries are severe or the animal is too young that it would not be in the animal’s best interests to release it back into the wild are given permanent homes at CMA.

Two of CMA’s most famous residents are Winter and Hope (pictured below), who starred in Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2. Both movies were filmed at the Aquarium.

 

To find out what it is like to work at CMA, please read the exclusive interviews of Devon Francke, who is the Supervisor of Sea Turtle Rehabilitation and Cami Zodrow, a Senior Animal Care Specialist. Devon and Cami talk you through the qualifications, practical experience and personal skills which they need to work at CMA, as well as giving personal insights into what they love about their roles.

Once you have read their interviews, please do look at CMA’s website (https://www.seewinter.com), which provides extensive information on CMA’s mission, education programme, internships, volunteer programmes and how you can support this charity.

CAMI ZODROW

SENIOR ANIMAL CARE SPECIALIST

 

The role you perform at the Aquarium

Senior Animal Care Specialist

 

How long have you worked at the Aquarium

 6 and 1/2 years

 

Why did you want to work at the Aquarium

I was actually asked to work here by Dr Walsh and Kelly Martin!!

 

What educational qualifications do you need to perform your role

I have a degree in Zoology and had had 12 years experience in the field before I started at CMA.  Minimum requirement to work here is a Bachelors degree, scuba certified and be able to pass a swim test.

 

What practical experience did you obtain which helped you to obtain your role

I again had 12 years experience working with dolphins. But starting out we prefer that candidates for an entry level position have some animal care experience.  Paid is preferred however the last few trainers that were hired were from our past intern groups.

 

Are there any personal skills which you need to perform your role

I have excellent guest service skills and am very empathetic and caring.  Just who I am as a person. Those skills definitely help out in this industry.

 

What do you love about your work

The animals and specifically seeing the impact that I have made in their lives throughout my career.

 

What can be challenging about your work

Getting up at 4.30am 

 

What is your fondest memory

Honestly, there are too many.  So many guests have made an impact on my life that it is hard to pick one.  As far as animal memories, anything that my boys have experienced as a result of my career I will never forget!!

 

Do you have any personal advice for children or teenagers

Follow your dreams, don’t give up, stay in school and LOVE LOVE LOVE every minute that you get to work with animals.

DEVON FRANCKE

THE SUPERVISOR OF SEA TURTLE REHABILITATION AT THE CLEARWATER MARINE AQUARIUM

 

The role you perform at the Aquarium

My role is to coordinate and supervise the team that treats and cares for our sick and injured sea turtles.

 

How long have you worked at the Aquarium

I have been at the aquarium for exactly 1 year (minus 3 days).  It’s been a great year!

 

Why did you want to work at the Aquarium

I have loved animals my whole life, and discovered my passion for sea life when I was a young adult.  I’ve devoted my young professional career to researching and caring for sea turtles, spending the last 7 years in Hawaii getting my Master’s degree in marine science, then working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) turtle program in Honolulu.  I was looking to move back to the mainland, and found this wonderful opportunity with CMA who’s mission is to Rescue, Rehab, and Release wildlife – something I wholeheartedly believe in, too.

 

What educational qualifications do you need to perform your role

As I mentioned above, I have a Master’s degree in marine science, obtained from Hawaii Pacific University.  My Master’s thesis focused on studying the diving behaviors of juvenile green turtles in Kailua Bay, Oahu, Hawaii, and how they utilized their habitat.  Prior to that, I obtained my Bachelor of Science in Zoology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

 

What practical experience did you obtain which helped you to obtain your role

I have had a great many experiences that aided me in getting this position.  I volunteered at and performed 2 internships with the Como Park Zoo in Minnesota when I was in college.  After college, I gained experience working with sea life (particularly sea turtles) while performing a year-long internship at the School for Field Studies in the Turks and Caicos Islands.  Following this, I worked at the aquarium in the Mall of America, back in Minnesota where I was a jack-of-all-trades, working on all teams – husbandry, education, the dive team, etc. I then moved to Hawaii for grad school, which then led into my role working as a research technician with NOAA.  All of these experiences helped me to be prepared for my role here at CMA.

 

Are there any personal skills which you need to perform your role

As a supervisor, there are extra skills required on top of the skills needed to care for the turtles here at CMA. Not only do I need my turtle rehab skills I’ve gained over the last 5-7 years in various positions I’ve held, but a supervisor must have strong leadership skills, be caring yet stern, be respectful of their staff and coworkers, be able to multitask and prioritize, and be able to delegate.

What do you love about your work

For me, the best part about what I do is watching a turtle swim out to sea after a successful rehabilitation stay at CMA.  It’s the culmination of our mission: to rescue, rehab, and release injured and sick wildlife.  It’s how I know I’m really playing a part in protecting these endangered and threatened species – and the confirmation that I know I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing with my life.

 

What can be challenging about your work

The most challenging part of my work can be the workload itself.  On most days, we have a lot of sick turtles that need various kinds of treatments, as well as taking care of our resident turtles who have needs of their own.  It’s been a challenge figuring out the best way to organize my days, but with time and experience, it’s getting better week by week!

 

What is your fondest memory

My fondest memory of working with turtles would be my days of field work while gathering data for my Master’s thesis.  We’d gather sea turtle biologists from around the area to come and help measure sea turtles, attach electronic devices to them, and release them again.  Sending them on their way was such a thrill, knowing that they’d be out there swimming and collecting data for me to later analyze.

 

Do you have any personal advice for children or teenagers

My advice is to follow your heart.  Your job should be something you love to do – not just something that makes money.  Doing what you love is truly what will make you happy.  To pursue this field, look into volunteer opportunities with zoos, aquariums, or even vet hospitals.  Look into college programs in zoology, biology, or veterinary medicine.  Try to find an internship or 2 relating to the field.  And most importantly – never give up!  Keep applying to jobs, you never know when the perfect one will come your way.

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