Hi! My name is Sara Childers and I am a Junior Intern (I don't go in the
water, but I prepare the fish, and NOAA lets me sign off on breath rates and
ethograms) with the Marine Mammal Conservancy.
I recently spent 4 months with the Short-finned Pilot whales in Big Pine
Key, and just this week helped release a Bottlenose Dolphin back into the
wild where he belongs.
Anyway, I was assigned a research project for a study in which I am to find
the average and the maximum forward speed for all species of cetaceans. If
you have this information, or links to this information, I would really
If you would like more information on the Marine Mammal Conservancy, please
visit their website at: www.marinemammalconsv.org.
PS I might be going to college in a couple of years and I would like to
become a marine mammal vet. Do you have any ideas on what I should Major and
Minor in, and where I should go to vet school at? Thank you!
Ah, so many questions. Cool about your internship. First, you are going to
have an extremely difficult time finding all the swimming speeds of
cetaceans, because that information is not available for many species. For
the species for which it is available, a lot of the information is not
solid. For example, bottlenose dolphins are reputed to swim very fast
speeds. They can do this IF they have to, but otherwise, swim a slower
speed. It is usually the 'maximum' speed you will find. Also, many of those
'observations' were made while having a dolphin swim alongside a boat.
Dolphins, like humans and probably every other animal out there, will do
anything to be lazy and conserve energy. If you've driven next to an
18-wheeler on the highway, you know there is a nice spot to the side where
you kind of get sucked and pulled along, without having to press down for
more gas, but you're going faster. Dolphins do the same thing. This means
that a lot of the calculations are actually incorrect. Same goes for
swimming speed diving or resurfacing. They've figured out that dolphins will
push off the bottom (if they are that close to the bottom) and push
themselves off...kind of like what we do when we dive into a pool.
So, now that I'm alerted you to this, keep this information in mind when you
dig around for it. There are a lot of publications on marine mammals out
there that provide information on swimming speeds. Have you checked any of
those? A good starting spot, though a bit outdated now, are the volumes of
the Handbook of Marine Mammals (you'd need vols 3-5 for cetaceans). Also,
you could get a hold of the Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals (2002) which
might have some of that information as well. But please, like I mentioned,
be very careful with the numbers you collect and keep in mind what I told
you about the possible errors. Did you look thru the WhaleNet archives to
see if there is any information there? There should be.
Last, but certainly not least, you asked about careers. This is a very
common question on WhaleNet, so I recommend you look thru the archives, as
well as the link to the Society for Marine Mammalogy webpage which has a
career booklet you can download for free, which answers many of the
questions you asked. I too had wanted to be a marine mammal vet at one time.
I don't know how strict the vet schools still are, but usually the state you
live in either has a vet school or your state is assigned to one. That
doesn't you can't apply to others, but it is harder to do. I imagine that
the American Veterinary Medical Association must have a website. You could
check on more vet school-related questions there.
Your scenario will likely be to go to college and take some general classes.
Vet school requires a certain type of classes (get the list from your
prospective vet school, b/c not every college carries classes like animal
nutrition, etc. I had to go to summer school or drive across town for those
special classes when I lived in San Antonio, since my undergrad university
was not geared to vet school). Don't worry about not having any marine
biology classes, unless you are lucky enough to live somewhere where you can
also take those at the undergrad level. I always tell people to focus on
getting a nice general degree (mine was biology), and that way, even if you
don't get into vet school or you decide you don't like marine biology, you
still have career options. I recommend that either now or in college you
start doing some volunteer work at a vet clinic. Vet schools look very
favorably on prospective candidates who've done that, b/c they know that you
then have a clear picture (and not some rose-colored glass version) of what
being a vet is. So, if that all works out, then vet school. There are
aquatic animal medicine classes that you can take, even if not at your
particular vet school, and then you do a 'residency' of sorts, where you can
also doing an aquatic medicine program.
So, hope that helps. That was definetely a very quick and dirty explanation.
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