Posts Tagged 'dolphin trainer'

National Zookeeper Appreciation Week: Kerry Martens

In the celebration of National Zookeeper Appreciation Week, meet Kerry Martens, one of our Marine Mammal Trainers! 

kerry martens

How long have you been at the Aquarium?

I started with the Marine Mammal Department as an intern in 2006. I started full-time as a trainer the day after graduation and have been working with the dolphins ever since.

What interested you to pursue your current career path?

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a fascination with dolphins.  I spent many an hour in front of the TV watching re-runs of Flipper and would get so excited to see dolphins swim off the coast during family vacations to the Jersey Shore.  I actually wrote to Sea World in fourth grade asking what it takes to be a dolphin trainer!  I took the response they gave me and used it as a life plan, making sure I did everything possible to get my dream job.

Can you briefly describe for us what your typical day looks like?

A day in the Marine Mammal Department can start as early as 6:30 in the morning. It takes two full hours to sort and weigh out the 200 pounds of frozen fish that make up the dolphins’ diet. The dolphins get fed between 7-10 times a day, roughly every hour and half. There are many different types of sessions we have with the animals. Some are focused on training brand new behaviors, others are dedicated to husbandry, the medical behaviors that help us take care of them, and some consist entirely of playtime. Play is a great way for us to build our relationship with the animals, which is key to all of the training that we do.

When we’re not working directly with the animals, we spend a majority of our time cleaning. This includes buckets, toys, the kitchen, all of our back-up areas, and even our pools. All trainers are SCUBA certified, which allows us to enter the water and scrub and vacuum the pools each and every day.

What is your favorite Aquarium memory?

I was selected to be a presenter and represent the National Aquarium at the 2010 International Marine Animal Trainers Association conference. There, I got to meet trainers from all over the world and learn about the exciting advancements and developments in marine animal care and research taking place.  At the conference, I presented on the work we did with our 41 year old female, Nani,  in which we trained her to voluntarily participate in an eye exam with a veterinarian.  The presentation won a first place award!

What is the next big project you’re working on?

We are constantly training the animals new behaviors, so I consider those my “projects.” I am in the process of training Bayley to lay calmly while the veterinarians take a blood sample from her tail, and am about to start teaching Jade a high-energy breach behavior.  

What is your favorite animal?

Although we spend a lot of time building relationships with all of the animals, a good portion of my day is spent with 4-year-old Bayley. I’m responsible for all of her husbandry behaviors, so it is important that she and I have a strong bond, as these are not necessarily the most high-energy or exciting behaviors. Bayley is extremely energetic and playful so I make sure to get some playtime in with her each day!

Stay tuned to the blog this week to meet more of our amazing staff!

Farewell to Chinook

From Kerry Martens, Dolphin Trainer

We recently transported Chinook, the adult male dolphin that has been at the National Aquarium on breeding loan for the past three years, to the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois.

Chinook was loaded into a specially made transport carrier and taken by truck to the airport. He was flown to Chicago with an Aquarium vet and trainer by his side. Upon arrival at Brookfield, he looked great and began to eat fish right away.  We heard that he is already showing interest in the female dolphins at Brookfield Zoo!

As part of a dolphin breeding consortium, we work with seven other zoos/aquariums to cooperatively manage and breed our dolphins.  Male dolphins are commonly moved from place to place to breed with different female groups.  This type of movement – male dolphins moving between groups of females for breeding – is also seen in dolphins in the wild.

While we are excited for Chinook to go on and become a father once more (2-year-old Bayley is his daughter), he will certainly be missed by the National Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Staff.  His attempts to gain the attention of our female dolphins were occasionally comical, spinning in front of them in the middle of the pool or making unique vocalizations, and his overall laid-back demeanor made him a pleasure to work with.

We’ll miss you, Chinook!

Explore Maya’s World

A few weeks ago we took you into the world of Nani, our oldest dolphin. This week we’d like to take you into the world of one of our younger dolphins, Maya!

Maya is known as the “princess” of the pool. She is a girly-girl and loves shiny objects. She is just 8 years old, but one of the stars of the new dolphin show, Our Ocean Planet. She has incredible athletic ability, which she loves to show off during shows. You may catch a glimpse of her abilities on TV in one of the Aquarium’s new commericials:

Maya was born at the National Aquarium in 2001 and is the daughter of Shiloh, who also lives at the Aquarium. Weighing 380 pounds, she eats about 21 pounds of fish a day! When she is not performing, Maya is typically playing with Spirit, another 8 year old dolphin, and looking for attention from the trainers.

You can catch Maya in action during Our Ocean Planet, shows now running daily at the Aquarium. Join us for the grand opening April 4 & 5 and enjoy special dolphin activities and giveaways!

Explore Nani’s world

nani-headshotThe National Aquarium is home to a dynamic group of 10 healthy Atlantic bottlenose dolphins ranging from six months to 37 years. If you follow our blog, you know that the trainers and dolphins are currently preparing for the opening of our new dolphin show, that will explore the power, beauty, and grace of a dolphin’s world. Let’s a take a closer look into the world of Nani.

Nani is 37 years old, making her the oldest dolphin at the National Aquarium, and the most dominant. She came to the National Aquarium in 1990, when the Lyn P. Meyerhoff Amphitheater opened to the public.  Nani has given birth to six calves in her lifetime. Two of her calves live at the Aquarium, Spirit and Beau, and she is very protective of the both of them. 

Nani, meaning “beautiful” in Hawaiian, weighs approximately 500 pounds and is also the largest dolphin of the group. She currently eats about 25 pounds of fish a day! And with the trainers she is like a big huggable teddy bear in the water.

You can see Nani perform in our new dolphin show, Our Ocean Planet.  We invite you to join us on March 28 or 29 for a special preview of the new show. Visitors to the Aquarium on those days will have an opportunity to register on-site to win a Dolphin Encounter, for the chance to get up-close and personal our dolphins! We hope to see you there!

For the love of dolphins

The marine mammal trainers were excited to welcome world figure skating champion, Kimmie Meissner, to the Aquarium yesterday! A Maryland native and a huge fan of the Aquarium, Kimmie volunteered her time to be a part of the new dolphin show video. Yesterday she spent time learning what it takes to become a dolphin trainer, and got up close and personal with some of the Aquarium’s dolphins.kimmie-m-filming-small2

As a child Kimmie loved visiting the Aquarium and she still has a strong love for animals. At one point she thought about becoming a marine biologist, but has decided to major in exercise science at the University of Delaware. 

 She is very excited about the new show and the message it sends to young people who are fascinated by dolphins!


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