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