Are you interested in working with dolphins, sea turtles, sea lions, whales, seals, or other aquatic species? The best way to get your foot in the door for a future career in this field is to participate in internships. Here are fifteen of our favorite marine animal internships (listed alphabetically):
Alaska SeaLife Center Summer Fellowship
The Alaska SeaLife Center offers several internship opportunities related to marine animal husbandry, aquarium husbandry, marine wildlife veterinary work, marine mammal research, and sea lion research through its Summer Fellowship program. Applicants should be actively enrolled college students or recent graduates with a degree in an animal related field. Internships run for 10 to 12 weeks (or more) and housing is provided.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium Internships
Clearwater Marine Aquarium (in Florida) has several different types of internships designed for college students and recent college graduates. Internships are available in areas such as marine mammal training, sea turtle rehabilitation, sea turtle nesting (summer only), aquatics/water quality, education, marketing, and more. Interns work a 5 day week for four months. Compensation (salary or housing) is not provided as a part of this opportunity.
Dolphins Plus Research Internship
Dolphins Plus (in Key Largo, Florida) offers research internships to undergraduate students and recent graduates with an interest in marine mammalogy. Internships are unpaid and run for 8 to 12 weeks. Housing is not provided but the center will assist the student in locating affordable options nearby. Interns learn about dolphin and sea lion behavior, collect and analyze data, attend a lecture series, complete exams, utilize research software, and develop educational presentations for the public. Internships are offered year round.
Georgia Aquarium Internships
The Georgia Aquarium offers many internship opportunities including an animal training internship option. Animal training interns work directly with the bottlenose dolphins assisting with care, dolphin shows, training, and behavioral data collection. Applicants should be at least juniors in college pursuing a major in biology, animal science, zoology, or a related field. Interns work between 20 and 40 hours per week. All internships are unpaid but students receive free admission and parking during their session.
Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehab Internship
The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehab Internship (in North Carolina) offers 12 week (or longer) internship sessions for college students on a year round basis. The sea turtle hospital gives students the opportunity to assist with medical treatments, feeding, cleaning tanks, tracking turtles on the beach, collecting scientific data, and interacting with tour groups during visiting hours. Housing is available on site.
Marineland Dolphin Adventure Internship
Marineland Dolphin Adventure (in St. Augustine, Florida) coordinates a marine animal training internship where students are able to work closely with dolphins. Interns learn from experienced trainers and assist with training exercises, diet preparation, education, and general habitat maintenance. Applicants must be rising juniors or seniors majoring in animal science, psychology, biology, zoology, or another closely related area. Interns must commit to a three month internship period (40 hours a week) and the opportunity is unpaid.
Mote Marine Research Laboratory and Aquarium Internships
The Mote Marine Research Laboratory and Aquarium (Sarasota, Florida) is the host site for the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program. Ten students are selected for this 10 week opportunity each year and participate in a research study with a mentor. Research topics may include marine microbiology, marine immunology, fisheries ecology and enhancement, marine mammal stranding, and dolphin population dynamics. Students in the Mote REU program receive a $5,000 stipend plus free housing and a travel allowance. Mote also offers other unpaid internships for undergraduate and graduate students.
Multicultural Initiative in the Marine Sciences Internship
The Multicultural Initiative in the Marine Sciences (MIMSUP) offers internships for undergraduate minority students at the Shannon Point Marine Center in Washington. MIMSUP accepts eight students to complete two quarter sessions. During the internship the students participate in research projects and complete coursework. The compensation package includes housing, round trip airfare, college credit, and an allowance of $3335 to cover the cost of food during the internship.
Perry Institute Internships
The Perry Institute (Bahamas field station) offers marine science internships for aspiring marine biologists. Interns work directly with researchers in the Bahamas and are a part of diving expeditions, marine science research projects, and environmental monitoring. Applicants must have earned their open water SCUBA certification and have CPR certification to be eligible. Summer marine internships are offered from May to September. All internships are unpaid but they do provide full or partial room and board.
REEF Marine Conservation Internships
REEF Marine Conservation Internships (in Key Largo, Florida) are designed for junior or senior level college students or recent graduates. Internships run for a period of four months and are unpaid, but REEF is able to offer partial payment of housing costs. Interns are involved with diving and snorkeling expeditions, identifying species of Floridian and Caribbean fish, performing dissections, conducting educational seminars for the public, and assisting with office work. Interns must have basic open water SCUBA certification and diving gear to participate.
Sea Life Park Hawaii Internships
Sea Life Park Hawaii (near Honolulu) offers internships in many areas including marine mammal care and training, veterinary technician services, reef and sea turtle care, educator training, seabird rehabilitation, and more. Interns may work with dolphins, sea lions, seals, sea turtles, stingrays, sharks, penguins, and various reef fish. Sea Life Park also boasts the only Green Sea Turtle breeding program in the United States, releasing 200-800 hatchlings into the wild each year. All internships are unpaid but lunch is provided; housing and transportation are not included.
Sea Turtle Conservancy Research Assistantship
The Sea Turtle Conservancy Research Assistantship (in Tortuguero, Costa Rica) offers eight students per session (24 students per year) a chance to work with either leatherback or green sea turtles in the wild. Interns may be involved with tagging turtles, recording nesting information, excavating nests, leading beach patrols, and developing educational programs. Students must pay for their own travel expenses but receive room and board while in Tortuguero. A background in biology, the ability to speak Spanish, and prior fieldwork experience give an applicant the best chance of securing one of these competitive internship experiences.
Sea Turtle Inc Summer Internship
The Sea Turtle Inc Summer Internship offers eight positions at its South Padre Island, Texas location. Internships are available at the nonprofit sea turtle rehabilitation center from mid-March to mid-August. Students assist with medical treatments, nest conservation, beach patrols, hatchling releases, and educating the public. Applicants must be juniors or seniors in college pursuing a biology-related degree, and applications are due in December. Housing and a $35 per day stipend are provided.
SeaWorld offers a number of different internship options at its parks across the United States. Internship candidates must have at least one year of college study completed (preferably in a field such as biology, psychology, or a closely related area). Interns must also be capable of passing a swimming test, have prior animal training experience or a background in animal care, and be comfortable working outdoors in changing weather conditions. Compensation for a zoological intern position at Discovery Cove Orlando (where guests interact with dolphins) was recently listed as paying $10 per hour plus college credit.
U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Training Program
The U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Training Program (in San Diego, California) offers an internship that focuses on dolphins and sea lions. Interns assist the staff with open ocean training sessions, husbandry, diet preparation, and research studies centered on the hearing abilities of various marine species. Students must commit to a minimum of 10 weeks (40 hours per week). The internship is unpaid and students must take care of their own housing and transportation.