Marine mammal training

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A Dolphin

Marine mammal training is the training and caring for marine life such as, dolphins, killer whales, sea lions, walruses, and other marine mammals. It is also a duty of the trainer to do mental and physical exercises to keep the animal healthy and happy. [according to whom?]


The trainers train these animals by using a positive reinforcement method called operant conditioning. There are five steps needed to become a dolphin trainer: earn a high school diploma, considering volunteering, earn a degree, obtain an internship, and become SCUBA certified.[1] Most marine mammal trainers earn their degree in marine biology, psychology, and/or animal behavior. Even though a formal education is very important, it is even more important to get a hands on experience with a senior team member and learning and becoming familiar with the animals behaviors. Training marine life is a very big task and takes a lot of responsibility. Many people have an unrealistic view on what training these mammals is actually like. Trainers duties include an enormous amount of cleaning, preparing food, feeding, training, writing records, performing in shows, and public education and interaction.

Reinforcers are one of the great ways trainers communicate with animals. The reinforcers let the animal know when they have done the desired behavior you wanted them to achieve. Trainers need to make sure they reinforce the animal directly after they have successfully done the behavior and not wait too late. If the reinforcer is too late, by even a few seconds, then the animal can start an undesired behavior. The trainer needs to create signals so the animal knows they have done the correct behavior. When training a new behavior it is important to teach in small steps. By training in small steps, you can train an animal to do complex behaviors. This step-by-step learning experience is called shaping. Trainers create different signals for the animals for different behaviors. This helps let the animal know the correct behavior to perform. If an animal does not respond to a signal or responds with an undesired behavior then the trainer normally will remain motionless and wait three seconds before trying the signal again. This three second pause is referred to as the Least Reinforcing Stimulus, or LRS. It is like a short "time-out" for the animals.[2] The trainers try not to force a situation and never punish an animal for not doing a behavior correctly.[3]

Marine trainer salary[edit]

A study done by states that the average salary for an entry level trainer is between $18,000-$20,000.[4] This ranges from facility to facility but this is the average. California, Florida, and New York are the three highest states with available animal trainer job positions. Since there are few marine parks and aquariums that open each year the demand for marine mammal trainers is very competitive. Marine mammal trainers can work in aquariums, zoos, non-profit environmental advocacy organizations, eco-tourism companies, university research laboratories, industrial research centers, private companies, and government research laboratories or marine stations.[5] Since marine mammal trainers tend to be secure in their position and close to the animals they work with, the job turnover rate is low. Once people secure a job in this field, they tend to stay for life

Schooling for Marine Mammal Training[edit]

Here are some great schools for marine mammal training, University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of California Santa Cruz, California State University, Cornell University, University of Delaware, Duke University, University of Hawaii at Manoa, University of Maine, and many more.[6] Most of these schools provide an extensive schooling program with field experiences integrated with classroom and laboratory courses.[7] While a bachelor's degree is not mandatory for this career it is more beneficial to have at least a 4-year degree. If a bachelor's degree is not acquired then all of the certifications, volunteering, and qualifications are still needed to become a marine mammal trainer. The more education one has about marine life the easier it is to find a job in this field.[5]

Dolphin Research Center Training Institute, established in 2012 as the College for Marine Mammal Professions, DRCTI offers an accelerated Occupational Associates Degree in Marine Mammal Behavior, Care and Training that can be attained in 36 weeks.[8]

Additional short and long-term educational opportunities can be found here.

International Marine Animal Trainers' Association[edit]

The International Marine Animal Trainers' Association (known as IMATA), was created in 1972. IMATA was created for communication, professionalism, and cooperation between those who serve for the marine life. This helps network and exchange ideas between marine animal trainers internationally. IMATA is dedicated to providing and advancing the most professional, effective, and humane care of marine animals in all habitats.[9] IMATA's responsibilities are for striving to continue the existence of oceanaria, aquaria, and laboratories housing marine animals. There are four rules for the Code of Professional Ethics. Each member is committed to:

1. Exercising the highest levels of respect and humaneness for all animals.

2. Exercising professional integrity in representing ourselves as members of the marine animal community, as representatives of the facilities we serve, or as members of this Association.

3. Fostering respect, understanding, and cooperation among fellow members and others associated with the zoological community in general and the marine animal community in particular.

4. Contributing to the promotion of public and professional interest in IMATA and accepting the obligations of membership as required to the best of our abilities.

For more information you can visit a variety of authority resources such as, (international marine animal trainers association) and


  1. ^ "How to Become a Dolphin Trainer: Step by Step Career Guide". Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  2. ^ "Training Marine Mammals". Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  3. ^ "Marine Mammal Training at Seaworld". Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  4. ^ "Training Careers". Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "Marine Mammal Trainer". Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  6. ^ "Dolphin Research Center". Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  7. ^ "Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology". Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "IMATA". Retrieved 4 April 2012.