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IMMS Internships
IMMS Intern Experiences

Having the opportunity to be a research intern has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had. Looking at graduate school in the near future, this internship has really helped me gain not only rare experiences, but also insight on how to succeed in the research field of marine biology. I really enjoyed getting to participate in many different departments at IMMS to fully appreciate what this institution is accomplishing, and seeing that everyone truly cares about what they’re doing here. I also really liked taking photos of dolphins on research boat trips, as well as getting the chance to apply a satellite tag to a Kemps ridley sea turtle.
-Brittany
South Carolina

As an IMMS intern I got to experience working in each department: research, animal care, education, stranding, and aquarium. My goal as a research intern at IMMS was to figure out which aspect of marine biology I want to continue my career in. It was beneficial for me to be exposed to each area because I figured out what I like and don’t like; for example, I learned to love collecting research in the field, regardless of the weather and early morning. To me it was really important to actually participate in current research during my internship and that is exactly what I got to do. I loved being on the boat and getting the chance to take pictures for the photo-ID project. My experience as a research intern was extremely valuable especially in helping me decide which way to direct my future.
-Joelle
New York

My experience as a research intern at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies was one I won’t ever forget. I had the privilege of being chosen as the intern for the Winter/Spring session of 2013. Being the only intern for the 12 weeks I was at IMMS, I was able to learn a lot about being a dolphin researcher from my supervisors. I learned about the whole photo ID process both in the office and out in the field. I spent a lot of time in the office analyzing fins which included cropping, sorting, and comparing the fins to others over the past few years. Out in the field, I was able to get some boating experience out in the Mississippi Sound. There, we searched for bottlenose dolphins for either our photo ID project or our abundance project. I was able to get a lot of hands on experience including taking pictures of the dolphins, taking data, and measuring environmental factors such as water salinity and pH measurements. The boat trips were by far the best part of the internship and although it required many long, cold days, they were well worth it. One of my favorite aspects of the internship program at IMMS is that I was able to go to the other departments to help out and could experience their typical day if I chose to. During my internship, I was able to help in the stranding department by feeding and cleaning the tubs for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles that were at the facility. I found it very fascinating being able to work hands-on with the endangered species. I also helped out with a few dead dolphin strandings. I was able to help out with a few necropsies at the facility and also helped with a beach necropsy. Although necropsies are not the best thing in the world, they were also very interesting to me and I learned a lot about the internal anatomy of the dolphin from doing so. I was fortunate enough to help out after a live dolphin stranded one weekend. Although I did not go on the actual stranding, I was able to help out while the dolphin was in quarantine after it was brought back to IMMS. I watched feedings and got to help out with an x-ray of the dolphin. I feel very privileged to have been able to watch the dolphin slowly recovering after being stranded. Aside from the stranding department, I also spent part of one of my days joining an educational tour group towards the beginning of my internship. I was able to see the training sessions with the resident dolphins and birds of the facility as well as learn a little bit about the creatures of the touch pool room. Another one of my days was spent helping out in the animal care department to assist the trainers. I helped thaw out the fish for the dolphins and was able to watch the dolphin sessions up close. During the last half of my internship, the facility added sea lions to their resident animals, so I was also able to watch a feeding session and view some new training of the two young sea lions. This internship helped in making me realize that I really like doing field research and would love to further investigate cetacean biology as a future career.
-Kristen
Nashville, TN

My internship at IMMS was one I will never forget. I was challenged but I was also inspired to continue working with animals. IMMS provided a unique and fulfilling experience that I could not have attained in a class room. I enjoyed the people I learned to work with as well as the animals. Every day was a new adventure waiting to begin. My favorite aspects of the internship were the extra animal care responsibilities and conducting field work on the boat. My best piece of advice for prospective interns is to keep an open mind to the various types of work and the culture of southern Mississippi living.
-Brittany
Pennsylvania

I first stumbled upon the IMMS Research Internship last fall while I was searching for a co-op placement for the winter semester. My time spent at IMMS was an unforgettable! The Research Internship provides students with amazing hands-on experience dealing with not only the research aspect of photo identification, but students are also given the opportunity to work in the Animal Care, Strandings and Education departments of IMMS and help prepare the food for the training sessions for the dolphins and sea turtles and so much more! Going out onto the boats and taking pictures of the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins in their natural habitat was an amazing experience (and more challenging than one would think!). Being an international student, the staff at IMMS was friendly and accommodating and made me feel at home, and after completing this internship I feel as though I have made some great friends and connections for many years to come! I strongly recommend this internship to anyone who is looking for an opportunity for great hands-on experience in research and other aspects of animal care. I mean how many days can you say that you were given the chance to hold a sea turtle!!
-Hilari
Dalhousie University, Halifax Nova Scotia, Canada

I spent as an intern at IMMS I felt that I gained a huge amount of practical skills, developed my knowledge of marine mammals and also learnt how to work successfully as part of a research team. My primary responsibility was to be part of the research team at IMMS. There were two studies on wild dolphins taking place which I assisted with: photo ID and abundance. The process started with collection of data for the dolphins on the Mississippi Sound, where we would go out on the boat and photograph them or follow a transect line and take environmental measurements. This was followed by sorting, uploading, refining and analysing the data, which was largely my job alone. For the photo ID study I learnt how to use FinBase and Darwin: two programs which the researchers use to store information about the dolphins and match their dorsal fins to each other. I also learnt how to follow and update the tracks of the released turtles (with satellite tags on them) as well as other daily tasks such as updating the logs and databases. I was fortunate enough to be at IMMS when a group of sea turtles were released back into the ocean: this put the research I did into perspective and was very rewarding. IMMS also responds to stranded dolphins and sea turtles along the gulf coast and I was part of the response team during my internship. I learnt how to take morphometrics on the beach, to identify the level of decomposition of the carcasses and how to recognize the relevant characteristics of the animal. I also assisted in a necropsy of a dolphin back at the center, where I gained much practical experience as I was allowed to help with the cutting and sampling of the tissues. I found the investigative process of the stranded animals’ deaths especially interesting, and I had arrived during at a significant time because the effects of the 2010 BP oil spill were still being investigated. This phenomenon and its repercussions demonstrated to me how much politics is involved with research and conservation. I did not have much experience with marine mammals before the internship but I can now confidently handle sea turtles and have assisted with some of their veterinary procedures (xray, blood samples). I understand the dolphins’ basic husbandry procedures know how to work with them, as well as witnessing their training. I was taught how to complete the dolphin observations on the two captive dolphins which IMMS is conducting as part of a behavioural study: I really enjoyed this because it allowed me to study their behaviour from close-range and I could apply what I am learning in university to them. Overall, the internship was extremely beneficial to me, not only in experience but also in helping me to decide in what field I want to work in the future. The team at IMMS allowed me to get involved in every aspect of their work which is not common for all internships, and I really appreciated it. As a result I have learnt how to work in a research centre and have found that I thrive in and also enjoy being part of research projects, especially in an environment where one can help out in other departments such as the strandings and animal care.
-Isabella
England

I spent 5 months at IMMS and worked on different projects and performed several tasks. While being here I was given the chance to participate within the different areas of the Institute including, education, rehabilitation, animal husbandry, and strandings. The hands-on training helped me understand the different aspects of marine mammals and of the sea turtle research and conservation. This experience has given me the opportunity to learn much more about research projects and the preservation of marine species. The interaction with stranded sea turtles made me perceive how the behaviors of these species are during their rehabilitation. This internship left me with more than expected, enriched my experience and complemented my professional and personal growth. I also had the opportunity of working with a great team; I met new nice well prepared people, who welcomed me with open arms and who guided me in all the tasks assigned. I am more than grateful for having this great opportunity.
-Alejandra
Guadalajara, Mexico

During my internship with IMMS my main duties was to assist with the dolphin photo id project. This included working on the boat taking photos or recording data, organizing photos and comparing dorsal fins in Darwin. My other main duty was to make maps tracking the released turtles and updating stranding logs. The best part of the internship was the out of office time on the boat trips and helping animal care and stranding team. I learned a tremendous amount and enjoyed the work I was doing at the same time. All in all, this internship was a tremendous learning experience, and I would highly recommend anyone interested in this line of work to apply for an internship with IMMS.
-Rebecca
Georgia

With experience in multiple programs doing dolphins research, this internship provides a very well-rounded experience that is an accurate representation of what it's like to actually work in this field of study. I would recommend it to anyone interested in wild marine mammal research, who also wants to get a taste of what it's like to work in a stranding program.
-Trevor
Wyoming

Cetacean research is something that I have always known that I wanted to pursue. This internship has taken me one step closer toward reaching that long term goal and for that I am very grateful. My experience at IMMS allowed me to experience a good majority of what goes into a photo-identification research project, and the experience only fueled my passion for this field of study. I have gotten experiences here at IMMS that I could not get anywhere else and have met some wonderful people along the way, who I hope will remain good friends in the future. I would highly recommend this internship to anyone who is interested in cetacean research and is willing to put in the work that is needed for a research project of this nature.
-Rachel
Columbus, OH

Obtaining this research internship after college graduation, I was excited to develop my knowledge in marine biology and see life in the Southern part of the United States. I studied mostly freshwater biology in my undergraduate career and feel that I have been able to further the latitudes of my aquatic understanding through my work here. I enjoyed the research aspect of the internship because of my goals to ask and answer questions about various aquatic life and environments, but I was able to assist in other tasks such as adult and neonate necropsies, sea turtle rehabilitation, animal care, educational tours, aquarium upkeep, and crab surveys on boat trips. I found all these to be very valuable in learning about the projects going on here at IMMS diversifying my skills in aquatic biology. The kind people and life experiences I gained were thoroughly enjoyed.
-Jenna
Minnesota

I travelled nearly 5000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean for this internship, and I'm so glad I did! Being a Research intern, my main involvement was with the bottlenose dolphin photo ID project. The fieldwork involved with this was my favorite part about the internship and it was a privilege to be able to see dolphins in their natural environment. One of the great things about this internship is that even though I was a Research intern I was able to help out in other departments as well. I was lucky enough to assist with 6 dolphin necropsies, as well as take part in stranding surveys and respond to dead sea turtle and dolphin strandings. I was also able to help out with the animal care department, and watching how intelligent the sea lions and dolphins are was just incredible. IMMS have given me my first step up on the Marine Biology career ladder and have equipped me with valuable skills that I would not have been able to receive in London, and for that I will forever be grateful.
-Katie
London, England

My time as an intern at IMMS has truly been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There aren't many places where someone who is just starting out in the field of marine biology can not only play an important role in a photo ID project, but also get the opportunity to be involved in sea turtle rehab and release, aquarium care, dolphin and sea lion care, dolphin strandings, public education...the list goes on and on. Most importantly, I felt that while I was here, the quality of my experience as an intern and what I took away from this internship was just as important as the work I was doing for IMMS. All of the staff make it a priority that interns have a fulfilling and well-rounded experience. Additionally, I feel that the opportunity I had to gain experience in marine biology will be invaluable for my career, and can potentially open many doors for me in this competitive field. I'll never forget this summer or the wonderful people I worked with!
-Kelli
Texas

My experience as a research intern with the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies has been extraordinary. I never expected to learn as much as I did, nor did I expect to experience other departments such as animal care and education. The staff members were very flexible, reliable, and went above and beyond to ensure that your experience was one worthwhile. I loved every single minute of my internship and am so extremely grateful to have worked with such an amazing group of researchers. I will never forget my experience at the IMMS and the things I've done will be invaluable in obtaining a career in the marine research field.
-Ana
Wisconsin



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