Hi! My name is Mary Kate, and I’m 18 years old. As you know, I’m about to go on my Senior Project and I’ll be keeping you updated on my progress, but first I should let you know where I’m going and what I’ll be doing there. Claire, a fellow senior, and I will be travelling to the Florida Keys to volunteer at the Dolphin Research Center, which is about 30 minutes away from Key West, in Marathon. We’ll be working there, 9am-5pm, for two weeks, starting Monday, Feb 22nd and ending Friday, March 5th. We will stay with my grandmother, who has a condo in Marathon.
Over Winter Break my family actually spent a week in Marathon for Christmas. While we were there we participated in the interactive “Dolphin Encounter” that the DRC offers, and we swam with the dolphins there! It was so much fun and I even met with Becky, the Director of Volunteer Resources. I spoke with her for a while and got a good sense of what Claire and I would be doing every day. We’ll start off every morning by cleaning off the submerged platforms that visitors stand on to interact with the dolphins. We will actually be the first people the dolphins see every morning, and as Becky put it, “if you don’t say hi and play with them a little, you’ll be in trouble!” (I don’t think playing with the dolphins will be very difficult!) But after that, it’s on to the fish house, where we’ll prepare the dolphins’ meals and feed them their breakfast. Some of the dolphins need extra hydration, we will be helping the trainers give them water. After the dolphins have all been fed, we move on to grounds keeping. Since the DRC welcomes hundreds of visitors each day, the grounds must be kept clean, and it’s up to the volunteers to make sure that happens. We’ll pick up any trash and sweep off the walkways, etc. Then we go to the DRC’s tropical bird house, where we will feed them as well.
Those are our basic daily chores. After they are finished, we report to Becky and she’ll direct us where we are needed, whether that be assisting the trainers with the Dolphin Encounters, working in the gift shop, or preparing educational brochures and leading visitor orientation sessions. My hope for this project is that I do something a lot different from things I’ve done in the past as far as experiences. Yes, I have been swimming with the dolphins before, but as far as work experience and skill application, I have only held the straightforward jobs of field hockey referee and lifeguard; they are seasonal and only require a specific set of skills. At the DRC I will be doing all kinds of work; as I mentioned before, not only will I be working with the animals but also with the landscaping and grounds keeping aspects, administrative tasks, and educational work as well. My only real fear is that I might not get everything done that is asked of me. I can see myself getting distracted by the animals that I will be working with, but hopefully not to the point where I neglect my other duties. Overall it should be a lot of hard work, but coupled with great rewards.
Thanks for reading! –Mary Kate
P.S. More information about the DRC and their dolphin pod can be found on their website, http://www.dolphins.org =]