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Career Spotlight: Seaworld Animal Trainer
Being a life-long animal lover, I escape to Seaworld every chance I have to catch the eye-dazzling shows, exquisite animal exhibits, and heart-pumping rides. When I was younger, my dream was to become one of the many animal trainers who spend their days beneath the Florida sun, hand in flipper with an exquisite marine animal.
In my spare time, I would study books on marine science, reading fascinating tales of infamous Marine Biologists. Also, I made it my life goal to learn about every little aspect of Seaworld from how fast a dolphin can swim to what a shark’s diet consists of.
Remembering those days not so long ago, I was inspired to write an article motivating those who are still trainer-bound.
After contacting Seaworld, I was truly honored to be granted an interview with Senior Animal Trainer, Jeannie Carder Kilby, who currently works at Whale and Dolphin Stadium and stars in the show “Blue Horizons”. In our fifteen-minute interview, I discovered a great deal about the life of a Seaworld trainer and what it takes to achieve this dream job.
Below is the interview with trainer Jeannie Carder Kilby.
Korina C: How long have you been a trainer at Whale and Dolphin Stadium?
Jeannie Carder Kilby: I’ve been here at Whale and Dolphin Stadium for a year, but I’ve worked at Seaworld for nine and a half years. I started at Shamu Stadium back in 2000 for two years, transferred to Whale and Dolphin Stadium, then back to Shamu Stadium, and now I’m here again at Whale and Dolphin Stadium.
KC: When did you know that you wanted to become a trainer and why?
JCK: My father took me to Seaworld in Ohio when I was younger and I remember seeing a female trainer doing water ballet with a baby Killer Whale and I knew from that moment that that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
KC: What type of higher education or training did you go through in order to have the job you do now?
JCK: I pursued psychology in college. Most people think that you need to pursue Marine Biology but it’s actually Psychology because that’s what the animal training is founded in.
KC: How many animals are there at Whale and Dolphin Stadium?
JCK: We have a variety of animals including eight male dolphins, three female dolphins, one false killer whale, and we also have a selection of tropical birds, which we use in our show.
KC: What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the job?
JCK: My favorite part is anything to do with working with the animals. I love seeing them in the morning, teaching them new things, playing with them, and getting the opportunity to form a relationship with them. My least favorite part of the job is hard to say. It would probably be getting in the cold water. Most people think that since we live in Florida that the water is warm but it’s really not. We wear three millimeter wetsuits to keep warm, but once you’re in the water for a while you don’t notice the cold and you’re focused on the animal.
KC: How did you become a trainer at Seaworld?
JCK: Well, I first found out what the qualifications were and I discovered that I did not have the scuba, first aid, and CPR certifications. After attaining these certifications, I applied to human resources for a swim test. After passing the swim test I was granted an interview with Seaworld for the job.
KC: What was it like in that interview?
JCK: I was really nervous about the swim test. I was more nervous about that swim test than the actual interview. The interview process was really intimidating because I was seated at this conference table surrounded by Seaworld’s head animal trainers. I just answered all of their questions honestly.
KC: What is a funny story that has happened at your job involving the dolphins and/or the killer whales?
JCK: One of the funniest moments was at Shamu stadium, where I had been working with a female killer whale for many years. I was sitting at the side of the pool, talking with a fellow female trainer, and the female killer was in the pool beside me. I turned my head to answer a question and the female killer whale popped out of the water and kissed me on the cheek.
KC: What is the job description for working at Whale and Dolphin Stadium? Do all of you have the same job or do each of you perform a specific task?
JCK: All of us have the same job goal, which is to interact with a variety of different animals, enriching their lives and teaching ourselves the parts of our show “Blue Horizons”. The trainers with different levels of experience perform in different parts of the show but we are all attaining the same goal.
KC: Do you plan on working at Seaworld for a long time or do you want to go onto other things in the field of Animal Training or Marine Science?
JCK: This is my dream job and I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else.
KC: Tell us about the show Blue Horizons at Whale and Dolphin Stadium. What is it like being a trainer and a performer?
JCK: I’m actually quite shy in front of an audience so it took a little while to get used to. I play Marina who is a young girl. It’s great going back there again to play a young girl, seeing the world through her eyes. Also, I enjoy playing the sea trainer part along with two other trainers in the water with six dolphins. We’re just watching each other and keeping in time with the music. It’s challenging and exciting!
KC: What advice would you like to give to students who are interested in becoming an animal trainer?
JCK: I would suggest definitely practicing your swimming skills because before you are interviewed you have to pass the swim test. There is an underwater breath hold at 110 feet and when I was going through this test I kept looking at the other applicants under the water and thinking that if they could do it so could I. If you believe in yourself and really want it you can achieve anything.
After our interview, I gained that exhilarating spark that had been extinguished so many years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing her stories of working with dolphins, whales, and trainers, oh my!
Truly, this dream job is one that everyone wants at least once in their lifetime. Can you imagine? Spending each and every day in and out of the water with dolphins, whales, and more? Swimming side beside, you and the animal, bonding with each other. Definitely, a dream come true for anyone.
*Special thanks to the Seaworld themepark for allowing this interview to take place and to Jeannie Carder Kilby, Seaworld Senior Animal Trainer, for granting me the time for this interview.*