Archives for June 2007

My Journey into a Professional Career with Animals (Intro Continued…)

Diana L Guerrero continues her introduction here at Animal Career Secrets.  All content copyrighted 2007 by Diana L Guerrero. Some rights reserved.

Because I lived on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean, I often fell asleep to the lull of the ocean waves and the sounds of the sea lions on the rocks below. So, when I entered into the world of Marineland—I encountered captive marine mammals—not just the wild ones with whom I was familiar.

Captive wild animals are different from the wild animals who live in their natural environment. I have a few theories about this—but that is for another topic.

Marineland was one of the first marine parks to be established and sported a wide collection of specimens. It was the San Pedro fisherman who actually caught fish, sea turtles, and whales that were to be housed there.

Initially, Marineland of the Pacific was run by scientists (who were not the best at marketing and bringing in money). When I arrived, Hanna Barbera had taken over the facility and was attempting to turn it into an attraction.

The profit challenge remained because access to Marineland was tough as the road on the coast was continually shifting (because it was sliding into the Pacific) but I loved the location which was a blend and contrast between the wild and the captive.

Wild sea lions cavorted below the park and could be enjoyed as visitors strolled from one show or exhibit to the next. Pelicans lived in an exhibit and wild ones visited. At that time, the dolphin pool was a place to play and interact with the amazing animals—not to feed them as the current trend seems to be.

Relationships that rely on dispensing food can limit relationships with animals. Don’t get me wrong, food can be a good tool but an inter-specific bond needs to be forged by interest, mutual respect, and understanding. Good animal people build a solid foundation on those pillars.

During my day to day duties, if I was absorbed in my thoughts and rushing from one location to another, the dolphins’ accurate aim would send a ball sailing my way in attempts to get me to stop and play. As a manager, I was often behind the scenes and the inquisitive orcas and Pacific bottlenose dolphins would follow me or vocalize so that I would take a break during the busy day.

Although I was not yet a trainer, I befriended and pestered many of those marine animal trainers who worked there. I often sat for hours on my off time watching sessions or asking questions related to behavior, training, and showmanship.

This served me well because the dolphin trainers and killer whale trainers knew I was serious and encouraged me to get my degree in animal training and management. So, I began to research those opportunities. At the time there was only one college with such a course but the reputation was great and if you survived the experience you were considered “worth your salt” and actually had your pick of jobs.

Today the world has changed and there are many programs dedicated to the different types of animal jobs out there (which Animal Career Secrets will get into), but back then it was tradition to apprentice under the great animal trainers.

Okay, I hope you got a few things from this story. I won’t keep outlining what I have included in these stories but will highlight a couple of points I feel are important—until you read and ponder the material differently.

Relationship development is important—with the animals and with the humans involved with them.

Animal careers are earned through hard work—going beyond the standard work hours and motivated from a deep passion.

Animal career seekers do the work themselves. When someone has friend, family, or someone else call or contact instead of doing it themself it is a big red warning flag that works against the seeker.

Next time: Apprenticing…

Diana L Guerrero is an animal career specialist and has extensive experience in many areas of the animal world. A well known animal expert, she has worked professionally with animals for over thirty years. Guerrero is the author of several books and writes for a variety of websites including Ark Animals.

Introduction to Animal Career Secrets & Diana L Guerrero

Diana L Guerrero introduces Animal Career Secrets and shares some of her personal story–and insights to a career with animals.  All content copyrighted 2007 by Diana L Guerrero. Some rights reserved.

Greetings! This is Diana Guerrero and I want to welcome you to Animal Career Secrets. I am going to start off by introducing myself to you and I hope you will comment below and do the same. In addition, why not subscribe to my list so you don’t miss a post or any of the special programs I broadcast to my lists?

Although Animal Career Secrets is new, I’ve been around a while and run a variety of websites and write for a variety of animal related content providers both on the net and in the traditional media. I am also the author of two animal books for the general public.

Because I have been in animal careers my entire professional life I am going to give you the condensed version of why you might be interested in what I have to say and then expand when appropriate. I have a lot of experiences and stories to share.

So, here it goes…

My professional career with animals really began early in my teens. However, animals always gravitated to me and the varieties of my animal pals ranged from familiar domestic critters throughout the neighborhood to the wild creatures that roamed the fields, cliffs, and ocean realm of my home town of San Pedro, California.

As a child, I suffered from allergies (and still do with some species) and so we didn’t have many long-term pets. Animals found me anyway, and I also managed to forge relationships with all the critters in the area—wild and tame.

Anyway, I bring up the allergies is to point out that you can have an animal career despite challenges. Originally I thought I would go into marine biology and a niche career of marine mammal work—but although my path started there—it has meandered through many different agencies, countries, and so I’ve worked in many roles with all creatures not just the marine types.

Professionally I claim a career launch with graduation from high school—however it began several years earlier as my love for the ocean grew. My passion manifested as a love with surfing and educating intercity kids about grunion, the tide pool life, whales and other marine animals.

We lived on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean and although I traveled up and down the coast to surf, I spent many hours (and years) around the cliffs, on the beaches, and in the sea surround my home town.

Luckily I lived in an area with some unique animal facilities and somehow began volunteering for an agency that educated people about the ocean and life within and around it. I found myself on the beach and on the ocean on a daily basis and was narrating whale watch tours during a time when the United States was still hunting whales–and when people thought whales were fish. Marine aquariums and oceanariums were new ventures.

Okay, okay, I am dating myself—but with age comes wisdom—remember?

My passion and enthusiasm had to be tempered as the kids often got too excited and the other volunteers had trouble keeping their charges interested since they wanted to know what my groups were doing…try as they might…they couldn’t. That same passion remains with me to this day.

Because I was so active and dedicated, the director of the program approached me (at the urging of his staff) to alert me to a position at Marineland, a marine park that used to be on the Palos Verdes Peninsula—which was an area where we also perched annually to conduct a census of the then endangered Pacific gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus).

Gray whales are mammals that filter feed from the ocean floor. They dredge the sand for amphipods (shrimp-like creatures) and other bottom-dwelling organisms eating by filtering with baleen, a fringed plate that lines the upper jaw.

The Pacific population of gray whales has the longest migration of any mammal, traveling an estimate 10,000 miles (16,000 km) round trip between summer feeding grounds of the Bering and Chuchki Seas in Alaska and the winter breeding and calving grounds in Baja California.

The trip takes about four months and the whales stay close to the coastline, swimming along or in small groups. The migration is staggered according to age and sex. Pregnant females lead, followed by other females, adult males, and then youngsters of both genders.

I jumped at the chance. When I showed up for my interview with tons of other applicants—I was the only teen in a white fashionable suit instead of jeans. Needless to say I got the job…and that is when things began to get interesting.

In the old school, we teach through story and don’t spell it out. There are a few lessons in this story. Did you catch them all?

If not, let me help you out. I won’t be doing this all the time but I need you to catch the subtleties.

Is an animal career for you? You’ll know if:

You have a passion that carries you along.

You find a way to get involved with critters whether it pays or not.

Your actions lead you to new opportunities that you explore wholeheartedly.

Stay tuned for the next adventure and for details on how to begin to find an animal career that might suit you.

Diana L Guerrero is an animal career specialist and has extensive experience in many areas of the animal world. A well known animal expert, she has worked professionally with animals for over thirty years. Guerrero is the author of several books and writes for a variety of websites including Ark Animals.