Investing 499 hours in volunteer work with marine mammals has paid great dividends for Stephanie Wolf. “I was surprised at how hands-on it was,” she says of her summer internship at Sea Life Park on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.
In most marine mammal internships, students only observe professional trainers while they work. However, Stephanie played a key role in the park’s operations during her 45-hour workweeks, helping to feed and train sea lions and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. A biology major and psychology minor, she received support for the experience from a research fund established at Allegheny by alumni Joan ’76 and Marty ’77 Pfinsgraff.
Interacting with people from around the world, Stephanie learned about the protocols and procedures of a marine mammal facility. The work was unpaid and wasn’t always glamorous–her tasks included preparing fish for all of the park’s animals at 6 a.m. on many days.
Nevertheless, the experience was fulfilling. Among the most rewarding aspects, says Stephanie, was discovering how intelligent the animals were and watching the individual “personality” that each displayed. “It made every day so exciting and unpredictable,” she adds.
The internship also provided Stephanie with insight on her plans after graduation. “I’ve always known that animals would play a role in my career but didn’t specifically know how,” she explains. “I initially thought I wanted to become a veterinarian but now realize that I want a career where I get to watch an animal develop over time and build a relationship with it.”