In the early scenes of the 2011 hit family drama film “Dolphin Tale,” dolphins are shown in their natural habitat with crab fisherman returning a trap to the ocean nearby. Soon after, a boy biking along the beach and a fisherman discover an injured bottlenose dolphin tangled in a trap.
Meet Winter, the star of the show. Rescue workers from the Clearwater (Fla.) Marine Aquarium bring the injured dolphin there for treatment; they discover, however, that her tail is severely damaged and must be amputated. Through the movie, Winter learns to swim with a prosthetic tail.
Heidelberg senior Jeff Peck is among the individuals who has actually met and interacted with Winter at the aquarium. An environmental science major (water resources track) with minors in geology and biology, Jeff completed a water quality internship at the aquarium last summer. He had seen the movie, which prompted him to “take a shot” at applying for an internship.
Jeff’s work centered on sampling some of the 60 bodies of water in the aquarium, testing the chemical parameters, sometimes several times a day for the larger tanks. The aquarium’s mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release its residents, which include two nurse sharks, four dolphins, several river otters, about 25 sea turtles and a host of smaller aquatic creatures.
Near the end of his internship, the interns tried their hands at other jobs at the aquarium. For Jeff, this meant he got to wade in the dolphin tank. “It was a lot of fun,” he said. “They’re very playful.”
In addition to his water quality responsibilities, Jeff also assisted with the sea turtles. The best part of the experience, he said “was to get to put to good use the things I’ve learned at Heidelberg.”
“Getting on-the-job training in a field I’m interested in” proved valuable as well. Jeff said he felt “very prepared” for the demands of the internship, thanks in large part to the chemistry classes he’s taken at Heidelberg.
Overall, the internship experience gave him a broader view of the types of jobs available in his field. Jeff plans to center his job search in the water quality area. “If animals are involved, I’d consider that a plus,” he said.
Whatever job he lands, he’ll bring with him the valuable experience interacting with professionals in the field and putting theory into action.
And interacting with dolphins.
Winter, the dolphin from the film, is doing quite well, according to Jeff. “She’s very happy … loves all the attention,” he said.