Take a look behind the scenes into a day in the life of a dolphin trainer at Georgia Aquarium.  Day in the Life of a Dolphin Trainer at Georgia Aquarium 1By: Stephen Fischer, Associate Curator, Dolphin

As a kid, most of our family vacations were to Orlando to visit Disney and SeaWorld. As I got older, these parks continued to be a favorite destination, but I started to see them in a different light. During an animal presentation at SeaWorld, I realized the unique relationship required to work with these aquatic animals. Seeing how closely the trainer and animal worked together inspired me. I remember 14-year-old Stephen every time I perform in our presentations, and I think of the thousands of people in our audience. The trainer I watched and admired as a kid will never know how she impacted me. I hope I can have a similar effect on our guests and young aspiring animal trainers.

While pursuing this career, I spent my summer interning at different animal parks to gain hands-on experience in the field. After graduation, I was hired at a marine park near my hometown, working with dolphins and sea lions. I then met one of the trainers in Georgia Aquarium’s dolphin area and was invited to shadow them. I was so impressed with the Aquarium and its animals that I knew this was where I wanted to be.

A typical day on the dolphin team starts very early. We begin by sorting hundreds of pounds of fish to make individualized diets for each of our animals. Once their diets are ready, we begin each day with visual exams and collecting any medical samples our vets may need to ensure all our dolphins are healthy. The best part is every day is different – it is our job to ensure our dolphins never know what’s coming next because this keeps them excited, engaged, and active throughout the day. Their day may include participating in presentations, guest programs, new behavior training sessions, play sessions with some of their favorite toys, or sessions focused on continuing to build bonds between our animals and trainers.

Occasionally, I get the incredible opportunity to go out into the community and share my passion for these animals. This will be my fourth year joining Toomer Elementary School at their Science Night. Science Night is an entertaining and informative STEAM-filled event hosted by volunteers from the Atlanta community. These are opportunities for the kids to have hands-on exposure to the various fields of science. Our education department also recently hosted students from Booker T Washington at the Aquarium so they could learn more about careers in the field of STEM from our staff and experts.

Living in Atlanta, many of these students may never see animals like ours up close. The Aquarium provides an opportunity to learn more about our animals, their habitats, and what we can do to protect them. Though some of these students may have seen our dolphin presentation, they may still need to learn what it takes to care for these animals.

Events like this allow them to ask questions and get more inspired by what they learn. Many of our firmest habits develop at an early age.  Working with kids at this age helps form habits of conservation that become a way of life. I secretly hope these kids go home and bug their parents to start recycling, too.

Day in the Life of a Dolphin Trainer at Georgia Aquarium 3Dolphin Trainer at Georgia Aquarium

Being an animal caretaker is an incredibly rewarding career. The animals I work with truly depend on me, and that inspires me to give them my all every day. The bonds we form make these animals more like family than co-workers. I love seeing the smiles on our guests’ faces as they leave our presentations, and knowing what I do brings joy to their day.

For anyone interested in working with dolphins or other marine mammals, I recommend pursuing a degree in psychology, biology, marine biology, or another life science-related field. You will also want strong swimming skills and a SCUBA certification. Most importantly, look for ways to volunteer or internships working with animals to gain some hands-on experience. These programs will also help you ensure you are passionate about this. Working with these animals is a lot of fun. But heads up – it’s also a lot of hard work (and a LOT of cleaning).


Georgia Aquarium is a leading 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Atlanta, Ga. that is Humane Certified by American Humane and accredited by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Georgia Aquarium is committed to working on behalf of all marine life through education, preservation, exceptional animal care, and research across the globe. Georgia Aquarium continues its mission each day to inspire, educate, and entertain its millions of guests about the aquatic biodiversity throughout the world through its engaging exhibits and tens of thousands of animals across its eight major galleries.

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