Getting to know Jackie- our future Marine Mammal Specialist



It was a sight similar to the clip above that confirmed her decision to make a drastic shift in career path, from planning schedules for the CEO in the confines of the corporate office to the vast abundance of the gentle oceans- to plan the daily activity of dolphins.

Meet Jackie, once a Personal Assistant, now a Marine Mammal Specialist (MMS) -in-the-making.

An avid diver with a soft spot for underwater expeditions, Jackie’s decision to venture into this field seemed almost natural with her self-confessed need for a weekly dose of diving just for some quality time with her oceanic acquaintances. How has it been though, going from corporate to the great outdoors? I get up close and personal with Jackie in this post to find out more…

Hello! This is really quite a big jump in job scope, what inspired it?
Jackie:   It is and you’re not the first to be this intrigued by my decision. Well, it happened many years ago when I was introduced to diving by my bunch of friends. Being with the fishes for almost half a day and just being in awe of all that goes on in the underwater world really left a deep impression. It most definitely sparked my love for marine life too, so you can say it probably started then, and snowballed through the years to the point i knew i had to do it for a living! So when i heard about an opening for marine mammal specialists for the upcoming Marine Life Park, there wasn’t any second thoughts about it – i requested for a transfer.

Interesting. What were your expectations of taking on the role of a specialist then?
Jackie:   
Honestly ,I had no idea what to expect! It was definitely a dream come true for me but on the other hand, it also meant a field of expertise totally foreign to me. So it was a mix of excitement at the thought of being with the dolphins all day with that bit of anxiety on whether I would be able to effectively carry out my role as a specialist.   

How has it been so far?
Jackie:   It’s been really good. For the past 8 months, I’ve learnt so much, not only about being a specialist but also so on understanding dolphins. They’re really amazing creatures, full of energy and sociable; making every day full of different surprises and lessons.

How long will it take you to become a full fledged MMS?
Jackie: I still have a long way to go. It will take more than two to three years to master the skills to be a marine mammal specialist.

What is the training to be a MMS like?
Jackie: When we first join the team as junior staff, we don’t handle the animals directly. We will stand at the side and observe our seniors, and assist them wherever necessary. And very slowly, we will start feeding the animals and to build a relationship with them. And this is just the beginning, which is the stage I’m at right now, and I look forward to the next step in my training, I’ll keep you updated on that!

 

It sounds terribly hard compared to what you used to do. Any regrets and Why?
Jackie: This job is very challenging and completely different from what I imagined it to be, but I enjoy the work tremendously. Every morning, on my walk here, I can see the dolphins jumping towards us. I remember screaming when I finally managed to get Shiye (one of the young male dolphins) to ‘converse’ with me the other day. He actually did what we call a vocal – whereby the dolphin lets out high pitched sounds which they actually use to detect their location underwater. That got me all excited. It was really a great achievement for me! It’s these little things that make my day every day.

Any advice to others who want to take on the same path as you?

Jackie:  Try to be as flexible as possible and be able to step out of your normal routine. Every day here can be different and we need to constantly think on our toes. Being adaptable is beneficial for the animals, we are always on look out on how to best interact with them. More importantly, it’s important for us to motivate our fellow specialists. We want to get out of bed every day with the mind-set that “today’s going to be a different day.

 

 

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