Meet the 2023 Interns: Thomas Zoutis
I’m happy to introduce WDC’s first Marine Mammal Conservation Intern of the year, Thomas Zoutis! Thomas will be supporting three of WDC’s primary programs: boater outreach, Marine Animal Rescue and Response, and education. Thomas hit the ground running and has already started brainstorming ways to contribute their incredibly varied skillset to enhance our programs. We’re excited for all the things Thomas will accomplish in the coming months and can’t wait to share their progress with you!
Meet Thomas Zoutis!
Hometown: Plymouth, MA
Favorite food: Sustainably caught lobster
Song that pumps me up: Echoes in Rain by Enya
Movie I can always rewatch: Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings
First concert: Aerosmith and Lenny Kravitz
Tell us the story of what sparked your interest in the environment, conservation, and/or whales and dolphins
My fascination with cetaceans was sparked at a very young age when my family brought me to our local Science Store, where I found my very first whale model. They continued to fuel that interest by taking me on whale watches, encouraging my interest in cetacean biology, and having me utilize whales as subjects in art.
My love for whales was rekindled as an adult when my husband brought me on a fateful whale watch in 2017, and I met North Atlantic right whales for the first time. That year also coincided with the Unusual Mortality Event the NARW population began to suffer. So, feeling an overwhelming urge to act, I decided to switch career paths, return to school to study marine science and dedicate my life to advocating for the welfare of whales.
Why did you want to be an intern with WDC?
I wanted to intern with WDC because the Marine Mammal Conservation internship would allow me to explore not just one but several fields within whale conservation while simultaneously making a direct, positive impact on the welfare of marine mammals. And as a queer person, I was also drawn by WDC’s mission to foster diversity and inclusion within marine mammal conservation.
What are you most excited to learn/do during your internship?
One of the aspects of this internship I’m most excited to learn more about is the inner workings of the Boater Outreach Program. Having spent a year working as a videographer on a whale watching boat, I’ve witnessed many interactions between whales and boaters, both good and bad. I’m eager to connect with other folks sharing the water with whales and empower them with the tools they need to coexist with these magnificent aquatic people. I’m also very excited to participate in responding to marine mammal strandings and getting hands-on experience with necropsies!
What is your favorite fact about marine mammals?
One of my favorite whale facts is that some minke whales utilize specialized random walks, or Levy flights, while foraging for food. A series of random, rapid changes in direction, specialized random walks allow these whales to optimize coverage of vast spaces within the ocean in search of other animals, such as birds and large fish, that have corralled schools of small fish. The minkes then lunge through and engulf the schools of fish, hijacking (kleptoparisitizing) the other animals’ feeding efforts! And random walks can also be observed elsewhere, such as in birds, single-celled organisms, and even electrons shared between atoms in molecules!
Amazing. The sea is so important to our planet.
Way to go Thomas! Keep up the excellent work