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Harbour porpoise. Image: Charlie Phillips/WDC

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Final days of the internship: Kaylee McKenna

I never knew how quickly three months could pass until this summer. In the weeks leading up to my first day with Whale and Dolphin Conservation, I had my own anxieties, like anybody on the cusp of starting a new job with totally new people. Now, I think my biggest complaint with the WDC is the default font my computer insists on using. I’m hesitant to move on from WDC, but so excited to see what comes next.

Looking back, I believe that I’ve grown quite a bit since May. Jen and the rest of the education team made sure that I was comfortable every step of the way as I found my feet as an educator. As I became more and more confident, I was more willing to find new ways of presenting the “Delilah” Programs and figure out what made for a more engaging and captivating presentation and what did not work. Through my own experimentation, I learned a lot about what it takes to be an educator and built my naturalist skills. As I write this, I am preparing to take the lead on a public event, and while I am mildly anxious (I usually am), I feel confident that today will not only be a success, but a rewarding exercise in team leadership. This confidence is the result of practice, but also the consistent validation and support of the team at WDC. Sometimes, they were better at looking after me than I was.

Marine Animal Rescue and Response Program with a seal

Most of my time was spent attending education events with Delilah and other programs, but a decent amount of my time was also spent working with the Marine Animal Rescue and Response Program (MARR). When I accepted the job, I was prepared to have only limited time working with the MARR program, but that was not the case. I was surprised by the number of responses I was able to go out on, and the level of participation the MARR team was able to give. Never once did I predict being able to restrain a distressed seal or being able to touch a deceased sperm whale while assisting in its Level A assessment. Not to mention the two seal necropsies. I have never felt cooler, and I think my fourteen-year-old self who dreamed of seeing whales up close would agree. What other job will take you out for a whale watch to take photos of feeding humpback whales?

Marine Animal Rescue and Response Program with sperm whale

Even on the most boring days in the office, I found reason to be excited about the work I was doing. Sarah and Jen were more than willing to listen to my ideas, talk through them and even help me see them through. I felt like I was having an impact on both the education and MARR programs despite only being with the WDC for such a short period of time.

Overall, I am so happy with my time with WDC. The work environment was one of the most welcoming and warm I have experienced. Everybody is so passionate about their work and ready to jump in and help. Shout out to Missy and Sarah for coming with Jen and I for a handful of education events when we needed the extra help!

left side shows kaylee with a seal and the right side shows kaylee whale watching

If I had to offer advice to the incoming class of interns it would be to remember that it’s okay to ask for help, or for a challenge or whatever it is you might need. At the end of the day, this is your experience, and it is what you make of it. It’s important to communicate your needs and remember that everyone is on your side. They want to see you succeed.

I want to offer a special thank you to everyone I worked with, including the volunteers. WDC has certainly made a special place in my heart, and I hope to continue my relationship with them and maybe come back one day if I’m lucky enough.

To support WDC's paid internships, please consider making a donation so we can continue to host young professionals like Kaylee.

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