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Marine Mammal Science

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A Career in Marine Mammal Science

Many people want to become involved with marine mammals such as sea otters, dolphins, seals, manatees, or whales. Perhaps such interest has been sparked by Flipper the dolphin on television or Keiko the orca whale in the popular movie, Free Willy. Interest in marine mammals has also been generated by the many underwater movies publicly pleading for protection of endangered whales. Others are just simply scientifically curious. At any rate, there are many reasons for public interest of a career dealing with marine mammals.

There are about one hundred species of aquatic or marine mammals that depend on fresh water or the ocean for part or all of their life. A few of the marine mammal species include seals, sea lions, dolphins, manatees, whales, polar bears, and sea otters. The scientists which try to understand these animal's population structure, community dynamics, anatomy and physiology, behavior and sensory abilities, diseases, geographic distributions, and ecology are called Marine Mammalogists.

Working with marine mammals is attractive because of the strong public interest in the animals and the work is generally rewarding. However, competition for positions is extremely tough. There are no specific statistics available on employment of students trained as Marine Mammalogists. However, in 1993 the National Board of Science reported a few general statistics for employment of scientists within the US. Over 75% of the scientists were currently employed with over 17% in graduate school. Marine mammal scientists are hired because of their skills as scientists, not because they like or want to work with marine mammals. A strong academic background in simple sciences, such as Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, added with good training in Mathematics and computers, is the best way to prepare for a career in marine mammal science. Persistence and various types of experience make the most qualified individuals. Many times, developing a specific scientific skill or technique, such biostatistics provides for an extra edge.

Mammalogists enter the field for the fulfillment of the work, not for the money-making potential of the career. Salaries vary a lot among marine mammal scientists, with government type jobs having the maximum pay. Salary levels tend to increase with many years of experience and higher education such as graduate



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