My next stop at the New England Aquarium was the Marine Mammal Center! I met the staff that morning in their office and we began the day by preparing all the necessary food for the mammals on exhibit! NEAQ has a recently renovated Marine Mammal Center sponsored by New Balance that overlooks the Boston Harbor. The exhibit is home to both Northern Fur Seals and California Sea Lions. Everyday there are multiple training sessions which to help stimulate the minds of these highly intelligent animals. In addition to the Marine Mammal Center, the Aquarium also has an outdoor Harbor Seal exhibit in the front of the building. I assisted the staff in both training and feeding the Harbor Seals, which quickly responded to the commands given by the trainers. The seals happily toss dog toys and ice treats around in the water and curiously investigate the visitors on the other side of the glass. They listen attentively to the trainers and watch their gestures before preforming the desired command. From speaking to kissing to blowing bubbles, these seals can respond to over two hundred commands!
Later on in the afternoon I was able to watch one of the training shows for the California Seal Lions and Northern Fur Seals. The crowd was ecstatic and loved seeing the marine mammals on display. In addition to the show, the trainers take this opportunity to educate the public and promote awareness about the issues facing marine life. Afterwards, the trainers brought me inside to meet Ursula, one of the oldest fur seals at the Aquarium. She is blind and has aged significantly but the Aquarium staff does an excellent job at keeping her happy and healthy. I also met Commander, a 550 lb Northern Fur Seal who was extremely well behaved and intelligent. I was able to help with his feeding and training session as well! Overall, it was a phenomenal day working with the seals and sea lions; I’m very grateful to everyone in the Marine Mammals Center for making it all possible!
Today I had the unprecedented opportunity of diving in the Giant Ocean Tank with Dan Dolan and my family was able to visit me as well! It was my last day at the main building and I was determined to make the most of it. That morning I met Dan and we helped the Dive Staff prepare for the day by conducting food preparation and target feeding the animals on exhibit. My parents, grandparents and three little sisters all drove into Boston so that they could see me dive in the Giant Ocean Tank and Dan helped film me in the exhibit! It was an incredibly fulfilling and memorable day that I will never forget. For my family it was a dream to be able to watch me dive in the tank and my sisters were simply elated. I cannot thank Dan Dolan enough for being so diligent and helpful all week. I have learned far more than I ever anticipated and I look forward to returning to NEAQ in the future!