At Ocean Connections we are truly dedicated to the field of marine mammal science. Our staff includes professional marine mammal trainers, educators, and a leading marine mammal veterinarian who oversees our animals’ health and medical needs. All of our staff is trained in marine mammal care, training and guest interaction.
As animal trainers, our staff is well versed in positive reinforcement techniques. Not only do these techniques work for our seals and sea lions, but we also like to rewarded our staff for a job well done! Each quater, one of our very talented staff members is nominated by their peers to recieve Slick's Tremendous Trainer Award.
Questions for Tremendous Trainer of the Quarter
Jackie with Diego
Jackie Share is the receipient of this quater's Tremendous Trainer Award. Jackie is a Trainer 1 at Ocean Connections and heads up our Hersheypark facility in Hershey, PA. Jackie exudes all characteristics of a tremendous trainer on a daily basis! She continues to grow in her training and animal care skills, and strives to help her team members grow as well. She always puts the animals' needs first, and her passion for the animals under her care is obvious. We sat down with Jackie to learn more about her life as a trainer!
When did you begin at Ocean Connections?
I started as an intern in the summer of 2006, and throughout college I volunteered at the facility whenever I was in town. Prior to working as a trainer at Ocean Connections, I gained additional experience working at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Florida. Then in 2009, I was hired on as a trainer at Ocean Connections and have been going out to Hershey, PA in the summers and coming back to Milwaukee, WI every winter. In 2015, HersheyPark became a facility we stayed at all year long!
What inspired you to work with marine mammals?
I was inspired, like so many others, as a young girl at SeaWorld. My dad and I went to the Shamu show and I was amazed at how obvious the relationship between the orcas and trainers were. I was so fascinated by the presentation I completely tuned out my dad who was trying to have a conversation with me.
What is your favorite part of your day at Ocean Connections?
My favorite part of my day is having training sessions that really focus on relationship building. Now that I have worked with the animals for 5 years, my relationship with them has clearly developed and this has allowed for more creativity in my training sessions. Every animal has a different personality, which means they have fun and learn in different ways. I’ve been very fortunate to develop a close relationship with such remarkable animal ambassadors.
What makes our Hersheypark location so special? How is it different from the Milwaukee location?
What makes Hersheypark so special and different from Milwaukee is the audiences that we are able to reach. At the Milwaukee County Zoo, the guests come to learn and see animals throughout their day. At Hersheypark, the guests mostly come to ride the thrilling roller coasters. Though the park is filled with great food, rides and entertainment shows, our show is the only one with animals, and we continue to have the highest attendance of any theatre. In Hershey, our guests only expect to be entertained, not knowing that when they walk out of our the gates, they will also be educated and inspired. The children that come speak to us following the shows are so motivated to want to know how to help these animals out in the wild. As a trainer, we spend a great amount of time making sure our animals have the best and most enriching life, but I have learned that when I am able to spend significant time speaking with guests and answering their questions, they’re able to walk away with an even greater experience.
What are 3 of the most important characteristics needed to be a successful marine mammal trainer?
1. Dedication- While it is very rewarding to work closely with animals, it also requires hard work, long hours and a high level of commitment. When working with animals, their needs always come first, so this “job” is really more of a lifestyle. The effort put in is definitely worthwhile to see how we can positively affect our animals’ lives.
2. Teamwork- When working in such a dynamic field, having support from your fellow co-workers is invaluable. With so much to accomplish each day, having a team that communicates effectively and compliments each other well means we can achieve so much more than one single person would be able to.
3. Being personable - Public Education is such a pivotal part of what we do with our animals on a daily basis. In order to have the most meaningful impact on our guests it is important to be approachable and excited to share knowledge about the marine mammal field. One of the most rewarding aspects of working with these animals, is the opportunity to inspire people of all ages to protect wildlife and the environment.
What is one of the most important lessons you have learned at Ocean Connections about working with animals?
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to always train proactively and even over-train. Husbandry care is such an important part of what we do in caring for these animals, as it allows them to participate in their own health care. This means that we are able to provide our animals with the highest standards of care. If an animal needs a medical procedure, they already have the trust and confidence to accomplish the goal voluntarily. It has been a very rewarding experience to be involved with some exciting advancements in marine mammal husbandry. I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to train some complex behaviors with some amazing animals.