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John Widick, marine care specialist at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, originally reviewed, Kyle Kittleson’s, Wear a Wetsuit at Work, in IMATA’s magazine, Soundings. (Was that enough commas for you in one sentence? ha!) You can now read that review below with permission from Mr. Widick.


Wear a Wetsuit to Work

Reviewed by John Widick

How often are animal trainers asked about their careers? As a natural law, would-be-trainers and their parents congregate around the habitats of cetaceans, pinnipeds, and other mega-fauna after shows and pepper now-are-trainers with questions about how they got their jobs. In most cases personal anecdotes aught to be enough, but in the cases when an aspiring trainer or their accompanying adult may have a list of questions with length to rival the orange training book, a more thorough response may be in order. A wonderful resource for such inquisitive minds comes in the form of very useful book called Wear a Wetsuit to Work: How You Can Become a Marine Mammal Trainer by Kyle Kittleson.

The future leaders of this field are at this moment just the sort of moon-eyed young people that visit zoological establishments repeatedly. Kittleson’s book contains an ideal combination of no-nonsense advice framed with a very positive outlook that is perfect for such individuals. As the title implies it is a how-to guide for anyone wanting to become a marine mammal trainer. It does not sugarcoat the repeated failures and grueling unpaid labor that await such aspirants, and it also makes clear that conventional wisdom about aggressively selling yourself in a job interview often just does not apply to breaking into the training field. While this description may suggest, accurately, that the book is not aimed at the demographic of employed trainers, it is still useful to them in more ways than one. First, it is a good book recommendation to young people wanting practical advice on how to successfully take their first steps toward becoming a trainer. As inspiring as meeting a real-life trainer may be, it’s not possible to flip back to the conversation and recall all the important details. It takes a book to really help a motivated person absorb the most important information, and Wetsuit covers training basics as well as hiring basics, alongside the biology of the most common aquarium species, trainer stories, and a foretaste of what some might call the unsavory aspects of the job. Beyond that it is worthy reading for the interns that are integral to the operations of so many facilities, and it might help explain the day-to-day lives of marine mammal caregivers to their friends and loved ones who just don’t quite get it. All trainers have ten or fifty of those.

In summation, Wear a Wetsuit to Work, is an easy-to-understand navigation for the ambitious, and a kindly warning to the half-hearted who are considering a career in marine mammal training in the United States. It’s not too bold to say it is a must read for anyone clicking the “internship” tab on the IMATA jobs page.

Off the Shelf is edited and compiled by John Widick

John Widick

Senior Animal Care Specialist
Clearwater Marine Aquarium