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Career Series: Marine Mammal Care & Basic Training DolphinLab

Course Information

Marine Mammal Care and Basic Training DolphinLab is part of our career series DolphinLab programs. During this six day program, students work closely with our Education and Animal Care and Training staff, with a hands-on approach to learning about basic training methods and husbandry care practices with DRC’s dolphin family.

MMC&BT students participate in multiple sessions on the floating docks to gain training experience with the dolphins throughout the week. As a part of their introduction into marine mammal care and behavior, students experience hands-on learning opportunities in dolphin husbandry and training, including diet preparation; and how to feed, reinforce, and maintain established behaviors. Most importantly, and at the very core of training, students establish a trusting relationship with the dolphins throughout the week, learning how to read their behavior and understand their individual choices and preferences.

Students also observe and assist in a number of medical demonstrations with the animals. At the conclusion of the course, students showcase their animal handling skills by conducting a public dolphin session narrated by DRC’s staff for the center’s visitors.

Students learn to respect each dolphin as an individual with his or her own “dolphinality” through observation of their unique behavioral and physical characteristics. Additionally, the course includes a unique blend of hour-long discussion based seminars, observation time, and hands-on activities aimed at giving students an in-depth understanding of careers in marine mammal care and training. Class sizes average eight to twelve students to ensure individualized instruction.

Marine Mammal Care and Basic Training DolphinLab is an academically intensive, physically rigorous, six-day program specifically designed for students seriously interested in pursuing a career in marine mammal care and training. This course offers students a unique opportunity to gain career oriented, hands-on experience under the guidance of our accomplished trainers. The adult must be open to receiving and implementing constructive feedback from the trainers during sessions on the floating dock.

Primarily focused on the Common bottlenose dolphin, the course also delves lightly into the care of sea lions and DRC’s rescue efforts with the Florida manatee.

The program runs Sunday through Friday. Additional information and required waivers and forms are provided in the Welcome Packet emailed to each participant once enrolled and the course is confirmed to run.

Seminars May Include:

  • Relationships in Animal Care and Training

  • Marine Mammal Husbandry

  • Principles of Dolphin Handling

  • Medical Care and Pathology of Marine Mammals

  • Marine Mammal Rescue and Rehabilitation

  • Pinniped Life History and Physiology

  • Manatee Life History and Physiology

Hands-On Activities & Interactive Programs Include:

  • One Dolphin Splash session

  • One Dolphin Encounter session

  • Daily dolphin handling dock sessions beginning mid-week

  • Record keeping, diet preparation, & assisting in husbandry care

Additional Activities Include:

  • Training Demonstration

  • Training Workshop

  •  Husbandry tour

  •  Reinforcement Techniques Workshop

  •  Pinniped demonstration

  •  Medical Behavior Demonstrations

  •  Observation Time

  •  Q&A Panel Discussion with senior trainers on the differences in caring for various marine mammals.

Accommodations During the week of DolphinLab:

Lodging is available onsite at the DRC Residence for up to six (6) adults for a fee of $100.00 per night, and occupancy is available Sunday through Thursday nights only. Each adult is responsible for purchasing and preparing breakfast and dinner each day of the program, and for completing after-meal cleaning and general cleaning tasks while staying at the DRC Residence. The DRC Residence is available on a first-come, first-served basis for the first six (6) adults who indicate on their application that they want to stay at the Residence. 

DolphinLab participants who do not stay in the residence must secure their own accommodations at one of the many local hotels or resorts in Marathon. For adults not staying in the DRC Residence, lunch and snacks are provided each day of the program, but all other meals are the responsibility of the adult. 

Dolphin Research Center partners with local hotels in an effort to offer participants discounted rates on accommodations. Partner hotels are not available in advance as the hotels that choose to participate vary from year to year. A list of participating hotels, details, rates, and booking instructions are provided in the Welcome Packet emailed to each participant once a Lab is confirmed to run. Dolphin Research Center does not handle bookings or payments for any of the participating establishments.


Tuition for Marine Mammal Care & Basic Training DolphinLab is $1,800.00 (US). Tuition includes all seminars, activities, interactive programs, digital photographs taken from various dolphin interactions throughout the week, a video of the final dock presentation provided via digital link, and lunch and snacks each day of the program. 

Tuition does not include:

  • Accommodations
  • Breakfast and dinner each day
  • Transportation to and from any airport, or to and from Dolphin Research Center each day. 


Students must successfully complete Adult Basic DolphinLab before attending Marine Mammal Care and Basic Training DolphinLab. Applicants are expected to have a strong interest in marine mammal science and careers in the field, and be able to participate in an academically and physically rigorous schedule. The course is available to all students ages 18 and up. The student may enroll in more than one Lab within the same season; however, Dolphin Research Center reserves the right to determine whether the Career Series Labs are an appropriate fit for the student based on his/her performance in Adult Basic, or other Career Series courses previously completed. If you simply want a vacation with dolphins, the Career Series courses are not the right fit for your goals, as these courses are quite rigorous and intensive.

Related Links


The 2023 Adult DolphinLab season is complete! Please check the Course Dates web page in November or December for the 2024 course dates. Enrollment opens sometime within the month of January 2024, and is announced on the Course Dates page. See you next year!


Questions? Please email so the Education team can help!  


Our Mission - Through education, research and rescue, Dolphin Research Center promotes peaceful coexistence, cooperation and communication between marine mammals, humans and the environment we share with the well being of DRC's animals taking precedence.
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