This summer, Lucia Berliner ’12 will be in Panama City Beach, Florida undertaking a unique internship, involving both dolphins and children with disabilities.
Her internship is with an organization called Water Planet. The group offers four, one month long sessions between May and August for children with special needs and their families. The program involves creating safe interactions between the children and wild dolphins to produce positive therapeutic effects. Water Planet attempts to use “the influence dolphins can have on human behavior, emotions, and self-development” to help the children, while also studying the effects human activities can have on the dolphins.
Berliner, from New Hamburg, N.Y., is working full-time with the program, along with three other interns.
“The first two weeks are spent primarily learning to interact with the dolphins,” she says, “And the second two weeks are actually working with the children and the dolphins together.”
Basic training during her first two weeks involved education about wild dolphins, boat safety, and case management, as well as learning swimming, free diving, and communication skills. The last couple of weeks will consist of numerous tasks, from working on the boats out in the ocean to helping with the land therapy sessions. Berliner also will supervise when bringing the children and dolphins together, providing physical and emotional support to ensure a safe experience.
Though it seems like she has a lot of work ahead of her, Berliner described herself as “extremely excited.”
Berliner, a psychology major and studio art and media and society minor, was told of the opportunity from a friend who knew someone who’d interned with Water Planet last summer.
“I chose the internship because I want to get into animal research, specifically highly social animals: dolphins, elephants, monkeys, humans,” she says. She hopes the experience will build her credentials for future internships and jobs that entail work with animals.
In the photo above, Berliner sits with other interns at the edge of the dolphin pool.