I have always been interested in aquatic animals, but I had never considered pursuing a career in aquatic animal medicine. When I came to A&M I realized that learning more about aquatic animal medicine was a real possibility, but I would have to gain most of my experience through externships. This summer I was given the amazing opportunity to participate in MARVET, a marine veterinary externship designed to give hands-on aquatic animal experience to veterinarians and vet students.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico is located in the state of Quintana Roo. Home to an abundant amount of endemic wildlife, it’s the perfect location for an externship that focuses on aquatic animals. We were based out of a local IMATA and American Humane Certified dolphinaria for the first week. Dr. Raymond Tarpley, a retired TAMU vet, spoke to us about basic cetacean,
pinniped, and sirenian anatomy and physiology over the first two days. After that, we were able to get in the water and practice hands-on physical exams and sample collections on bottlenose dolphins. The vets from the park also came to speak to us about their husbandry, breeding program, and the medical attention that all of their animals receive. It was amazing to learn from international vets and learn about the way that they care for their animals.
The next couple of days were filled with more lectures and hands-on activities (like drawing blood from sea turtles and caring for their sea turtle hatchlings) at an adventure park that is home to many different species of native animals. Dr. Stephanie Norman, another TAMU vet school graduate was on hand to speak to us about her rehabilitation work and research on antimicrobial resistance in wild aquatic species. We learned more about aquatic animal rehabilitation, fish, cetacean, and pinniped pathology, and even a little bit about the local cultures.
I left Playa del Carmen with a newfound appreciation of what goes on in the field of aquatic animal medicine, and I’m excited to finish the next three years of school and gain more experiences like the ones I had in Mexico. I was so lucky to have these experiences, and I am incredibly grateful for all of the clinicians, professors, and A&M for helping to make it happen!