Marine Mammal Internships

Inspiring creative thinking and a commitment to ocean conservation in future generations.

Marine Mammal Care Internships

How To Apply

To apply for any of our internship and externship opportunities, please contact Erika Putman, Director of Education and Outreach:

Conservation Medicine Internship 

Through conservation-focused internship opportunities, the NMMF strives to train the next generation of marine mammal scientists and veterinarians in conservation medicine.

Conservation Medicine Fellowship

Through advanced opportunities in conservation medicine, we are cultivating the next generation of leaders in marine mammal science, medicine, and conservation.

Veterinary Externship

For students in their fourth year of veterinary school, the “Veterinary Medical Externship” provides a comprehensive look at the Marine Mammal Program. The NMMF staff provides on-call veterinary care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Mornings are typically used for scheduled clinical procedures, veterinary medical technologies support, and rounds. Most afternoons are dedicated to sample processing, data entry, research, training, and unscheduled (urgent) procedures. Students are given the opportunity to observe and participate in all clinical activities, under the direction of the veterinary staff, as the situation permits. In addition, students are expected to select and complete a clinical project in marine mammal medicine while on-site.

The Navy maintains and cares for a large population of dolphins and sea lions in an open-water environment in San Diego Bay. Student externs are given the unique opportunity to observe and contribute to the preventive medicine program which includes:

  • Regularly scheduled comprehensive physical examinations
  • Nutrition and sanitation oversight
  • Veterinary medical data management and biologic specimen archival
  • Veterinary support of animal deployments
  • Advanced clinical technologies development
  • Staff development regarding animal care

What do students think?

"This internship gave me the opportunity to see everything that happens in this field of work, and not just the fun stuff but the details of diet prep, training plans, record keeping, and cleaning."
"This internship is a great way to see what it's actually like working with marine mammals. A lot of people don't realize how hard trainers work (both physically and mentally) to train their animals."
"I have done a previous marine mammal internship before, and I feel like I learned soooo much more here with the Navy. I'm very happy with my experience and I feel like I have grown a lot in the past few months in regards to marine mammal care and training."
"This internship has definitely taught me a lot and has showed me that this is exactly what I want as a career. This internship is very well structured and realistic."
"This program is so well-rounded and is connected to so many pioneers in marine science that not only are you getting experience but you can network and meet such a range of people."
"This was the most rewarding experience I have ever had. I feel that I have learned so much about the field in such a short period of time. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat."
"This opportunity has been the best experience of my life and I have learned so much. I have gained not only career knowledge, but friendships and an even deeper passion for the field!"

Learn more about the Animal Care and Training Internship with the Navy Marine Mammal Program, including job duties and how to apply

The Marine Mammal Program (MMP) began in 1959 with a single Navy scientist and one dolphin. Since that time, the program has expanded its study with the development of the Fleet Marine Mammal Systems utilizing dolphins, beluga whales, and sea lions. In addition, the MMP is doing a variety of research projects investigating the hearing abilities in a number of species of marine mammals. Research studying dolphin’s biosonar, and their physiological environmental adaptations are also being conducted. We are currently offering positions to be a part of the marine mammal program through internship opportunities.

This internship is designed to give undergraduate students a dynamic educational experience in the marine mammal field while offering valuable career experience. Students will be responsible for a number of support tasks with dolphins and sea lions throughout the course of the internship. These responsibilities will include diet preparation, sanitation, and equipment and facility maintenance. Interns may also have the opportunity to assist the marine mammal training staff in husbandry and open ocean training. In addition, they will provide support to the animal care staff in animal physicals, and assist in a number of different marine mammal research projects. Lectures and field trips will also be conducted throughout the term to enhance the learning experience.

The internship is offered on a competitive basis to sophomores, juniors, and seniors in the Marine Science, Biology, Zoology, Psychology, and Veterinary fields. Though the internship is designed for undergraduate students, recent graduates are also eligible to apply. All interns must arrange to receive college credit to be considered for the internship. The internship is a 40 hours per week, 16-week commitment. Interested students are encouraged to send a resume, cover letter, an unofficial or official copy of their transcripts, proof of medical insurance, and proof of US citizenship. In addition, a minimum of three letters of recommendation from professors or employers is necessary to complete the application. The application deadline for spring is October 1st , summer is March 1st , and Fall is June 1st .

If you would like to learn more about the MMP, I encourage you to visit our website. Please forward all application materials to the email address or physical address listed below. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Erika Putman at (619) 767-4100 or email at

Dr. Mark Xitco
Attn: Coordinator of Volunteer Opportunities
NIWC, Code 567
53560 Hull Street
San Diego, CA 92152