The academic, career and personal benefits of zoological internships: A 10-year evaluation of a dolphin research internship
Keywords:Academic impact, Employment impact, hands-on experience, marine mammal, personal impact
Internship programmes have grown in popularity in many academic fields, including marine mammal science. These programmes provide invaluable opportunities for early-career scientists to obtain practical and hands-on experience with a rare insight into the day-to-day operation of a research team. Working in the field of marine mammal science requires a wide range of skills, many of which can only be acquired with first-hand practical experience. The current study evaluated the academic, employment and personal impacts on participants of an ex-situ research internship programme at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park over the past 10 years. The survey included 175 evaluations submitted by interns that joined and successfully completed the programme between September 2010 and December 2020. The programme received positive evaluations on all three assessed aspects and was rated ‘above expectation’ by 67% of the respondents. The participants indicated that they gained both transferable and research-specific skills. Benefits of the experience were reported in regard to academic trajectory (91%), personal life (98%) and employment (91%). Based on experience and the feedback from the participants, an improved set of best practice recommendations is provided. Research, conservation and education are considered significant pillars of contemporary animal management. Through academic internship programmes, modern zoos and aquariums contribute to the cultivation of future generations of scientists, conservationists, educators and animal care professionals.
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