A truly hands-on internship at the aquarium

Student intern Dev Surprenant at Mystic Aquarium

It was all hands on deck during Dev Surprenant’s internship at the Mystic Aquarium. Just two days into working there, he had the opportunity to assist with and learn about “backwash,” the process of changing water in the huge tanks that are home to the marine life.

A senior environmental studies major who started at Mitchell in the Thames program and was drawn to the college for its accessibility services, Dev worked in his top-choice area at the aquarium — the Fish and Invertebrates department — during his 200-hour internship.

“I worked with the sting rays and sea turtles and several other animals, groupers and sharks. I am more familiar with them than with the belugas, sea lions and penguins that are also at the aquarium,” he said.

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“My favorite part of my internship was getting to learn about the animals, their behavioral aspects and water quality. I was able to apply some of what I learned in math and chemistry classes. It was also interesting for me to learn about the job of an aquarist, who handles the animals and does what needs to be done to keep them healthy.”

Dev said that the work done at his internship varied and piqued his interest for possibly pursuing work in an aquarium after graduation.

“First it was a lot of learning, knowing what to do when and where and what was okay to touch. After the first month, I was trusted enough to do things on my own. My job was to help with the overall goal of making the aquarium run as efficiently as possible without sacrificing manpower.”

The most common thing that Dev did was clean the algae off of the inside of the tanks, but he also had the opportunity to feed the animals, including his favorite, the sting rays.

What else did he learn?

“I watched and did target feeds on a bunch of different animals, and I bonded a lot with some of them. The challenge of my internship was learning many things very quickly, but it helped with the understanding to put my hands on something and figure out how to apply it. I was able to understand how something works by looking at it instead of seeing a diagram.”