Women with Cool Jobs

Marine Biologist and Animal Trainer Inspires People to Care for Ocean Animals, with Kristyn Plancarte

November 02, 2022
Women with Cool Jobs
Marine Biologist and Animal Trainer Inspires People to Care for Ocean Animals, with Kristyn Plancarte
Show Notes Transcript

Kristyn Plancarte is a marine biologist and animal behavior expert with more than a decade of experience. She has worked with marine mammals like sea otters, sea lions, walruses, false killer wales, African penguins, and beluga whales. She ensures their health and welfare; trains them to perform specific actions like doing eye drops, giving a blood sample, or spraying the audience with water; and educates in person and on social media.

 
Kristyn shares all about how she helps the animals, funny stories and experiences she's had with the animals, the process for training them, how you can get into the field, and why she is so passionate about her marine mammal friends.

We also chat about her unexpected foray into the social media world and how she uses multiple platforms (TikTok, YouTube, Twitch, and Instagram) to educate, engage, and inspire people to care about the animals in our ocean. She became a content creator during the pandemic so she could share what she and her colleagues do and see at the aquarium, because so many facilities and resources were closed. Along with her community, she has raised almost $50,000 for conservation!

Contact Info:
Kristyn Plancarte - Guest
www.kpassionate.com
@KP_assionate (Instagram)
KPassionate (YouTube)
@k_passionate (TikTok)


Julie Berman - Host
www.womenwithcooljobs.com
@womencooljobs (Instagram)
Julie Berman (LinkedIn)

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Kristyn Plancarte:

There's always this moment when you're struggling, the animals struggling, like we're all working together to try to get the animal to understand what you're what you're looking for and what you need. And then there's always that moment where you can just see you can just sort of see the light turn on, like literally in their eyes. And, and they go and they do it for the first time. And they they've figured it out and you're celebrating, they're together. And oftentimes, like it involves a literal, happy dance, you know, we'll be jumping up and down and screaming for them and getting excited for them. And they're like, Yes, I did it. And that that moment is always so much fun to experience that with the animal.

Julie Berman - Host:

Hey, everybody, I'm Julie, and welcome to Women with cool jobs. Each episode will feature women with unique trailblazing and innovative crews. We'll talk about how she got here, what life is like now, an actionable steps that you can take to go on a similar path or one that's all your own. This podcast is about empowering you. It's about empowering you to dream big and to be inspired. You'll hear from incredible women in a wide variety of fields, and hopefully some that you've never heard of before. Women who filled robots and roadways, firefighters, C suite professionals surrounded by men, social media mavens, entrepreneurs, and more. I'm so glad we get to go on this journey together. Sea otters, seals and belugas Oh my. So today I have a super cool guest Kristin plant cardi. And she is here to talk about her cool job as a marine biologist, and animal behavior expert. I am so excited. I'm Julie Berman, your host for WomenwithCoolJobs. And I'm so excited, you're here to listen to this episode. Because this is a really interesting one in the fact that I not only love what she's doing, but she sort of launched herself into this whole role as advocate and community builder because of this shift that she made. After everything shut down during the pandemic. In 2020. She was still going in doing her job as marine biologist helping all the animals making sure that they were healthy and strong and eating properly. They got their eyedrops in their food. And she also does all these elements of training the animals because she needs their help to make sure they're healthy, like she needs them to be willing to do blood draws and all sorts of other things that I would have never considered or thought about. So in addition to all this, she's doing this every day. And then of course, the world shut down in the pandemic. And what happened was she created this community using social media, and some other really cool tools where she has been able to share and educate information about these beautiful animals that she's been working with, about what we can do to help. She's created this community where she's raised, like almost$50,000, to give towards causes that are really important to her in relation to these sea creatures and marine mammals that she loves so much. And so it is so cool, not only what is she or what she's doing in her everyday role, but also it's incredible the way that she sort of unexpectedly pivoted added this facet of creator to her life, but yet it's having all these really incredible benefits for you know, not only the community of the educational aspect and the conservation, but also because of the work she's doing to help these young beautiful sea creatures that we all may take for granted, but yet, they're also special. And she talks about how they each have like their own special personalities. And they do silly things. And she has these adorable videos of especially like sea otters, eating ice, and just like all their personality, she talks about them as if they're individuals. And so it is really fun to hear not only the stories that she has the things that she's learned, and to see that this is such a cool option. If you are really passionate about animals, about conservation, about you know, sea life. Such a cool one to you know, on my behalf to be able to learn from Kristin and I really hope that you enjoy it. And please remember if you have not I'm going to check out my website, I have redone it a little bit added a few things. And my sponsor is now myself my new spa archetype business. So go check out if you haven't heard of sparker types yet, I would love for you to check out my new webpage because I am now working one on one with individuals coaching them, I'm now also working to create these beautiful team and group experiences, whether you're in a corporation, or another group, environment, entrepreneur, what have you, I would love to help you create an experience where you and your team are not only finding out what sparks you through using the spa archetype framework for understanding what lights you up, and why. But then also figuring out how can you incorporate more of that into your life like into your work life, into your life outside of work. And we talk about like, all these different components, so that you are able to really live a fulfilling, energized, purposeful life. So if you haven't checked that out, you can go to www dot women with cool jobs.com. And I'm always here to support you to answer any questions and enjoy this episode with Kristen.

Unknown:

Hello, thank

Julie Berman - Host:

you so much for being here. Kristen flan cardi and you are a marine biologist and a marine mammal trainer. You have such a cool job. And so I'm so glad to have you on WomenwithCoolJobs today.

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, I'm super excited to be here. It's definitely an interesting job for sure.

Julie Berman - Host:

So tell us in your own words, how do you describe what you do?

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, so in my day to day, I'm a marine mammal trainer. And basically what that boils down to is we are responsible for the animals, their daily diets, making sure that they're healthy, as well as making sure that they are participating in their behaviors that we train them to do, which again allows us to make sure that they are staying nice and healthy. So a lot of these behaviors are like voluntary blood draws or voluntary ultrasounds, X rays, those types of things. And when you're working with exotic animals, like I do, mostly marine mammals, there's no way that you can, you know, physically move them or carry them or make them do anything that they don't want to do. So having them participate voluntarily in their training is like kind of our biggest role. But we ended up being a jack of all trades, there's a lot of poop cleaning as well. And fish prep and a variety of other things. Habitat maintenance comes into it as well. So yeah, there's a lot a lot going on. Yeah, well, thank

Julie Berman - Host:

you, you know, and it's, it's so interesting, because there's always aspects, like, you know, no matter how much I research or try to learn about someone, there's always aspects that it's just like you never know to know about. Yeah, and even like that, the training part that you were talking about is so fascinating. Just the fact that you sort of need their help in order to make sure they're healthy and happy. So that's really fascinating. And I'm curious, like, tell us a little bit about what you do now and where you work. And then I want to go a little bit back into like, kind of how you got into this field. But like let's start out with Where do you work now? And kind of like what is your, your day to day like? Or like what are some of those big things that that you love doing?

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, so right now I work at the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic Connecticut. It's a relatively recent change. So I'm working right now with our beluga whales primarily. But what I'm mostly known for on social media and stuff is working with the sea otters at the Vancouver Aquarium and Canada, which is where I was previously but I've worked with a variety of different animals, but right now it's beluga whales, who I just love there's always going to be a soft spot in my heart for palookas. But basically our day sort of looks like coming in there's fish prep to be done, which is for we have a lot of animals. There's a lot more than just the just the whales here and they eat a lot of fish. So a lot of fish prep happening. Some Yeah, very stinky work there happening in the morning, and then getting out and taking care of the animals and some of these things are like some of our animals are a little older and they require eyedrops, you know, so we have to get out there and do that with them. Obviously, that's another one of those things that you can't do unless they actively help you with it. So we usually have like goals on the day things that we're working on. Everybody's working on different things. But yeah, those are the kind of like you know how we focus our day and make sure that we're moving towards these goals usually for healthcare first and foremost, but the Mystic Aquarium also participates in a lot of really amazing research projects. So for instance, like right now I'm training one of the whales to essentially the sounds like this would be really easy, but I actually think it's a little bit difficult, but to basically just swim underwater normally, and surface and breathe normally. And yeah, it sounds it sounds not like it wouldn't be that hard. But when you think about, I don't know, trying to train somebody to do something that they always do. I don't know, sometimes they, you know, your mind starts over analyzing things and thinking that it should be doing something different. So and that's basically so that the researchers can pull the plate over where she's going to surface and catch that blow sample, what comes out of her blowhole. Wow. And the idea behind that being that because we could get that I could ask her for that sample and get it much easier. But the idea being that they can then perfect this method of catching this breath sample from a beluga whale, and they can actually take that method and use it out in the wild on wild beluga whales. And because the goal is obviously to help wild populations, with the ambassador animals that we have under our care. So that's a pretty cool research project that I'm working on right now. And, and it's, you know, we don't necessarily do the research and the data, but we're obviously, you know, essential with the research team as well, because they don't know how to train the whales to do do these types of things. So, so yeah, I mean, that's sort of the day to day and there's a lot of record keeping, too. I didn't talk much about that. But like you be surprised about, we keep track of everything that we do with these animals and making sure they got their medications. And, you know, did everybody get their eyedrops today? And like, how was everybody feeling and looking and what was the weight on so and so this morning, and make sure that everybody's staying nice and plump. So. So there's a lot that goes into it. And we're usually pretty tired when we come home from the day, but it's, it's a very rewarding career.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah, that is so I mean, just what you've described sounds completely fascinating. And the idea I mean, it almost sounds like and correct me if I'm wrong, it almost sounds like a beluga whale, like, can analyze like, that you're trying to teach it to do something it normally does, but to train it and that it might over analyze.

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah. So it's kind of what happens is they're they start to think like, they're like, What are because we can't speak to them. And so we can do the best that we can to show them what we want. But we can't, then we can't speak to them so that they're just left alone in their heads going, Okay, what is what is it that she's looking for, and then, you know, every little piece of your body language might be telling them something, you know, and so like, if you like, for instance, some of the issues that we were coming up with in this behavior is that we would actually, we call it bridging the behavior, which basically, we use that whistle tells them that they did the right thing. And so somebody would blow the whistle when the animal breathed, because ultimately, that's what we're looking for. But then the animal starts thinking, Oh, what is it about the breathing? should I should I make a whistle sound? You know, should I not breathe anymore? Or should I just hold my breath like and so we had to be like, Okay, well, don't bridge the breathing, because that's, we want them to do that. Normally, we don't want them to be thinking about doing it, you know what I mean? So it's, it's just kind of a, it can be a really interesting process, like trying to get inside the mind of a beluga whale.

Unknown:

I love that. That's

Julie Berman - Host:

so awesome. That is, I feel like that's such a great way to start this conversation too. Because it is something that honestly, I would have no, I just there would be no way for me to know that you do that without having this conversation. And also, it's fascinating, because, you know, I think that if people seen your videos, whether they be on Tik Tok, or on YouTube or on Instagram, which is very fan view, or like a multitude of places where you're at, it's like these behind the scenes, things that are really like, what are the day to day? And it's like, it seems like you've done just with that, that research component, like so much strategizing not only with your colleagues, I'm guessing, but like with the animals itself, and like that whole process. So that's so cool. And so in regards to, you know, the animals that you have worked with, I know, you're working primarily with the beluga right now. You have worked with sea otters, which I think are like literally so adorable. And I'm not alone, because I know their videos are very popular. Yeah. And what other animals have you worked with? And if you have any, like, fun stories that you have from just your time working with them, you know, I would love to hear that because I think those are the things that really share what it's like to be in your shoes.

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, so I've worked with In a lot of animals, I have had a really amazing opportunity in my career to just experience a wide variety of animals. So I worked with stellar sea lions, which is the largest sea lion in the world. So we had a lot of those in Vancouver and they're here in Mystic as well. A variety of seals like harbor seals. Also, of course, the sea otters as we talked about, harbor porpoises, Pacific white sided dolphins, really beautiful species, false killer whale, which is an animal that not a lot of people know about. Let's see California sea lions, African penguins, of course, the beluga whales. I think that I think that that's probably about it. So yeah, so there's a wide variety of species and I definitely think I mean, there's, there's so many stories like we we could have, like, we can have a separate podcast for like ridiculous things that animals do on the day to day but I think like since sea otters, like they said, are extremely popular on my social media. I think that some of their stories are the best so they are adorable. That's like undisputable. However, they are also like the most mischievous creatures on the face of the planet. So yes, like almost devious. Really. They are. They're weasels, so they're like the heaviest member of the weasel family. And so it sort of makes sense because weasels are just known for being troublemakers, and always finding, you know, new and interesting things to to cause issues with. So, I mean, just on a regular basis, our sea otters would come and just hand us bits of the habitat that they had dismantled and taken apart and unscrewed things and, and stuff like that. But one of my favorite things that they would do, they would do this, especially to like new trainers, or people who didn't work with him very often, they can actually like close and open doors. And so there was one time when our curator, who, while he is obviously very experienced, he does not work with the Otters like, up close very often. And one of them actually left the exhibit and locked him inside. And he didn't have his radio, and he basically just had to stand there until one of us happened to walk by and be like, Why is why is he trapped? It? What is he doing? He's in there, and the otter is outside. And so stuff like that what happened? That is not the not the only time that somebody got locked in by an otter either. So they are just just absolutely hilarious in that way. And very, you know, very, they keep you on your toes. And you work

Julie Berman - Host:

with that. And so I mean, would that because it sounds like they're very clever, and that they're also thinking ahead. Like, do you mean to like, be able to shut the door and be like, Haha, you're left in like, do you think that was the mindset? Or was it? No playing with this door? It seems real fun.

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, it's hard to say, I don't know. I don't know. Well, this particular odor did this multiple times, though. So like, if it had only happened once, I would say, maybe they were just playing with the door. But I think probably the first time they were like, I'll just play with the door or oh, look what happened. Now I get to hang out here and nobody's gonna stop me from doing all the other naughty things out here. And then I, I think that they, they sort of figure that out and, and can definitely learn from that. But yeah, the otters are just they are troublemakers. But when they're sleeping, things are really great. Yeah.

Julie Berman - Host:

Well, that also sometimes sounds like a two year old. So theory. Yeah. I love that. That is such a great story. And you because you have worked with so many animals. And we didn't mention this yet. But I did want people to know, like, a lot of the work that you do, and especially now that you are on so many different social media platforms, is really related to conservation efforts, and just showing how incredible so many of these animals are, and just, you know, not only the animals themselves, but their relationship to people and the sort of the whole, like the big picture, really. And so I'm curious, like, if you can kind of take us back a little bit. And then we'll, we'll come to the this conservation work because you've raised a huge amount of money through what you're doing, which is so incredible, but just sort of take us back to like, when did you first get interested in working with animals? Like, do you have any degree certifications, things like that, and then kind of walk us through to where you are today? I would love to hear that. Sure.

Kristyn Plancarte:

So I knew I wanted to work with animals since I was capable of like having thoughts. You know, and my parents always say that I was I was always I knew exactly what I wanted to do from from day one, and I was always the kid who was at the creek catching snakes and crawdads and going to the zoo was one of my favorite activities and so that that part, I always knew that I wanted to work with animals. And actually, I really thought that I was going to work with I was very interested in big cats. So like tigers and lions and stuff, and I still love them have, we're always like, kind of my goal, animal to work with. And then I went to university, Colorado State University, which is very good animal school. So that was really nice. And I got a degree in zoology and a degree in just basic, like biological sciences. And, and through that, I was actually, you know, working at a Raptor Rehabilitation Center, which is birds of prey. And that was super cool. And started applying for internships, which is how a lot of people get in this field, because it's a field that, like, requires a hands on experience, but you can't really get hands on experience, you know, without getting hands on, you know, it's like, yeah, good things. So I applied to any and every internship under the sun and the Vancouver Aquarium called me and I was one of four people who they wanted to work with the sea otters and the belugas and I just didn't know how I was going to turn that down. It just sounded amazing. It was nothing I ever expected. Because I again, I was, I was all into, like land animals. And not that I didn't like whales, who doesn't, but you know, it was. So that was unexpected. And I just absolutely fell in love with Canada, I fell in love with the belugas and all of the other animals that I got to work with throughout the years. I forgot to mention walruses to those guys, were there. And then yeah, so it just kind of stuck. And it was I stayed there for like 11 years, then got the opportunity to come down here and work with belugas again, which I was really excited about. So yeah, I mean, it's definitely been a journey. And starting out, I think a lot of people in this in this field, they get into it, because they relate to animals in a way that they don't necessarily relate to people, or that they you know, they'd rather interact with animals than they would interact with people. And I was very different, like from from the get go, because one of the things that we do often have to do in our job is public presentations, doing these presentations to show people like why we're training and what we're doing with the animals and, and why they should care about these animals. And, and I always loved doing that part. It's not something that usually Usually people are, will pass if they have the opportunity on doing the public speaking. And that was never me, I really enjoyed doing it and enjoyed teaching people things about these amazing animals and about what they can do for them. And so I think that's sort of where this whole thing was born out of is that and as I've progressed in my career, and I've done, I don't want to say I've done it all, because you've never done it all. But I've, you know, I've done a lot of things. And I've worked with a lot of animals and had a lot of really amazing opportunities. So as my life has gone on sort of this part of bringing these animals to people and building those connections, and finding a way to make people want to care and want to do something in their lives to change the world for the better is kind of become much more important to me, I still of course love working with the animals, but this is sort of taking the the forefront and my my life now.

Julie Berman - Host:

So yeah, and it's such an interesting thing. Like the the word that came to me as you're talking is like advocacy, you know, and it's such an interesting way that you sort of came about out of the pandemic, like it came out really so strong in your advocacy for the animals that you're working with. And in general, these marine creatures. And so I would love to sort of hear you talk about how did you get into the whole creative side and being on social? And where has it led you now? Because I think since your focus really is this passionate work in kind of sharing more broadly. So people have this education have this knowledge and then in the hopes that like, we do something with it positively. It's interesting to see like, how did it get started? And then like, what are what are you doing now? And like what is you know, if you have a dream for it in that respect, like I would love to hear what that looks like.

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, so so like I like I said, it kind of just started with like me, enjoying public speaking, enjoying interacting with the public, enjoying them asking questions, we did a lot of encounters to which you know, really allows people to get up close and to just be in awe of these of these animals. And I always love doing that. And then of course 2020 rolled around and everything changed. And so we were no longer open to the public. And we were still there. We were still caring for the animals every single day. But there was no one there. And at first this was kind Have fun. We were, you know, taking the animals fun places, we could walk them through the aquarium and like, you know, have them do things that that normally they really can't because, you know, you can't bring bringing large, you know, scary sea lions into a crowded hallway, you know, but yeah. But yeah, and like, at first that was kind of fun. And then the weeks dragged in two months dragged into yours, basically. And it's not being fun. I mean, you still have fun, but it was like, I missed that we've missed talking to people, there were some of our regular guests that we know, like our members who would actually come outside the fence, and they would, they would say hi, and, and, you know, we'd bring the animals over. And like, that was how desperate we were for like, just to see someone and just to, you know, get that that interaction again. And I started to realize that that was, that was the whole point for me. So it's not really working with the animals like selfishly, I, of course, love doing that. But it the whole point for me is the fact that people get to experience these animals in a way that is never possible outside of these types of facilities, and they come away with something that is that can be life changing for some people. And I would always feel like in a day to day with guests coming through the aquarium, if I could just like change someone's changed someone's life, like make an experience for them that they were never going to forget. And that's like one person like more every single day that is going to come away with with something that they that they now care about. So because that wasn't really possible, I started you know, exploring social media, and started posting about my animals there and realizing that that was getting a lot of a lot of views. People were watching it, they were interested. I started a YouTube channel, reaching even more people and I could on there, I could teach people about specific things, I could basically go through my entire sea otter spiel, and you know, tell them about how they have the densest Hurco in the animal kingdom and just really blow their mind with some of these facts. And, and I could, I finally did join tick tock which again, like we sort of, you know, we talked about before the meeting, don't join tick tock because it will absolutely tanked your productivity. But I got decently big on tick tock and I was live streaming, I live stream over on Twitch. And she's not a platform that's known for this type of streaming, normally like a gaming platform, but I was using it for animal education. And people will come to hear about what the author's got up to today and who whose radio did they steal. And, and I could, you know, I started hosting fundraisers, it started as just like, Oh, it's my birthday, maybe I'll do something nice and host a fundraiser and we raised a lot of money. And so that became a thing every, you know, every six months or so I was doing these big fundraisers. And I got to the point where like, for one organization, the Aloka Alliance, who is looking to reintroduce sea otters off the coast of Oregon, which is part of their native range, and sea otters are really important to the environment. And we raised like, $20,000 for them in a 24 hour period. And I was like, this is something special. So, so yeah, it's just sort of snowballed into, I feel like myself and my community are making a difference in the world, like a tangible difference, almost for the first time ever, you know, I was reaching some individuals before, when they would come through as guests, but this is like social media makes this a place where you can reach so many more people. So it's addictive, you know, feeling like feeling like you're you're doing something positive is like really addictive. I guess it's, you know, it's funny, it's, I guess that's kind of like the training that I do we use positive reinforcement, and I get positively reinforced by my social media accounts all the time. And so I keep going with it. So I don't even know, you know, like you said, like, what are your goals? I mean, I don't, it's hard to say, I don't know, like, where it's gonna lead, because I never imagined this, this happening. So I just want to like, keep having those positive impacts and making them bigger and better all the time. And, yeah, I mean, that's, it was accidental, but it was a happy accident.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah. And it's so interesting that, you know, I mean, it's a pandemic, right. It's just like shifted so many things. But it's such a cool thing, that the pandemic had such an incredible, not only, like, shift in sort of what you were doing personally, but it was so meaningful for you, and rewarding, but then also, like you're raising, I mean, I read that you had raised like $35,000 with the community to to go towards these different efforts, which is really incredible. And so I don't know if that's accurate as of now, if it's more

Kristyn Plancarte:

I'm trying to Look, I'm actually have to go I have to go to like to my own, like website to even know the exact figure. But yeah, I mean we did like my very first one was just for the Cornish seal sanctuary they rescue little seals and we did Monterey Bay Aquarium. So yeah, it is it's about, well, I guess it's actually closer to $50,000 it was, oh 10,000 for Monterey Bay 22,000 for the Aloka. Alliance and then 10,000, or almost 11,000. For ocean conservation. Namibia was our latest one and my poor little Cornish seal sanctuary when I was just a little influencer only got about 3000. But I appreciated it.

Unknown:

So yeah, that is

Julie Berman - Host:

really amazing. I mean, and that's something that it's like, you know, me that's like, really a whole other thing, because, I mean, just the ability to help raise these funds for different organizations through kind of what you're doing on top of your job. It's almost like you, you, I

Kristyn Plancarte:

mean, I'm very tired. I'm very tired all the time. I was

Julie Berman - Host:

gonna say I mean, content creation, like I could speak, you know, speak to it, because it's like, it's a it's a job. It's a really time consuming job, a wonderful job, and it leads to beautiful things. But it is a job. And so the fact that you're doing this for like, really cool purposes, on top of your job, as, as a marine biologist and trainer is super neat. And I'm curious, like, for you going back to sort of what you do in the in your marine training role, like, is that like a nine to five type of thing? Or like, do you have to come in really early? And then sometimes, you know, because you said you often do presentations and things? Do you work sometimes on weekends? Or? Like, what is your schedule, like? And I'm curious, also, if you can talk about some of the skills that you think people would need. I know, you mentioned people skills are definitely important in there. But I'm curious, like, what else may not be super obvious to us?

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, so um, so yeah, our hours are kind of all over the place. So it really just depends. There's different kinds of shifts, like if you're on the fish prep shift, you have to be in at like the crack of dawn, because everything needs to be ready once once the trainer's get there. And then there are also times like if the animals are sick for whatever reason we're on call. So at any point, at any time, we could get called in if we have an animal that needs our care, like urgently. And there are times when we are on 24/7 Watch If an animal is you know, kind of like your pets at home when you're if you have a really sick animal and you end up staying up all hours of the day to get them fed and get them their medication if they need it. And just make sure that they're staying warm and doing okay. Staying warm parts not as important for beluga whales, but you know, but yeah, so So sometimes we're working crazy hours, it is normally supposed to be just an eight hour day job. But we work on the weekends, we work on Christmas, the animals don't know that it's Christmas they want to eat they know so. So yeah, it's one of those jobs where it's, it's really ends up being like a it's a passion project, right? It's not, it's not super glamorous. It often, like I said, involves working crazy hours and missing Christmas with your family. But it's, you know, a job that you do, because you love it. But yeah, I mean, as far as like, skills that we that I think are really valuable for trainers. And for anybody who would be thinking about getting in the field. Absolutely. Public speaking is super important. And like, even though I don't, I feel like I'm in the minority, I have trainers that believe this, like, I feel that the public speaking is such an important part of, of this job. Because having these animals under human care, like what is even the point if we're not making the world better for their wild cousins, and that's, and that and they're ambassadors for their species. So we really have to do that justice by by making sure that we're doing everything we can with public outreach and stuff like that. But we I mean, I think patience is a really, really good one. Because, yeah, I mean, you're you're training these animals that that don't necessarily they don't speak your language, and you sort of develop your own language with them. But But yeah, being being very patient and being really like being very excited, like you, you always want to, I don't know, the animals feed off of your energy, you know, and if you go in and you've had a rough day, and you go out there and you're just like, oh, it's raining, you know, I mean, the animals feed off of that and, and so so but going out with a positive attitude, you get that energy back from the animal as well. So having fun is is a is a really, it doesn't sound like a skill, but I think yeah, sometimes sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. And so remembering to have fun is also a really good skill to have.

Julie Berman - Host:

Those are great. And I think to your point to the last one, do you feel like all the animals you've worked with have noticed? Like, if you have a high level of energy, like positivity, like, would you say that across the board? Most of them?

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah. And we would also, like I, there's, I don't have any science to back this up. But we would, there would be times, you know, sometimes if we would have a really crazy busy day, like, everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong, and we are just like, trying to get through the day. And we were all behind and things like that, where it felt like the animals were like, trying to help out. Like, they were like, oh, no, like something, something must have happened, I'm going to be on my best behavior in the session, which would like, so like I said, I don't have like the data on that. But it definitely felt that way. Sometimes it but yeah, they, they can read you. I mean, we would always say, you know, don't don't come out here if you're, you know, if you're angry, because like the animals like feed off of that. And, you know, if you come out there with like a really positive attitude, and you're super excited, they get very excited. And you know, they want to have fun. And that's, that's the whole point, too, is by making this positive reinforcement. And by making it fun, that's the only way that we can get them to do the things, you know, because they don't inherently want to sit around 20 minutes for an ultrasound, but they might need that, you know, and so if you, you know, if you don't make it fun, then they're just not going to do the behaviors that you want.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah, that is so interesting. And so I'm curious, like, what are some of the, I guess typical, or things that the animals need to do or that you hope they do? regularly? I know you mentioned things somewhat for their health, like things related to an ultrasound or a blood draw, or for older animals that need eyedrops. Are there other things that you sort of have to train them to do for their own well being? Or to get them to certain places, you know, to clean or what have you?

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, yeah. I mean, there's just a ton of behaviors and all of the behaviors that we have have some sort of purpose, even if they just seem silly. Like they just seem like fun, silly behaviors. Well, that's the purpose. Because, you know, like we talked about having fun is important. And we can't all be blood draws and eyedrops, because that's just not fun, right? But yes, we definitely some of the more important behaviors are just stepping on a scale, just walking up and standing still on a scale, so we can make sure you know that their weight is looking good. A lot of them have seasonal weight fluctuations. And it's, you know, a good idea to make sure that those are happening when we think that they should happen. There's, I mean, there's even just like, basic dental care. So like opening their mouths, some animals are trained to, we do toothbrushing things.

Julie Berman - Host:

Like which animals I'm curious.

Kristyn Plancarte:

Um, yeah, I mean, right now, we have a beluga whale who is getting up in age and so we brush her teeth once a day. Yeah, and, and so yeah, and then, you know, even like the walruses, with their big tusks, there was a lot involved with them, allowing us to do different things with their test to make sure that those stay nice and healthy, we would we had them trained to allow us to put a cap on the end of it, which just helps to protect it from getting damaged, like putting a cap on your tooth, and, and all of these types of things that are just even basic body exams, just let me check you over and make sure you don't have any cuts or scrapes or anything I need to worry about. And even those basic things are, you know, really important. I know, like, we didn't do this at my facility, but we do a lot of collaboration with some other facilities and one facility with sea otters even trained their otter, she had, she got diagnosed with asthma, and they trained her to use an inhaler.

Julie Berman - Host:

Oh my gosh,

Kristyn Plancarte:

though, she'll just he you can look it up. I think it's at the Seattle Aquarium, but she'll just sit there with her little mask on and take those deep breaths and, and yeah, so like all of that stuff. Like there's just there's just nothing that's not possible, you know, with animals and like you said to like moving them to different areas, training them to go through gates to walk through different areas so that we can dive and clean their habitats like all of these behaviors are are trained from scratch, and and yeah, not not at all possible without the animals help.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah. And how do like you as a trainer, learn about training? I mean, like, do you have other trainers who you're watching? And then you're picking this up? Or do you just sometimes also try random things to see what works? I mean, like,

Unknown:

yeah, what is that life?

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, it's we definitely have like, there's kind of like a standard of like course called The ABCs of animal training that most marine mammal trainers will have gone through at some point in their lives. And it's, of course, designed by another facility. I don't even remember how but it's been a long time since I've looked at that book, but I still have it. But most of it is just through doing and you usually start out like little baby trainers, we start out working with another more senior trainer, who, you know, usually will basically allow you to train a behavior just with like feedback coming in, and you start with something small, like just like rolling over something like pretty easy. And, and yeah, it's just, it's literally just learning as you go. And it's a really, it's a really interesting skill to learn. Because while there are definitely like, standards for here's positive reinforcement, and here's those types of things, there's nothing that can prepare you for like actually doing this, this type of stuff. And each animal is completely different. So they all have different personalities. So you can't, the way you would train one animal to do something, you might have to do something completely different with another animal to train that exact same behavior. Just because just like humans, their brains work a little bit differently. They have different personalities. And you know, some of them have different different learning needs. I mean, it's it's really the same. So it's, it's a field where you should never consider yourself done learning, there is always something new to learn. There's never just one right way to do something. And it's yeah, it's a very, very flexible field full of a lot of gray areas, which I really like. I know, some people like it a little bit more black and white. But yeah, it's it's interesting. A it's hard to like, now that my brain has has learned training, I can't unlearn it, but it's definitely something that that takes years to sort of, really get the hang of.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah, well, I can imagine. And I mean, like I've taught adults, and so I, you know, but like at least adults speak my language. Yeah. And we have like, things like pictures we can show when we don't speak the same language, you know, or he shares. And so it's just so fascinating to me, like the idea of teaching animals, but not only the same type of animals, different types of animals, and they each have their own individual personalities, right. And learning styles. Yeah, it's a little bit mind blowing to think about, like, what that would look like as a trainer that I had never considered. And so I'm curious, like, if, if you have, you know, the work now with belugas, which you said is like near and dear to your heart? What is that involve? Like? How would you go about training a beluga, and I am imagining if I'm picturing the correct beluga, that they're quite large. And not something where you can like sort of take it, like, help it swim on its own. So like, what is that process look like? Can you sort of walk us through like, like, what are the steps that you do as a trainer to, you know, whether to do that research experiment, or if there's some other examples that you want to give?

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, it's yeah, it's very different than with your dog at home, when you want them to sit and just push his butt down. But that's not that's not the way that we train. So basically, each animal is sort of trained out the gate to do something called targeting. This is really important behavior. And it basically involves trying to think if I have like a good example, but it's essentially just a pole with a usually, I don't know that the color is important, but usually there's like a red, sort of like buoy on the end of it. And then the what it is, doesn't really matter. But the animals are trained to touch different parts of their body to the end of this pole. So it's sort of a point of reference for the animal. And so then if you're training something, just using an example that we can, like, clearly visualize, like a, like a high jump, like just coming out of the water straight up and down and coming back in the water tail first. Basically, that all starts with this target training. And so you introduce the the hand signal for the behavior, and usually is what we use, because the animals, you know, another thing that you don't really think about probably that much is that belugas can't really hear our voices, they probably can hear that something is happening, but it's just not very clear to them. So using verbal cues like you might with your dog is not as useful. So usually you give them that hand signal, and then you hold this target pole up, they come up, touch it with their nose, and you let them know that they did a good job with with the whistle. So we blow the whistle that tells them that they did it and they can come back and they can get their reward and that reward can look like food. Food is a great motivator. It's a great motivator for me too. But it can be a lot of other things belugas really like tongue rubs some of them really like Bob He rubs, some of them have favorite toys that they like to play with. And so just depending on the animal and what they what they really enjoy that positive reinforcement can look a lot of different ways. And then you basically slowly, what we call like fade out that target pool where you're not using that target pool anymore. And before you know it, the animal knows that on this hand signal, I'm going to go out to the middle, I'm gonna come up and down, I don't need any help. I don't need any, any target pool to show me the way. And then the behavior is basically done at that point. But that's the like, sort of the just the the real quick and dirty how to train how to train your beluga whale. Yeah. But yeah, it becomes much more complicated when you're talking about, you know, a variety of different behaviors and things that we that we can train them to do. But yeah, that's the just the down and dirty. That's amazing.

Julie Berman - Host:

Are there like, what are the fun, I guess, like the fun or silly things that are, that are things you've done, either with whales or other animals that you've trained?

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, I mean, with the blue is a fun one is always and of course, you know, because we talked about, I'm always into, like, interacting with the public, a lot of them, we would train them for behaviors that would, they can spit water, which is pretty unique for their species, they use that as a feeding technique. And most whales and dolphins don't have the ability to spit a projected thing of water, but we would train them to do that into crowds of people causing chaos. But but but making memories. So those are always super fun. And then some of the, the animals also learned that that that type of reaction that they get that screaming laughing, they like that. And so they would, they would do it to people outside of like, you know, just on their own, they they learned to do that. Or they would do it too, we had some whales who would do it to the seagulls, who would spit at the seagulls and sort of chase them around and spit at them. And so those types of behaviors, those like play behaviors are always super fun. The Otters I always really loved. And one thing that's very popular on my social media is anything that involves sea otters banging on things. So if you don't know, sea otters are known for using a rock to sort of crack into shells, they eat a lot of shellfish and marine invertebrates. And so they will take that rock and basically bang it into clams. And we didn't want them to do that. Because, you know, as we discussed, they're already very destructive. But we could train them to some of them would like tap on the tap on the doors, or it looks like knocking or, or clap, they would clap too. And it makes cute little pity party sounds. And so those behaviors would always like people would just oh, you know, and then they want to know, why are they doing that? And then you can leave that into well, if you want to learn something, you know, and, and make it an educational thing. So yeah, I mean, there's just, there's so many fun and interesting things about these animals. And they're, they're so unique, and people just they don't know that.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah, it is interesting. You know, like I we've had a membership, we don't have one now. But there's a an aquarium here. And like, I always loved going, but it's like, you get to read the signs a lot of the time, but we don't have as much of the interaction with the people who work with them day in and day out. And so it's just like, I think your ability to use social media to share some of the actual stories from your experience is so unique. And also, I think clearly, like people want more of that, because we you know, it's like you, you want to hear about the sort of the individualities. And yeah, the unique features of each animals that we don't always know to even ask about. And so I think that's so cool. And I appreciate you sharing the examples, just of some of the things that you train the whale and the otters to do because I think it's interesting to either hear the backstory or that they can do these things in the first place. And just Yeah, even using like, spitting at seagulls is like, clearly, you know, the personality of that particular whale. Just just like thinking about that, that that would be something really fun. So that's, that's really interesting.

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, I think I think getting people to, like you said, like to understand that, like, we see these animals as like a number on a paper and I think most people love sea otters, they think that they're cute, but when you start to understand that they all have personalities, and that they're, you know, like, like, otters are people too, you know, but but basically understanding like that there's an individual there and I think that that that builds the connection

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah, definitely. And I think even hearing sort of the the educational aspects of behind like okay, well why do they like to being on things or and I know you shared also like some really cute videos with ice. So if anyone is cubes. And yeah, so if anyone's interested, we'll share your information at the end. So people can go check that out. But it's just very fascinating to kind of get to know the animals a little bit better. And then I think also from that larger standpoint of like, just being sort of good global citizens, for ourselves and for the animals. So I really appreciate that. And I, I want to ask you, you know, if people are listening to this, and women or girls are like, this sounds amazing, I would love to do something like this. How can they start to look at getting in this field? Is it something where you definitely need a degree? Or are there other other ways in? And you know, what does that look like? If you have suggestions,

Kristyn Plancarte:

I would definitely recommend a degree, I don't want to say that it is 100% necessary. If, for whatever reason, you are unable to do that, it does not mean that this is absolutely unattainable, it just means that you're going to have a little bit of a harder time, most places require a university degree, a four year bachelor's degree in some sort of science related program. If you are able to go get that degree, I actually recommend a psychology degree. Really? Yeah, I mean, all of these principles that we're talking about operant conditioning, positive reinforcement, these are all like human psychology, like, theories and, and strategies. And, and that's something that translates you can train humans and the same way that you can train, you know, you can train your spouse in the same way that you can do. I would maybe not train them to like, spit at your guests or anything. Yeah, like, right, yeah. But it is possible. So yeah, I mean, that's not the route, but I went, I went like with a zoology degree, which is also fine. But I feel like psychology sort of better sets you up with some of these theories and some of these techniques that we use. And then, like I said, internships, unfortunately, that is a big, unpaid internships are a big part of the industry. And I say, that's unfortunate, because I actually think that it really limits the amount of people that that can get into the industry, it makes it extremely competitive. But I was fortunate enough to have the ability to do that. And most people do more than one even, because they really want you to have some of that experience. And I recommend as well, like just volunteering at different while you're going to university or even in high school, those types of things. I like I said, I volunteered at Raptor Rehabilitation, whatever you got, like near you, even if it's just like the Humane Society, you know, cleaning out kennels like this, this really does count as well as experience. And also cleaning out, cleaning up after animals helps you to get an idea that, that that is going to like, like, poop isn't going away. Like we have to do that. Like in no matter where you're at in the field. And then the other thing that is so hard is being willing to move. Like I said, I you know, I went to Colorado State University, I was born in Colorado, I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, for a job, and I've lived all over and now I'm on the East Coast. And it really opens up avenues for you when you don't limit yourself by what's in your immediate area. So yeah, and you know, if it's something that you really want, like you'll you'll get it like Persistence is key. And I think when you're doing those internships, I always recommend being yourself and letting your personality shine through because you want to be you want to be the intern that they remember that they want to hire

Julie Berman - Host:

afterwards. Great advice. And are there like organizations or professional associations that you'd recommend for kind of either looking about maybe opportunities within the field or just kind of finding maybe professionals in the person's area, like that, that you're part of or know about?

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, I mean, as far as like, you know, you can find internships and job opportunities. I find them a lot on aca.org, which is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and they have a job listing and it is constantly updated. There are just 1000s of jobs posted on that all the time. I also belong to the international marine animal Trainers Association, which is I Mata, which they do I think actually think if you're going to university your membership is free, or at least very, very cheap. They also have job postings there and they have a lot of resources, they have libraries of information available. And then you know I recommend social media for or some other things like for talking to people. There's a lot of face book groups of marine mammal trainers, Facebook groups, and there's a lot of people in there who are able to help out if for people who were trying to trying to get into the field or trying to pass a swim test or just looking for advice or anything like that or sometimes even like Looking forward, you know, there'll be like, I got this such and such an internship here is anyone in the area that has a room for rent? Or something like that? So a lot of great information on the internet.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah. Okay. Well, thank you. Those are some great resources. And I have to ask, you know, before we wrap up, because I'm curious, and we didn't get to it yet, but I feel like, you know, specific to what you do, like you are in in your water all the time. So I'm curious, because you started out thinking you're going to do land animals, probably large cats, and you ended up, you know, doing Marine, marine mammals. So I'm curious, like, what is that like? And, you know, what do people need to think about if they're considering this, you know, particular area working with animals?

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, I mean, so like, even just like being around the water, like being a good swimmer is definitely important. And I was not one of those like, natural born fish, I had to work really, really hard at that. And I still struggle with it. I am not super comfortable. Being underwater and unable to breathe is like not my favorite thing. So so it's something that I am I am constantly working on and, and we do dive to clean the habitats usually having a scuba certification is required, or being able to get one within, you know, relative soon after being after being hired. So yeah, the other thing that that I don't think people think about when they come to the aquarium on like, beautiful, like sunny days, is that we're out there. If it's raining, if it's snowing, it does not matter. So like there have been some, I have had some beautiful days out there. And I have been absolutely miserable out there as well. You know, when you're soaking wet, and you still have six more hours left in your day. It is not a great feeling. It is not a great feeling. So there's, you know, there's definitely some some elements that we have to combat and the water is obviously always very cold.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah, yeah. And I think that's so interesting, because it's a sort of on top of what you're doing just in the rest of your job. It's it's like something that does have that interplay of like, that's always there kind of either physically or it probably in the background very close by Yeah, yeah. So thank you for explaining that. And I'm curious, you know, like, if you had to pick one thing or two things that was like your absolute favorite part of doing this job, like, what would you say those are? I know, that might be a hard question. Answer.

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yes. So I absolutely love. Okay, two things, two things I can't, I can't sell on just, I love coming up with new toys and enrichment to give the animals and you could probably have guessed that if you look at my social media, a lot of it is like just giving treats to animals, because just watching them play and enjoy something is really, really fun. We, you know, we're often we're out there working with the animals in a very controlled setting. It's a you know, a controlled what we call a session when we're out there with the animals. So sometimes it's fun to just go out of session, and I made this new toy or we just bought this giant new beluga toy for you guys like and watching them. Enjoy those types of things are watching the Otters get, you know, as much ice as you can possibly fit in their in their area and watching their little minds be blown as they are running around and eating all the ice is just, that's always super fun. And the other thing that I really love that pertains directly to training is we call it like the lightbulb moment. So there's always this moment when you're struggling, the animals struggling, like we're all working together to try to get the animal to understand what you're what you're looking for and what you need. And then there's always that moment where you can just see you can just sort of see the light turn on like literally in their eyes and, and they go and they do it for the first time. And they they've figured it out, and you're celebrating their together. And oftentimes, like it involves a literal, happy dance, you know, we'll be jumping up and down and screaming for them and getting excited for them. And they're like, Yes, I did it. And that that moment is always so much fun to experience that with the animal, though.

Unknown:

That's awesome.

Julie Berman - Host:

It's so cool that you describe that because I would have never known that animals can have that moment. Yeah, it's really really amazing. And it's so I mean, it's really interesting too, that you talk about having like a psych degree and being a trainer because I would have never put those things together. But like listening to you say that having taught myself having taught adults it's really interesting because like as people we have that so that's so cool that like you could witness an animal you know that you're working with like that you both can have this moment together like that shared experience and like clearly get so excited over it. So yeah, they

Kristyn Plancarte:

get so excited to that then usually Then what happens is, you know, if you've got a big behavior like that, then that's like the only behavior they'll do for like, the next week. It's just like, No, we remember how excited we were and they and they'll just like, we're not, we're all we're doing is this and you have to be like, okay, okay, okay, we can do other things, too. We rein it in a little bit right in it. But

Unknown:

that's awesome. I love it. Well, thank

Julie Berman - Host:

you so much for sharing that with us work great. Like I know, it's just sounds so great. And who doesn't want more toys, right? Like, toys just sounds like so much fun. It is. Very cool. So as we wrap up, I want to ask you my favorite question. And I asked it to every guest. So it's this to end the conversation, will you share a sentence that uses verbiage or jargon from your field, then please translate it, so it's understandable to us? Sure.

Kristyn Plancarte:

So you might say something like so and so animal was refusing staying at station when I was holding them in the backup area. So I gave them a dri and then Jack potted. That's just like to use a few jargony terms. And basically, what this would mean was, the animal is not wanting to stay in a particular area, kind of like you mentioned for if we need to clean a different area, and we would give them, one of the techniques that you can do is you can give them a Dr. I. So basically, if the animal is is choosing to leave you, you can put them in some sort of behavior that directly reinforces an incompatible behavior. So essentially, that's what dri stands for. So essentially, if they are, for instance, doing a layout, like if they're laying out and you have that your hands on their back, which is a behavior that they know, well, they can't do that behavior and swim off at the same time. So then you're, you know, directly reinforcing an incompatible behavior with the behavior that you don't want, which is in this case, like swimming away, and then jackpot it and so a jackpot is just what it sounds like. It's basically a magnitude reward where we would give a giant handful or like I said, their favorite toy or something like that, to let them know that they did that they did an excellent job in doing that behavior. And it basically is like, you know, just like when you're gambling it, you know, you don't usually win, but when you get that jackpot, that's what keeps you engaged and keeps you gambling, basically. So. So yeah, that's kind of just a few of the of the really sort of jargony terms that we use on a day to day.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah, thank you for sharing that. And I want to make sure that, that people know if they want to see some of the content that you have out there and various formats, where can they find you? And also, I want to say thank you so much for being on WomenwithCoolJobs

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, well, thank you so much for having me. Yeah, I'm like, I'm basically everywhere. So I'm on YouTube. I'm Kay passionate. So the story behind that is just my my initials are KP. And in this industry, you often are just are just sort of initials. Sometimes we sign our records with just our initials and so, so Kay passionate on YouTube, same on Twitch if you want to catch my live streams or some of those charity events, tick tock and Instagram is basically the same there's a que underscore passionate on tick tock, and then it's k p.on. The on Instagram, but yeah, I mean, a quick quick search for anything and everything otters and you'll probably find me

Julie Berman - Host:

there. Yeah, man, you have some cute videos. And, and I think like, I really appreciate you being here sharing what you're doing, not only in your official job, as as a marine biologist and educator, but also the work that you're doing as a creator, but using that for like such a neat cause to educate, to help raise money and and just sort of conserve these, these beautiful species and their habitats and help them out. So

Kristyn Plancarte:

yeah, well, one, one area, I'm not on his podcast. So thank you for giving me that platform.

Unknown:

It was an honor. Great talking to you. You too.

Julie Berman - Host:

Hey, everybody. Thank you so much for listening to women with cool jobs. I'll be releasing a new episode every two weeks. So make sure you hit that subscribe button. And if you loved the show, please give me a five star rating. Also, it would mean so much if you share this episode with someone you think would love it or would find it inspirational. And lastly, do you have ideas for future shows? Or do you know any Rockstar women with cool jobs? I would love to hear from you. You can email me at Julie at women with cool jobs.com or You can find me on Instagram at women who will jobs again that women will jobs. Thank you so much for listening and have an incredible day

Kristyn Plancarte:

silly, like they just seem like fun, silly behaviors. Well, that's the purpose. Because, you know, like we talked about having fun is important. And we can't all be blood draws and eyedrops, because that's just not fun, right? But yes, we definitely some of the more important behaviors are just stepping on a scale, just walking up and standing still on a scale, so we can make sure you know that their weight is looking good. A lot of them have seasonal weight fluctuations. And it's, you know, a good idea to make sure that those are happening when we think that they should happen. There's, I mean, there's even just like, basic dental care. So like opening their mouths, some animals are trained to, we do toothbrush things.

Julie Berman - Host:

Like which animals I'm curious.

Kristyn Plancarte:

Um, yeah, I mean, right now, we have a beluga whale who is getting up in age and so we brush her teeth once a day. Yeah, and, and so yeah, and then, you know, even like the walruses, with their big tusks, there was a lot involved with them, allowing us to, to do different things with their test to make sure that those stay nice and healthy, we would we had them trained to allow us to put a cap on the end of it, which just helps to protect it from getting damaged, like putting a cap on your tooth, and, and all of these types of things that are just even basic body exams, just let me check you over, make sure you don't have any cuts or scrapes or anything I need to worry about. And even those basic things are, you know, really important. I know, like, we didn't do this at my facility, but we do a lot of collaboration with some other facilities. And one facility with sea otters even trained their otter, she had, she got diagnosed with asthma, and they trained her to use an inhaler.

Julie Berman - Host:

Oh my gosh, so she'll just he,

Kristyn Plancarte:

you could look it up. I think it's at the Seattle Aquarium, but she'll just sit there with her little mask on and take those deep breaths. And, and yeah, so like all of that stuff. Like there's just there's just nothing that's not possible, you know, with animals and like you said to like moving them to different areas, training them to go through gates to walk through different areas so that we can dive and clean their habitats, like all of these behaviors are, are trained from scratch, and and yeah, not not at all possible without the animals. Oh,

Julie Berman - Host:

yeah. And how do like you, as a trainer, learn about training? I mean, like, do you have other trainers who you're watching? And then you're picking this up? Or you just sometimes also try random things to see what works? I mean, like, yeah, what

Unknown:

is that? Like?

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, it's we definitely have like, there's kind of like a standard of like course, called the ABCs of animal training that most marine mammal trainers will have gone through at some point in their lives. And it's, of course, designed by another facility. I don't even remember, it's been a long time since I've looked at that book, but I still have it. But most of it is just through doing and you usually start out like little baby trainers, we start out working with another more senior trainer, who you know, usually will basically allow you to train a behavior just with like feedback coming in, and you start with something small, like just like rolling over or something like pretty easy. And, and yeah, it's just, it's literally just learning as you go. And it's a really, it's a really interesting skill to learn. Because while there are definitely like, standards for years, positive reinforcement, and here's those types of things, there's nothing that can prepare you for like actually doing this, this type of stuff. And each animal is completely different. So they all have different personalities. So you can't, the way you would train one animal to do something, you might have to do something completely different with another animal to train that exact same behavior. Just because just like humans, their brains work a little bit differently. They have different personalities. And you know, some of them have different different learning needs. I mean, it's it's really the same. So it's, it's a field where you should never consider yourself done learning there is always something new to learn. There's never just one right way to do something. And it's yeah, it's a very, very flexible field full of a lot of gray areas, which I really like I know some people like it a little bit more black and white. But yeah, it's it's interesting. A it's hard to like, now that my brain has has learned training. I can't unlearn it, but it's definitely something that that takes years to sort of, really get the hang of.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah, well, I can imagine. I mean, like I've taught adults, and so I you know, but like at least adults speak my language. Yeah. And we have like, things like pictures we can show when we don't speak the same language you know, or hey, yeah, sure. And so it's just so fascinating to me, like the idea of teaching animals but not only the same type of animals, different types of animals, and as they each have their own individual personalities, right and learning styles. Yeah, it's a little bit mind blowing to think about, like, what that would look like as a trainer that I had never considered. And so I'm curious, like, if, if you have, you know, the work now with belugas, which you said is like, near and dear to your heart? What is that involve? Like? How would you go about training of beluga, and I am imagining if I'm picturing the correct beluga, that they're quite large. And not something where you can like, sort of, take it, like, help it swim on its own. So like, what is that process look like? Can you sort of walk us through like, like, what are the steps that you do as a trainer to, you know, whether to do that research experiment, or if there's some other examples that you want to give?

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, it's yeah, it's very different than with your dog at home, when you want him to sit and just push his butt down. But that's not that's not the way that that we train. So basically, each animal is sort of trained out the gate to do something called targeting. This is a really important behavior. And it basically involves trying to think of I have like a good example. But it's essentially just a pole. With a usually, I don't know that the color is important, but usually there's like a red, sort of like boogie on the end of it. And then the what it is, doesn't really matter. But the animals are trained to touch different parts of their body to the end of this poll. So it's sort of a point of reference for the animal. And so then if you're training something, just using an example that we can, like, clearly visualize, like a, like a high jump, like just coming out of the water straight up and down and coming back in the water tail first. Basically, that all starts with this target training. And so you introduce the the hand signal for the behavior, and usually is what we use, because the animals, you know, another thing that you don't really think about probably that much is that belugas can't really hear our voices, they probably can hear that something is happening, but it's just not very clear to them. So using verbal cues like you might with your dog is not as useful. So usually you give them that hand signal, and then you hold this target pole up, they come up, touch it with their nose, and you let them know that they did a good job with with the whistle. So we blow the whistle that tells them that they did it, and they can come back and they can get their reward. And that reward can look like food. Food is a great motivator. It's a great motivator for me too. But it can be a lot of other things. belugas really like tongue rubs, some of them really like body rubs, some of them have favorite toys that they'd like to play with. And so just depending on the animal, and what they what they really enjoy that positive reinforcement can look a lot of different ways. And then you basically slowly, what we call like fade out that target pole where you're not using that target pool anymore. And before you know it, the animal knows that on this hand signal, I'm gonna go out to the middle, I'm gonna come up and down. I don't need any help. I don't need any any target pool to show me the way and then the behavior is basically done at that point. But that's the like, sort of the just the the real quick and dirty how to train how to train your beluga whale. Yeah. But yeah, it becomes much more complicated when you're talking about, you know, a variety of different behaviors and things that we that we can train them to do. But yeah, that's the just the down and dirty.

Julie Berman - Host:

That's amazing. Are there like, what are the fun? I guess, like the fun or silly things that are that are things you've done either with whales or other animals that you've trained?

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, I mean, with the, the beluga is a fun one is always and of course, you know, because we talked about, I'm always into, like, interacting with the public, a lot of them, we would train them for behaviors that would, they can spit water, which is pretty unique for their species, they use that as a feeding technique. And most whales and dolphins don't have the ability to spit a projected thing of water. But we would train them to do that into crowds of people causing chaos. But but but making memories. So those are always super fun. And then some of the, the animals also learned that that that type of reaction that they get that screaming laughing, they like that. And so they would they would do it to people outside of like, you know, just on their own, they learned to do that. Or they would do it too. We had some whales who would do it to the seagulls who would spit at the seagulls and sort of chase them around and spit at them. And so those types of behaviors, those like play behaviors are always super fun. The Otters I always really loved and one thing that's very popular on my social media is anything that involves sea otters banging on things. So if you don't know, sea otters are known for using a rock to sort of crack into of shells, they eat a lot of shellfish and marine invertebrates. And so they will take that rock and basically bang it into clams. And we didn't want them to do that. Because, you know, as we discussed, they're already very destructive. But we could train them to some of them would like tap on the tap on the doors or, and it looks like knocking or, or clap, they would clap too. And it makes cute little, little pity Patty sounds and so those behaviors would always, like people would just oh, you know, and they and then they want to know, why are they doing that? And then you can lead that into well, if you want to learn something, you know, and, and make it an educational thing. So yeah, I mean, there's just, there's so many fun and interesting things about these animals. And they're, they're so unique, and people just they don't know that.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah, it is interesting. You know, like I we've had a membership, we don't have one now. But there's a an aquarium here. And like, I always loved going, but it's like, you get to read the signs a lot of the time, but we don't have as much of the interaction, the people who work with them day in and day out. And so it's just like, I think your ability to use social media to share some of the actual stories from your experience is so unique. And also, I think clearly, like people want more of that, because we you know, it's like you, you want to hear about the sort of the individualities. And yeah, the unique features of each animal that we don't always know to even ask about. And so I think that's so cool. And I appreciate you sharing the examples, just of some of the things that you train the whale and the otters to do because I think it's interesting to either hear the backstory, or that they can do these things in the first place. And just Yeah, even using like spitting at seagulls is like, clearly, you know, the personality of that particular whale. It's just that, just like thinking about that, that that would be something really fun. So that's, that's really interesting. Yeah, I

Kristyn Plancarte:

think I think getting people to, like you said, like to understand that, like, we see these animals is like a number on a paper. And I think most people love sea otters, they think that they're cute. But when you start to understand that they all have personalities, and that they're, you know, like, like, otters are people too, you know, but, but basically understanding like that there's an individual there. And I think that that, that builds the connection.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah, definitely. And I think even hearing sort of the the educational aspects of behind, like, Okay, well, why do they like to being on things or, and I know, you shared also, like, some really cute videos with ice. So if anyone ice cubes, and yeah, so if anyone's interested, we'll share your information at the ends, people can go check that out. But it's just very fascinating to kind of get to know the animals a little bit better. And then I think, also from that larger standpoint of like, just being sort of good global citizens, for ourselves and for the animals. So I really appreciate that. And I, I want to ask you, you know, if people are listening to this, and women or girls are like, this sounds amazing, I would love to do something like this. How can they start to look at getting in this field? Is it something where you definitely need a degree? Or are there other other ways in? And you know, what does that look like? If you have suggestions,

Kristyn Plancarte:

I would definitely recommend a degree, I don't want to say that it is 100% necessary. If if for whatever reason, you are unable to do that, it does not mean that this is absolutely unattainable, it just means that you're going to have a little bit of a harder time. Most places require a university degree, a four year bachelor's degree in some sort of science related program. If you are able to go get that degree, I actually recommend a psychology degree. Really? Yeah, I mean, all of these principles that we're talking about operant conditioning, positive reinforcement, these are all like human psychology, like theories and and strategies. And, and that's something that translates you can train humans and the same way that you can train, you know, you can train your spouse in the same way that I would maybe not train them to, like spit at your guests or anything. Yeah, like, right. Yeah. But it is possible. So yeah, I mean, that's not the route but I went, I went like with a zoology degree, which is also fine, but I feel like psychology sort of better sets you up with some of these theories and some of these techniques that we use. And then like I said, internships, unfortunately, that is a big, unpaid internships are a big part of the industry. And I say that's unfortunate, because I actually think that it really limits the amount of people that that can get into the industry. It makes it extremely competitive. But I was fortunate enough to have the ability to do that. And most people do more than one even. Because they really want you to have some of that experience. And I recommend as well like just volunteering at different while you're going to university or even in high school, those types of things I, like I said, I volunteered at that Raptor Rehabilitation, whatever you've got, like, near you, even if it's just like the Humane Society, you know, cleaning out kennels like this, this really does count as experience. And also cleaning out, cleaning up after animals helps you to get an idea that the bed is going to like, like, poop isn't going away. Like we have to do that. Like in no matter where you're at in the field. And then the other thing that so hard is being willing to move. Like I said, I you know, I went to Colorado State University, I was born in Colorado, I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, for a job, and I've lived all over and now I'm on the East Coast. And it really opens up avenues for you when you don't limit yourself by what's in your immediate area. So yeah, and you know, if it's something that you really want, like you'll you'll get it like Persistence is key. And I think when you're doing those internships, I always recommend being yourself and letting your personality shine through because you want to be you want to be the intern that they remember that they want to hire afterwards.

Julie Berman - Host:

Great advice. And are there like organizations or professional associations that you'd recommend for kind of either looking about maybe opportunities within the field or just kind of finding maybe professionals in the person's area, like that, that you're part of or know about?

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, I mean, as far as like, you know, you can find internships and job opportunities, I find them a lot on aca.org, which is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and they have a job listing, and it is constantly updated. There are just 1000s of jobs posted on that all the time. I also belong to the international marine animal Trainers Association, which is Imada, which they do, I think, actually, I think if you're going to university, your membership is free, or at least very, very cheap. But they also have job postings there. And they have a lot of resources, they have libraries of information available. And then, you know, I recommend social media for or some other things like for talking to people, there's a lot of face book groups of marine mammal trainers, Facebook groups, and there's a lot of people in there who are able to help out if for people who are trying to trying to get into the field or trying to pass a swim test or just looking for advice or anything like that, or sometimes even like looking for you know, they'll be like I got this such and such an internship here. Is anyone in the area that has a room for rent, or something like that? So a lot of great information on the internet.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah, okay. Well, thank you. Those are some great resources. And I have to ask, you know, before we wrap up, because I'm curious, and we didn't get to it yet, but I feel like you know, specific to what you do, like you are in in your water all the time. So I'm curious, because you started out thinking you're going to do land animals, probably large cats, and you ended up, you know, doing Marine, marine mammals. So I'm curious, like, what is that like? And you know, what do people need to think about if they're considering this particular area working with animals?

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, I mean, so like, even just like being around the water, like being a good swimmer is definitely important. And I was not one of those like natural born fish, I had to work really, really hard at that. And I still struggle with it. I am not super comfortable being underwater and unable to breathe is like not my favorite thing. So so it's something that I am I am constantly working on and, and we do dive to clean the habitats usually having a scuba certification is required, or being able to get one within, you know, relative soon after being after being hired. So, yeah, the other thing that that I don't think people think about when they come to the aquarium on like, beautiful, like sunny days, is that we're out there, if it's raining, if it's snowing, it does not matter. So like there have been some I have had some beautiful days out there and I have been absolutely miserable out there as well. You know, when you're soaking wet and you still have six more hours left in your day. It is not a great feeling. It is not a great feeling. So there's, you know, there's definitely some some elements that we have to combat and the water is obviously always very cold.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah, yeah. And I think that's so interesting, because it's sort of on top of what you're doing just in the rest of your job. It's it's like something that does have that interplay of like, that's always there. I know of either physically or it probably in the background very close by. Yeah. Yeah. So thank you for explaining that. And I'm curious, you know, like, if you had to pick one thing or two things that was like your absolute favorite part of doing this job, like, what would you say those are? I know, it might be a hard question to answer.

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yes. So I absolutely love. Okay, two things, two things I can't, I can't tell on just okay. I love coming up with new toys and enrichment to give the animals and you could probably have guessed that if you look at my social media, a lot of it is like just giving treats to animals. Because just watching them play and enjoy something is really, really fun. We, you know, we're often we're out there working with the animals in a very controlled setting. It's a you know, a controlled what we call a session when we're out there with the animals. So sometimes it's fun to just go out of session, and I made this new toy, or we just bought this giant new beluga toy for you guys like and watching them, enjoy those types of things, or watching the Otters get, you know, as much ice as you can possibly fit in their in their area, and watching their little minds be blown as they are running around and eating all the ice is just, that's always super fun. And the other thing that I really love that pertains directly to training is we call it like the lightbulb moment. So there's always this moment when you're struggling, the animals trolling you, like we're all working together to try to get the animal to understand what you're what you're looking for, and what you need. And then there's always that moment where you can just see, you can just sort of see the light turn on like literally in their eyes, and, and they go and they do it for the first time. And they they've figured it out and you're celebrating there together. And oftentimes, like it involves a literal, happy dance, you know, we'll be jumping up and down and screaming for them and getting excited for them. And they're like, Yes, I did it. And that that moment is always so much fun to experience that with the animal, though.

Julie Berman - Host:

That's awesome. It's so cool that you describe that, because I would have never known that animals can have that moment. Yeah. It's really, really amazing. And it's so I mean, it's really interesting, too, that you talk about having like a psych degree, and being a trainer because I would have never put those things. But like listening to you say that, having taught myself having taught adults, it's really interesting, because it's like, as people we have that. So that's so cool that like you could witness an animal you know, that you're working with, like that you both can have this moment together, like that shared experience and like clearly get so excited over it. So yeah, they get

Kristyn Plancarte:

so excited to that, then usually what happens is, you know, if you've got a big behavior like that, then that's like the only behavior they'll do for like, the next week. It's just like, No, we remember how excited we were and they and they'll just like, we're not we're all we're doing is this and you have to be like okay, okay, okay, we, we can do other things, too. We rein it in a little bit right at it. But that's

Unknown:

awesome. Oh, I love it. Well, thank you so much for sharing that with us. What a great, like,

Julie Berman - Host:

I don't know, it's just sounds so great. And who doesn't want more toys, right? Like, toys just sounds like so much fun. It is. Very cool. So as we wrap up, I want to ask you my favorite question. And I ask it to every guest. So it's this to end the conversation, will you share a sentence that uses verbiage or jargon from your field, then please translate it so it's understandable to us?

Kristyn Plancarte:

Sure. So you might say something like so and so animal was refusing staying at station when I was holding them in the backup area. So I gave them a dri and then jackpot ID that's just like to use a few jargony terms. And basically what this would mean was, the animal is not wanting to stay in a particular area, kind of like you mentioned for if we need to clean a different area, and we would give them one of the techniques that you can do is you can give them a DR i So basically, if the animal is is choosing to leave you, you can put them in some sort of behavior that directly reinforces an incompatible behavior. So essentially, that's what dri stands for. So essentially, if they are for instance, doing a layout, like if they're laying out and you have that your hands on their back, which is a behavior that they know well they can't do that behavior and swim off at the same time so then you're you know directly reinforcing an incompatible behavior with the behavior that you don't want which is in this case like swimming away and then jackpot it and so a jackpot is just what it sounds like. It's basically a magnitude reward where we would give a giant handful or like I said, their favorite toy or something like that, to let them know that they did that they did an excellent job in doing that behavior. And it basically is like, you know, Just like when you're gambling, you know, you don't usually win. But when you get that jackpot, that's what keeps you engaged and keeps you gambling, basically. So. So yeah, that's kind of just a few of the, of the really sort of jargony terms that we use in the day to day.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah, thank you for sharing that. And I want to make sure that, that people know if they want to see some of the content that you have out there, and various formats, where can they find you? And also, I want to say thank you so much for being on WomenwithCoolJobs.

Kristyn Plancarte:

Yeah, well, thank you so much for having me. Yeah, I'm like, I'm basically everywhere. So I'm on YouTube. I'm Kay passionate. So the story behind that is just my my initials are KP. And in this industry, you often are just are just sort of initials. Sometimes we sign our records with just our initials and so, so K passionate on YouTube, same on Twitch if you want to catch my live streams or some of those charity events, tick tock and Instagram is basically the same there's a K underscore passionate on Tik Tok and then it's k p.on. The on Instagram, but yeah, I mean, a quick quick search for anything and everything otters and you'll probably find me

Julie Berman - Host:

there. Yeah, man, you have some cute videos. And, and I think like, I really appreciate you being here sharing what you're doing, not only in your official job, as as a marine biologist and educator, but also the work that you're doing as a creator, but using that for like such a neat cause to educate, to help raise money and and just sort of conserve these, these beautiful species and their habitats and help them out. So yeah, well, one,

Kristyn Plancarte:

one area, I'm not on his podcast. So thank you for giving me that platform.

Unknown:

It was an honor. Great talking to you. You too.

Julie Berman - Host:

Hey, everybody. Thank you so much for listening to women with cool jobs. I'll be releasing a new episode every two weeks. So make sure you hit that subscribe button. And if you love the show, please give me a five star rating. Also, it would mean so much if you share this episode with someone you think would love it or would find it inspirational. And lastly, do you have ideas for future shows? Or do you know any Rockstar women with cool jobs? I would love to hear from you. You can email me at Julie at women with cool jobs.com Or you can find me on Instagram at women who will jobs again that women will jobs. Thank you so much for listening and have an incredible day