In the marine world, animal training has primarily been limited to marine mammals, though scientists have attempted to train other marine animals with limited success. including dolphins, seals, sea lions, walruses, and sea otters. Marine mammal trainers use positive reinforcement (e.g. operant conditioning) to train animals in their care. Educational shows, demonstrations, and/or interactive programs that showcase animals, their learned behaviors, and the trainers that work with them, allow the public to develop an understanding (and respect) for marine life. Marine mammal trainers may also teach behaviors to individual animals that make it safer and easier for veterinarians to collect medical samples, perform exams, and administer medications. Marine mammals can also be trained for military and/or research purposes.
Animal trainers are responsible for the physical and mental health of the animals in their care. It is important to note that a trainer usually does not spend their entire day interacting with their animals. Marine mammal trainers are responsible for feedings, pool maintenance, medical tests/animal health, recordkeeping, as well as ensuring that their animals have daily physical activity, mental enrichment, and social opportunities. Marine mammal trainers may work in aquaria, zoos, university research laboratories, industrial research centers, private companies, government research laboratories or marine stations. Since marine mammal trainers tend to be secure in their position and are close with the animals with which they work, job turnover is low. Once people take a job in this field, they tend to stay in their position for a long time. Additionally, relatively few new marine parks and aquaria open each year. Thus, marine mammal training is a very competitive field, requiring a great deal of patience and dedication. Often people work in other departments, such as education, operations, and/or maintenance, before transferring to a job in animal training.