The Marine Mammal Physiology Project (MMPP) is under the direct supervision of our principle investigator, Dr. Terrie Williams. The projects goals focus primarily on research efforts concerning the physiology of marine mammals and educational outreach promoting conservation of these species. Our sole source of support is through research grants, and these are very restricted in terms of salary money. As a result, there are no paid positions available on the MMPP and our entire program is run by volunteer interns. As a MMPP volunteer you will gain a wide breadth of experience ranging from animal care and husbandry practices, to data collection and hands-on animal training with a variety of marine mammals and exotic birds. The vast majority of our staff go on to a variety of professional careers ranging from animal trainers to graduate school; medical school to veterinary school.

We look for true commitment from our volunteers. You must be able to commit to 15 hours per week for a minimum of one full year. Our work schedules change every school quarter in accordance with the UCSC academic calendar. As a result of working with exotic marine mammals, our care staff is here 365 days a year. This means you will be expected to work shifts through winter and spring breaks, summer, and over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Typically, if you are not able to make this full commitment, we will be unable to accommodate your desires of working for the project. We do not offer short-term intensive internships (such as working 40 hours per week for 3 months).

As a volunteer for the animal care and training staff, you will be 100% focused on the care of the animals. The animal care and training staff are not heavily involved in data collection sessions or analysis. This is the primary job of Dr. Williams and her graduate lab.  The work of the animal care and training staff is primarily outside in the elements and is very physically demanding.

During your first year working on the MMPP, you will be learning a great deal about exotic marine mammal care and husbandry practices.  This includes fish preparation, habitat cleaning, animal enrichment, water quality analysis, and various other day-to-day tasks which are required to maintain a marine mammal facility. We believe in building a strong knowledge foundation of animal care skills. It is unlikely in your first year that you will begin in the training program of the marine mammals and exotic birds.  This hands-on training of the marine mammals and exotic birds typically begins after your first year is completed, although it may happen sooner or potentially later than that as well.  Our program is designed to progress with the needs of each volunteer independently, as well as overall project needs.  You will have the opportunity to attend a lecture series designed to teach you all about the training theories and methodologies we use on the MMPP prior to beginning hands-on animal training.

If this project sounds like an opportunity you would like to experience, we encourage you to fill out the application and send it back to Traci Kendall at  Many of our volunteers work here for three or more years and leave with an outstanding set of skills taking them into great career paths. If you have any problems with any of the forms, just include the requested information in your email.  You can also print out the application and send it directly to the MMPP at:

Traci Kendall

115 McAllister Way

Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Thank you again for your interest in the Marine Mammal Physiology Project.


Volunteer Program