New Partnership Offers Hands-On Training for Cal Poly Students in Marine Mammal Veterinary Care

Contact: AnnMarie Cornejo
Cal Poly

Giancarlo Rulli
The Marine Mammal Center

SAUSALITO, Calif. — Cal Poly’s Animal Science Department is proud to announce a new partnership with The Marine Mammal Center on an interdisciplinary enterprise course titled Marine Mammal Health. Overwhelming student interest in the course and the potential for hands-on opportunities in marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation at the center inspired the partnership.

As the world’s largest marine mammal hospital, the Bay Area-based center works with students from all over the world to share and enhance knowledge and skill in marine mammal health. Satellite rescue and triage facilities in Morro Bay and Moss Landing, California, play a critical role in the hospital’s ability to respond to the record number of marine mammals that strand each year in the center’s 600-mile rescue range.

Cal Poly students enrolled in the course will work six hours a week at the center’s Morro Bay facility, in true Learn by Doing fashion, playing a significant role in the rescue and rehabilitation of sick and injured marine mammals, mostly seals and sea lions.

The course was developed and taught for the first time in spring 2016 by Heather Harris, a wildlife veterinarian at The Marine Mammal Center triage center. Harris has been the site veterinarian at the facility Morro Bay for the past eight years and previously completed a one-year clinical internship at center in Sausalito in 2007-08 after graduating from veterinary school. The continuation of this course will provide additional students a hands-on opportunity to work directly with pinnipeds and learn marine mammal biology.

“This unique partnership benefits both the university and The Marine Mammal Center by expanding the scope of Cal Poly’s curriculum and fulfilling the center’s mission as a teaching hospital to advance global ocean conservation through rehabilitation, scientific research and education,” said Harris.

The course comes at a unique and important time for understanding marine mammal health. In 2015, the center rescued more than 1,800 marine mammals, a record in the hospital’s 41-year history.

“These past few years have been very challenging with record numbers of sick and injured seal and sea lion patients arriving for urgent rehabilitative care,” center Executive Director Jeff Boehm said. “Partnering with Cal Poly is another example of our continued effort to work with academia to provide students hands-on experience in a field that needs our immediate attention.”

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About Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences

Cal Poly is a nationally ranked, comprehensive polytechnic university. The university’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences is made up of expert faculty members who take pride in their ability to transform academically motivated students into innovative professionals ready to solve the complex challenges associated with feeding the world in sustainable ways. Students have access to state-of-the-art laboratories, including ranch land, orchards, vineyards and forests, all of which provide the basis for Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing methodology. It is the fifth-largest college of agriculture in the country, with 4,000 undergraduate students.

About The Marine Mammal Center

At The Marine Mammal Center, we are guided and inspired by a shared vision of a healthy ocean for marine mammals and humans alike. Our mission is to advance global ocean conservation through marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation, scientific research, and education. Since 1975, the center has been headquartered in the Marin Headlands, in Sausalito, California, within the Golden Gate National Parks and has rescued and treated nearly 20,000 marine mammals. In 2014, the center opened Ke Kai Ola, a hospital for the rehabilitation of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. For more information, please visit Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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