Sponsored by SeaWorld San Diego
What's better than a day at an amusement park? Spending that same day having fun and learning new things while knowing that your experience is supporting the rescue and conservation of marine life nearby and around the world. And that's one of the things that SeaWorld San Diego prides itself on - you're not just visiting a theme park, you're learning more about the world around you. And nowhere is that more exemplified than with SeaWorld's rescue team members!
Meeting SeaWorld's Amazing Staff
These trainers and caretakers provide an amazing living environment for the animals who are part of the SeaWorld San Diego family. We met with SeaWorld rescue team member Jody Westberg to learn more about the role of the rescue team members and what it's like to work with these amazing animals every day!
Working at SeaWorld was a childhood dream for Jody - she even remembers being asked what she wanted to do when she grew up in the first grade and her answer was that she wanted to work with animals; later when she was thirteen, she got to visit SeaWorld and wanted to look like an employee so she wore a blue polo and shorts. After that she wrote a letter to the park about working there - she wanted to learn everything about marine life.
Her actual path to the park was a matter of serendipity. Her letter got to the curator of Mammals and he wrote her back because she was from a small town near Sturgis, South Dakota and he's a Harley fan. He gave her great advice and the rest is history - and in fact, today he's her boss.
But she actually started out in the accounting department at SeaWorld. Then she was moved to the penguin department (by the way, she thinks penguins are the most underrated animals at SeaWorld San Diego - and that a stop by the Penguin Encounter where you can see six different species of penguins is something that no visitor to SeaWorld should skip!).
How SeaWorld's Rescue Team Saved JJ The Gray Whale
Next, Jody experienced another bit of serendipity. A gray whale calf had been rescued by SeaWorld, and this young whale required pretty extensive rehab - but fortunately he had an all-star team of dedicated SeaWorld staff to help him out. They spent a year taking care of the calf (that they named JJ) before returning him to the wild, and to this day that's the only case of a gray whale being successfully rehabbed and released into the wild. In her own words, "it was epic! We learned so much about this calf and his species. He grew from 15 ft to 30 ft in length during his time at SeaWorld."
Another fun fact - the gray whale is the only species to be taken off the endangered species list, thanks in a large part to the efforts of people like the SeaWorld rescue team. And did you know that they've rescued over 30,000 animals and counting!
"My Childhood Dream Come To Life!"
After helping to rescue JJ, Jody knew that SeaWorld was where she was supposed to be - not only is every day different, she gets to work with a variety of team members (everyone from researchers to biologists) to guests to nearly every type of animal the park! Plus her team regularly goes out in boats to rescue and release rehabbed animals. "This is my childhood dream come to life!" she says.
Although technically she has no favorites, Jody especially loves working with the California sea lions because they are so clever and playful, and she's fortunate to work with them a lot. She also gets to work with the remarkable Guadalupe fur seals, which were thought to have been extinct until recently - but now SeaWorld tracks them via satellite so we can have a good idea of the health of the species.
One thing she says about all these animals and the others that SeaWorld has rehabbed is that "they all have the tools to survive in the wild, we just help them do it. The whole goal of the rescue team is to help animals return to life in the wild."
How A SeaWorld Visit Can Make A Long Term Impact
One thing that Jody really wanted to share is how she feels like she lives her life differently because how she witnesses the direct impact of various human activities on marine life nearly every day. "Animals are sentinels for the ocean's health", she told us,"so you can really see how chemicals and pollutants in the ocean affect various species and eventually humans.
One thing she shared - and that you and your family could learn at SeaWorld - is how you can make small changes in your life everyday.
Things like choosing reusable bags, popping your balloons instead of releasing them into the air, using biodegradable fishing lines if you fish, and otherwise being conscious of what you do and how it impacts the environment. We also learned how SeaWorld is also one of the first parks to get away from using plastic bags - they use paper or reusable.
We can't thank Jody Westberg enough for taking the time to chat with us and share her amazing experiences from working with SeaWorld!
Interested in visiting SeaWorld yourself? Check out SeaWorld San Diego's website and start planning your visit!