When Allie Seifter Bruscato was a child growing up in Brooklyn, she often visited the New York Aquarium, and she quickly decided that she wanted to pursue a career as a marine mammal trainer. It’s why she decided to study marine biology at the University of Rhode Island.
As a student at URI, she dived in Honduras with the Scuba Club and researched stingrays and endangered North Atlantic right whales. After graduation, she worked as a marine mammal observer on an icebreaker off the coast of Alaska, in small planes off the Georgia coast, and on a dredge off the New Jersey coast. Her desire to work with marine mammals never waned.
She eventually landed her dream job at Mystic Aquarium’s Arctic Coast and Pacific Northwest exhibit. She spends every day with beluga whales, harbor seals, Steller sea lions and northern fur seals. She couldn’t be happier.
“It’s so great to be here,” Bruscato said. “It takes a lot of hard work to get here, there’s a lot of
|Allie Siefert Bruscato trains a beluga whale at Mystic Aquarium.|
Bruscato is one of many URI students, faculty, and alumni who have benefited from a unique partnership between URI and Mystic Aquarium. Some have enrolled in a URI class taught entirely at the aquarium, while others have conducted research there or served as interns in any one of a dozen different aquarium departments. A lucky few—today that number is eight—work as permanent employees who care for the animals, educate the public, and ensure that visitors have the best experience possible.
Five URI alumni serve as marine mammal trainers at Mystic: Bruscato, Jen Rock, Lindsey Nelson, Alycia Coulumbe, and Rachael DesFosses.
In most cases, the animals are not trained to perform or entertain guests. Instead, trainers help the animals learn how to work with staff and veterinarians who are responsible for monitoring their health. For example, Bruscato spent time this winter and spring helping a 19-year-old harbor seal learn how to....
Read the rest of the story in the summer 2019 issue of University of Rhode Island Magazine.