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Marine Mammal Center

This is a fourth-year veterinary student externship.
is a hands-on externship for marine mammal medicine and pathology.
Students will participate in animal husbandry, handling/restraint,
anesthesia, medical exams/treatments/procedures, and necropsy (as
described below). Students will also be encouraged to work on and
present a project during their stay.

Husbandry/ Animal Care

We require all the externs/residents to participate in at least 2
crews per week since it is a fundamental part of animal care and an
excellent opportunity for hands-on experience with the animals. They
will learn valuable skills such as boarding, physically restraining,
tube feeding, food preparation, administering medications and SQ fluids,
and learning to recognize normal vs. abnormal behavior.

Physical Exams and Records

There will be opportunities to assist with admit and recheck
physical examinations on patients throughout the rotation as new animals
are arriving constantly and many will need rechecks prior to release.
For admit exams, they are welcome to observe the exam process, but all
admit blood sampling will be performed by staff since the animals are
often stressed, dehydrated, and difficult to bleed. We will ensure that
they have the opportunity to do learn blood sampling techniques for
stable sea lions, elephant seals on recheck or release exams while they
are here. One of the techs or veterinarians will go over the patients’
charts with them and show them how we maintain our medical records. Once
they are more comfortable with assessing animals, we’ll assign them
some specific cases to monitor and complete daily medical records for.

Anesthesia and Surgery

We perform a variety of medical procedures on our patients at TMMC,
many of which require sedation or anesthesia to facilitate handling.
The student will be able to assist with anesthesia by learning about
different drug combinations, monitoring anesthesia, and assisting with
procedures such as radiographs, ultrasound, urine collection via
catheter, and surgical procedures. They will also be able to scrub in
and assist on any surgeries that happen while they are here.


Necropsy is an important part of marine mammal medicine and
rehabilitation. The opportunity to perform necropsies on clinical cases
is an exceptional learning experience and allows them to confirm
diagnoses and visualize disease processes. During the rotation the
student should get comfortable assisting with necropsy including
recording data on necropsy forms, taking standard measurements, learning
sampling protocols for different species, developing a systematic
approach to evaluating every organ system, and accurately describing
gross lesions in necropsy reports.

Beach Rescues and Releases

The Stranding Department coordinates the assessment of stranded
animals in the field, determines the status of the animal, organizes
capture, transport, and release, and interfaces with the public. The
student may have the opportunity to become involved in animal beach
assessment and/or go out on a release while they are here.

We conduct rounds on a daily basis.

There is a computer database for our patients that externs may be trained to search.
are expected to participate in daily activities and rounds. They are
encouraged to ask questions, contribute ideas and perform medical tasks
according to their skill and comfort level.
will have direct access to either the head clinical veterinarian,
associate veterinarian, or the veterinary intern for the full day on
each day of their rotation (Monday-Friday, 8-10 hours per day).
The Marine Mammal Center
2000 Bunker Road

Fort Cronkhite

Sausalito, CA 95965
(415) 289-7327
(415) 289-7333
Dr. Bil Van Bonn
Updated: 08/02/2012
Sausalito, CA
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