Dearborn Heights resident and University of Michigan-Dearborn undergraduate student Edyta Bula will spend a month as an unpaid iern at the Marine Mammal Conservancy in Key Largo, Fla. Bula, who hopes to become a veterinarian, works last May in the Everglades with an alligator nicknamed SpongeBob.
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
HEIGHTS – Swimming with dolphins may sound more like a vacation than a job.
But that’s what it will be for Edyta Bula – and an unpaid one at that, as the University of Michigan-Dearborn senior travels to Dolphins Plus in Key Largo, Fla., from May 13 to June 13 to work as an intern with marine mammals.
The Dearborn Heights resident hopes to become a veterinarian and will be interacting with dolphins and people at the popular tourist attraction.
In addition to studying the behavior of dolphins and sea lions, she will work with mammal diet preparation (which means handling dead fish); overseeing and participating in swim sessions; extensive facility cleaning and maintenance; interacting with visitors; and preparing on-site meeting facilities for visitors.
Bula, who always has been interested in animals, developed a fascination for marine mammals and dolphins in particular as a child during family vacation visits to Sea World.
“Dolphins specifically made me amazed at how wonderful they really are,” Bula said. “They are extremely intelligent, and their interaction with humans is amazing.”
She hopes to connect with dolphins like she does when working individually with land mammals. Bula’s anticipation has been heightened, she said, because living in Michigan has provided few opportunities to interact with sea creatures.
She learned about marine mammal internships in Florida from a fellow student she worked with at UM-D in an on-campus bird laboratory experimental group. She then researched different internships online and completed the application process for Dolphins Plus more than six months ago.
While the internship is unpaid and she will have to cover her own living expenses, Bula said it will provide invaluable knowledge of the marine area of veterinary studies, as well as the “experience of a lifetime.”
Photos of her as a child reveal her lifelong love of animals, and show her with dogs, cats — even looking for bugs in the fields when she visited extended family in Poland.
“I always had a soft spot for injured animals or abused animals, because I feel like this is their environment and humans are barging in while killing them off,” Bula said.
She said she has found the devotion of her pets to be an important constant in her life.
“Whenever I needed to get my mind off something, caring for animals helped a lot,” Bula said.
She hopes to someday have her own small animal practice, but working with wild animals has always sparked her imagination as well.
“I hope to be able to own a lot of land one day and have my own rehabilitation center for large animals that have been injured,” Bula said, “or simply to care for wild baby animals that have been abandoned, and perhaps participate in conservation studies. My next goal is to work with wild animals such as chimpanzees.”
She sees herself in the future with a suburban veterinary practice with enough land to accommodate those animals, as well as her own pets and children.
Bula said she’s looking forward to her Florida adventure and the opportunities that await.
And although she’s been away from home before, this will be her first time on her own without friends and family.
“It will definitely get me ready for my independence as an adult,” Bula said.
She also is looking forward to researching dolphin behavior.
“I can’t even imagine how fun it must be to swim in the water with a dolphin, something that was unimaginable to me in childhood,” Bula said. “It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that I will never forget.
“The difficulty of actually obtaining this internship and the work I had to put in (applying and interviewing) makes this all the better.”