Special(ist) Feature: Open Up Your Mind

Our marine mammal specialists currently at the Subic facility come from different backgrounds, yet each is similarly driven by their passion for marine mammals. With 259 years of experience across 36 facilities between them, there’s a lot that the team can share. This week, 25-year-old Mariana Kuprijanova tells us why it’s important to keep an open mind in this job. 

Mariana at the Marine Life Park (1)


We hear you’ve had experience working in Hawaii and Dubai. How does it feel to be part of the team in Subic?

I’m from Estonia, and I’ve been very lucky to have interned in multicultural places like Hawaii and Dubai, where you have a melting pot of cultures.

I’ve been acquainted with dolphins since 2006, and have been working at Subic for about a year as a marine mammal specialist. I love this facility; it’s such a beautiful place. We have an international team here, and knowing people from different countries and cultural backgrounds is truly an eye opener. Despite our diverse backgrounds, all of us get along well, perhaps due to our common love of dolphins. Everybody is putting in so much effort to make sure that these dolphins have the best care possible.

In your opinion, what makes a good marine mammal specialist?

You really need to have an open mind. You have to be creative, and innovative. You have to always think outside the box – because if you get stuck in one way, I guess it’s like every job, it will become a routine.

Dolphins have different personalities, and each time you have to find out what works for them, just like you would with people. With every person, you communicate in a different way based on his or her personality. So if you keep an open mind, you learn from other marine mammal specialists, you take and accept their feedback, and that’s what will make you a good marine mammal specialist.    

Mariana at the Marine Life Park (2)

What’s the biggest takeaway being in this job?

I’ve learnt so much from interacting with the dolphins. First thing that I’ve learnt is patience. I’m not perfect at it but every year, I find myself getting more and more patient because that’s one big part of our job. You just have to take little steps at a time, sometimes take a step back and go a couple of steps forward. Patience is what creates that relaxed environment and that’s the biggest thing the dolphins have taught me.    

Hear Mariana talk about the difference between working with animals and people.