mila virola

Mila Varola from Italy - Postgraduate in Marine Biology

"I joined the Seal Centre team from November 2018 until the end of February 2019. As a volunteer, I lived in the campus with other people, who turned out to be some of the best mates I’ve ever met. Living in campus for me meant being a part of a big family and the place itself is just next to the seal center, so it was awesome to have breakfast with the amusing view of seals chilling in the pools. The center is full of nice people I had the pleasure to meet and to work with: both vets and seal care team are very helpful and not afraid to share their knowledge and the heaviest work with the newbies, which is something you don’t see everywhere. I really really enjoyed working with them. Beside the seal care activities, I had a very good and busy time as a part of the acoustic research team. As it was my first experience in the seal acoustic field, I had to learn as quickly as possible the basics and how to use tools and software. Under the supervision of Dr. Ravignani, we created a very good working environment, always ready to help each other and stimulating the creativity and problem solving skills. Of course, living in such a close contact with seals and seeing how their health increases day by day developes in you a sense of affection for them, so even if you are going to miss them, there is no better feeling of seeing them finally released into the wild."

 

merle schiebergen

Merle Schiebergen from The Netherlands - Professional dancer

"In my daily life I am a professional dancer, something totally different from animal care. I’ve always loved animals and nature and I think the world of the sea is so mysterious and incredible, that is why I wanted to go to Pieterburen and work with/learn about these cute looking but wild animals! We started with a training week, which in short was a week full off new information and impressions, the new living situation and a lot of new people! When all is new, of course it takes a bit of time to settle. But soon you’ll find out everyone there has something in common, as the slogan says: ‘Happy seals in a healthy sea!’. The variety of nationalities, backgrounds and motivations make this place even more interesting and fun. I remember in the first week I watched one of the volunteers take a seal out of the water with a net. I couldn’t imagine myself being able to do that, but eventually, I did! Also I didn’t expect to temperature a seal on my first day in the quarantines. And that, after a few weeks, I knew how to move around the seals while cleaning, where in the first week that made me so nervous. At the beginning I felt like the slowest cleaner in the world, but that turned out to be quite normal when you’re just starting to learn. Working with animals kind of requires you to be honest towards yourself and others. Which is confronting but also beautiful. For example: you might be able to hide your nerves from colleagues but you can’t hide them from the seals. I have felt pretty insecure at times, but I think those are moments of value, where you learn about yourself and develop as a person and seal-caretaker. I was there in one of the busiest periods of the year. Which was quite challenging but therefore the more I got to learn and experience. In the winter period both common and grey seals are to be found at the centre and it was amazing to get to know both species! Over these 8 weeks I have learned to catch seals with baskets and to weigh them,. I learned to feed the self-eaters and hand-feeders. I am very grateful for these two months of hard but rewarding work, it has been an amazing and extraordinary experience, my time in seal care! "

 

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