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rittny Duell still remembers her first trip to SeaWorld, when she was just three years old. On a family trip to Orlando, the Duell family sat in an area filled with children, but young Brittny was fascinated with what she was seeing for the first time—killer whales. She watched in awe while trainers interacted with different marine mammals. “It was that moment where I knew this is what I wanted to do when I grew up,” she recalled. Step one—Learn to swim. Duell’s parents enrolled her in a synchronized swimming class to learned controlled breathing, choreographed dance, and intense swimming. For ten years, she practiced synchronized swimming and went on to compete for her high school’s varsity swimming and diving team. Step two —Enroll at Bethany College. “When I first came to visit Bethany, I met with the swimming coach, and it was an easy decision,” she said. “Not only does it have a great swim program, but it also had such a beautiful campus. The minute I took a look around, I knew I had found my second home.” Duell settled on psychology as her major, with an emphasis on

A WHALE OF A DREAM physical therapy. “Many people asked me, why not biology, or marine biology if you want to work with marine mammals?,” she recalls. “Psychology just makes sense. We notice very simple things based on their behavior. We train the whales using operant conditioning and positive reinforcement,” she added. After graduation, she moved to St. Augustine, Florida, to complete an internship at Marineland Dolphin Adventure. “The training is hard,” she recalled. “People drop out left and right. I worked constantly for almost three years completing internships, and taking on extra jobs.” The work paid off. In 2016, Duell got the call she had been waiting for all her life—an opportunity to complete a swim test at SeaWorld San Antonio in Texas. “Before you even get an interview, you have to pass a swim test,” she said. The swim test is a critical and rigorous component of the interview process. “I swam with 17 people, and only seven passed the swim test,” she remembered. A month later, after a series of scrutinizing interviews, she joined the White Whale and Dolphin Stadium team

at SeaWorld San Antonio an Associate Trainer. For the next six months, she worked with beluga whales, Pacific white sided dolphins, and Macaws, before moving to Shamu Stadium to work with the orcas. “I just couldn’t believe it,” she recalled. “When I first looked at the killer whales, I just stood there and stared at them. You don’t realize how big a killer whale is until you get face to face with them. It truly is an amazing feeling, and I am so thankful to have this opportunity.” Duell says her experience in the Psychology Department at Bethany really helped make her lifelong dream come true. “Our main job is to give the best possible care for these animals. We offer a number of different sessions, including training, learning, and husbandry sessions,” she said. “One of my favorite parts of my job is planning enrichment for the whales. This helps to keep them stimulated and enriched throughout the day, and is vital to their overall health and well-being.” Duell added. “These animals are so smart, and they’re so much fun to be around.” — Bethany Magazine

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Bethany Magazine — Winter 2017  
Bethany Magazine — Winter 2017