A LIFE AQUATIC
A Visit with Stephen McCulloch, Founder of the Protect Wild Dolphins Alliance
“To get rid of depression, I swim with dolphins.” — Patti Stanger
It’s fascinating to think of how many different kinds of interesting careers a young person can dream of pursuing. Whether your interests be the arts, terrestrial jungles, oceans or the universe itself, paths exist for those with a passion to do the necessary preparation. It all begins with a dream. So many young people have had their life passion triggered by a childhood experience.
Stephen McCulloch has spent decades working professionally in both the marine mammal zoological industry and conservation research communities around the world. His expertise has opened doors to experiences that few of us can even imagine. When I contacted him last week he had just returned from Norway where he had been consulting on a project involving a beluga whale dubbed the Russian Spy Whale. (Read about it here on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hvaldimir )
McCulloch’s “journey down the dolphin trail” began when he was ten years old. His family was at a Florida park where he’d gone off exploring and came across a baby dolphin in a pool. When he snuck back later he got busted by the captain who ran the park, but he never forgot the experience of interacting with that young dolphin.
His teen years included a number of entrepreneurial ventures that would prepare him for future career moves, but the passion for dolphins never dissipated. After attending the U.S. Military Academy in Georgia, and despite being accepted at West Point, he ran away from home and went to work with dolphins. He loved their playful nature.
These were the early years of the marine mammal industry and he became a dolphin trainer. Some heartbreaking experiences involving mistreatment of dolphins by others haunted him. The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 was a step forward for dolphins and sea lions everywhere. After ten years following this path he went north to New York in the 1980's.