Veterinary Student Externship

** Applications for our December 2024/ January 2025 externship opportunities are now CLOSED**

The externship provides an exciting opportunity for veterinary students with a strong interest in marine mammal medicine and conservation to spend two weeks working alongside BDMLR Head Veterinary Consultant, Dr. Natalie Arrow. Based at the purpose-built, BDMLR Cornwall Seal Hospital – the externship will allow students to explore what life is like working on the front line of marine mammal response in the UK, from the point of view of a veterinary surgeon. It will also demonstrate the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach in conservation medicine, the value of collaboration, and the role that vets can play in conservation.

A seal pup in the BDMLR seal hospital

Due to the unpredictable nature of the work, the structure and content of each externship will vary. Material will be delivered via a combination of theoretical and practical sessions, time working in the seal pup hospital, and out on visits to various sites (and rescues as they occur). There will also be assignments to complete during any down time, and a small project to work on and eventually present at the end of the programme. At the end of the two weeks, participants will receive a certificate of completion.

This is a ‘hands-on’ placement, and students will be expected to form a part of the BDMLR Cornwall Seal Hospital team – working alongside experienced vets/nurses and Marine Mammal Medics to assist with the day-to-day duties of running the hospital and caring for the inpatients. Students will learn how to handle, assess, and treat seal pups, as well as practice clinical problem-solving and decision making.

Dr Natalie Arrow treats a stranded common dolphin

Topics covered over the externship will include:

  • Basic marine mammal anatomy and physiology
  • Seal pup rescue and rehabilitation in the UK
  • Veterinary assessment and treatment of seal pups
  • Threats faced by marine mammals
  • Marine mammal conservation efforts
  • Cetacean stranding response in the UK (including a mock cetacean stranding exercise using teaching models)
  • Veterinary assessment and treatment of stranded cetaceans
  • Scientific recording of stranded dead marine mammals
  • There may also be an opportunity to attend a marine mammal post-mortem

A stranded fin whale in Cornwall

The externships are kindly being supported by our colleagues at:

  • Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust
  • The Cornish Seal Sanctuary
  • Cornwall Marine Pathology Team
  • Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Dates and location:

  • Applications are currently CLOSED for our December 2024/ January 2025 externship opportunities
  • Based at the BDMLR Cornwall Seal Hospital, in the mid-Cornwall area.
  • Externships often take place in the two weeks before or two weeks after the Christmas/New Year period.

Why are placements at the hospital not available at other times of the year?

The seal hospital is only open in the autumn and winter months (grey seal pup rescue season), and the externship runs during the peak of the season (December/January) to help ensure students get the most out of their experience with us. Other EMS opportunities are not available at the hospital at this time.

Requirements to participate:

  • Applicants MUST be in their 4th/penultimate or 5th/final year of studying veterinary medicine at the time they complete the externship.
  • Applicants will need to arrange their own accommodation for the duration of the externship, and due to the nature of the work, having access to a car is highly recommended.
  • A strong and genuine interest in marine mammal medicine and conservation is essential– the externship is designed to assist individuals who are serious about pursuing a career in this competitive field.
  • An ability to work well within a team (and a sense of humour! :D).

Prior hands-on experience with marine mammals IS NOT required to apply (however you should be able to demonstrate a strong interest in marine mammals).

You do not need to be a BDMLR Marine Mammal Medic to apply.

Previous student externs, Jas Gregory and Emma Norris, examining a seal pup

Testimonials from previous vet student externs:

‘The BDMLR Student Externship Program was everything I hoped for and so much more. The program wouldn’t be the same without the person behind it, Dr Natalie Arrow. I think it’s so rare to meet someone with such a great passion for teaching who’s willing to share all their knowledge and experience with students. From the very first day we started, it was clear how much effort and heart was put into the program by her, and it made the whole experience incredibly special. It has broadened my horizons so much and changed my perspective on a lot of aspects of wildlife veterinary medicine. If you’re a vet student who’s interested in marine mammals and hopes to learn more about treating these amazing species, I can’t recommend applying enough! It has definitely been one of the best experiences in my vet journey :)’

-Julia Pietrasina, final year vet student

‘The BDMLR Veterinary Externship provided a unique opportunity to work closely with some of the leading experts in British marine mammal medicine. It was clear how much effort they put into the itinerary, and every day brought new experiences and learning.  It was the most diverse and rewarding placement I’ve ever been involved in, and as the only marine mammal externship in the UK, is an incredible opportunity for anyone hoping to pursue a career in aquatic or wildlife medicine’.

-Santiago Beach, final year vet student

‘The BDMLR veterinary externship was an amazing experience that I will never forget. The 2 weeks are organised so that every day is filled with opportunities to gain practical skills, learn marine mammal anatomy/physiology and medicine, and meet other people working in marine mammal conservation. By the end of the 2 weeks I couldn’t believe how much I had learned and it’s all thanks to the patience and commitment to teaching from the BDMLR vets and volunteers’.

Joanna Bras-Goldberg, final year vet student

‘I’m beyond grateful for the time I spent with the lovely BDMLR team in my final year, learning about and caring for marine mammals. The experience was invaluable, from day one you get thoroughly involved with the sick pups, every single volunteer/worker is so friendly and keen to get you hands-on. The workplace atmosphere is lovely and supportive, I gained skills and confidence quickly through this approach. Throughout the 2 weeks you visit and learn from multiple different organisations working to support UK marine life. It was super inspiring witnessing what can be achieved via collaboration, with conservation at the forefront.  Overall, the BDMLR externship was hands down the best 2 weeks of EMS I’ve ever done and I will definitely be back to visit in the future!’

 – Emily Powell, final year vet student

Previous student extern, Emily Powell, treating an injured seal pup

How to apply:

Applications are currently CLOSED for our December 2024/ January 2025 externship opportunities.

Students who pass the first stage of the application process (the online form), will be invited to attend a short, informal interview online. From those students, the successful applicants will be selected and invited to attend the externship.

Please note that this is a highly competitive placement (we receive over 100 applications each year) and applicants are encouraged to take their time when completing the form.

Any questions can be emailed to Natalie Arrow:

Good luck with your application 🙂