Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program (VAQS) Fellows promote the conservation of marine animal species through research, rescue, rehabilitation, and education. Fellows will be trained in all aspects of stranding response. Stranding work is unpredictable, therefore experiences will vary by fellowship session. VAQS staff will provide as many learning opportunities as possible during each session.
- Respond to live and dead marine mammals and sea turtles in the field.
- Participate in all aspects of post-mortem examinations: cutting and sampling, data collection, photographing, carcass removal, and cleaning.
- Perform daily husbandry tasks, including food preparation, feeding, and cleaning the rehab area, kitchen and associated supplies and equipment.
- Assist staff with new patients, including: daily treatments, restraining animals for exams, collecting vital rates (heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature) and morphometrics, taking photographs, administering medications, and performing wound care.
- Assist with research projects and field activities involving sea turtles and marine mammals.
- Ensure response preparedness by stocking response bags, fueling vehicles, and cleaning/restocking gear and supplies.
- Assist with releases of rehabilitation patients, public outreach events, and volunteer/cooperator training.
- Assist staff with daily administrative tasks, including answering hotline calls, data entry, completing response paperwork, and when trained acting as stranding and live animal lead (under the supervision of a staff member), as well as acting as after-hours hotline point of contact.
- Complete other projects and tasks as assigned by VAQS staff.
Fellowship Learning Objectives
- Develop fundamental hands-on stranding response and rehabilitation skills:
- Perform basic post-mortem examinations on sea turtle and marine mammals.
- Perform basic health assessments of rehabilitation patients, including collecting vital rates, treating wounds, administering medications, and processing blood samples.
- Be able to complete Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network (STSSN) and Marine Mammal Stranding Level A forms.
- Enter stranding data in Microsoft Access.
- Complete an individual research project with a final deliverable (research paper and oral presentation).
Fellow is expected to be available 4-5 days per week, 8am-4:30pm. Weekend and holiday coverage is expected.
Minimum Commitment Required
VAQS Volunteer Manager and project supervisor
Virginia Aquarium’s Marine Animal Care Center
- Must be at least 18 years old.
- Must be a rising junior, recent graduate, or currently pursuing a post-graduate degree in a science-based (or veterinary) program.
- Must be self-motivated, articulate, mature, reliable, and responsible. Should work well independently as well as with a team.
- Must be physically fit with the ability to lift 50lbs and walk long distances (>5 mi/8 km) on the beach in adverse conditions such as extreme heat and cold, humidity, rain, and/or wind.
- Be able to swim and be comfortable in and around open water and boats.
- Demonstrate interest in a career in marine or veterinary science.
- Have some experience in stranding response, field research, and/or wild/exotic animal care.
- Have basic math and computer skills using MS spreadsheets, relational databases, and data entry (advanced programs such as SQL, GIS, R, etc. preferred).
- Be comfortable around dead and decomposing animals.
- Be comfortable driving large pick-up trucks and vans. Willing to learn how to drive response vehicles, if accepted (required).
- Attend VAQS orientation and City of Virginia Beach Defensive Driving.
- Possess a valid U.S. driver’s license.
- Be available to perform support activities (24-7) as needed during the period of appointment.
A complete application includes:
- Cover letter. There is some flexibility with Fellowship start/end dates; please include any known schedule conflicts in your cover letter. Please indicate the specific Batten Fellowship opportunity to which you are applying.
- Fellowship expectations letter. This should include what you expect to do and get from your experience at VAQS.
- College transcript(s)
- Two letters of recommendation; one must be an academic reference.
If applying via email, please send application to firstname.lastname@example.org and send a copy of the application to email@example.com. Incomplete applications will not be considered.