​​Fellowships for College Students​

​The Aquarium offers fellowship opportunities in marine science, animal care,​​ exhibits and education to college or post-graduate students. These fellowships include a stipend to help offset personal and incidental expenses. Batten Fellowships fund students to complete work in specific projects and programs. Applications are being accepted for the following position.​

2019 Humpback Whale Photo-ID Batten Fellowship

Application Deadline: December 5, 2018

The Virginia Aquarium's Research & Conservation Division is now accepting applications for a Humpback Whale Photo-ID Batten Fellow for Winter/Spring 2019. The application deadline is December 5, 2018. The position with the research team is approximately 12 weeks long (480 hours). These Fellowships include a stipend to help offset personal and incidental expenses however housing is not provided. It is the responsibility of the Batten Fellow, not the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program, to ensure that any requirements for academic credit at a home institution are fulfilled.

Position Overview

Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program (VAQS) fellows promote the conservation of marine animal species through research, rescue, rehabilitation, and education. The Virginia Aquarium's Research & Conservation Division is offering a Humpback Whale Photo-ID Fellowship opportunity based in Virginia Beach, VA for college or post-graduate students this winter/spring. We are looking for a self-motivated, detail-oriented individual to assist with photo-ID and data/image processing. Fellows will also be cross-trained in marine mammal and sea turtle stranding response, however, the focus of the internship will be humpback whale photo-ID. VAQS staff will provide as many learning opportunities as possible during the fellowship. Batten Fellows are expected to bring a high level of dedication and scientific interest to the program and will be integrated more fully into staff activities compared to our unpaid internship positions. Research Program Batten Fellows will be treated as professionals and will be expected to work side by side with staff members, volunteers and interns on a daily basis. We expect research fellows to treat this position as if it were a full-time position for the length of the fellowship.​


  • Assist VAQS volunteers and staff with research projects focused on humpback whale photo-ID and stranding response
  • Assist with processing images collected from VAQ's whale watch vessel
  • Assist with matching dorsal fin and fluke images to the mid-Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalog (MAHWC)
  • Assist VAQS staff with data entry and processing
  • Assist with providing weekly summary reports of whale sightings to VAQ's education and outreach department
  • Assist with stranding response, rehabilitation efforts, and field activities involving sea turtles and marine mammals
  • Assist VAQS volunteers and staff in field stranding response and/or recovery of dead (comprise ~90% of VA strandings) and live marine mammals and sea turtles. Activities may be conducted under adverse weather conditions
  • Participate in postmortem data collection and necropsies (animal autopsies)
  • Assist with the care of animals in rehabilitation, including but not limited to: food preparation, feeding, extensive cleaning (mopping floors, laundry, dishes, cleaning tanks), restraint during exams/procedures, and other animal husbandry duties


  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Have a valid U.S. driver's license and good driving record
  • Be a rising senior, recent graduate or currently pursuing a post-graduate degree in a science-based  program
  • Demonstrate interest in a career in marine science
  • Be able to swim and be comfortable in and around open water and boats
  • Have field research experience (preference will be given to those who have prior photo-ID experience)
  • Be detail-oriented
  • Experience with DSLR cameras
  • Have basic math and computer skills using MS spreadsheets, experience with relational databases, data entry and analyses (e.g. experience with Microsoft Access, GIS, R, etc. preferred)
  • Have experience with basic photo management software (e.g. ACDSee, IMatch)
  • Should be comfortable around dead and decomposing animals
  • Be able to lift and carry 25 pounds and assist with lifting and moving larger loads
  • Be able to hike up to 5 miles on beaches carrying gear
  • Be physically and mentally fit: you will be expected to handle field activities, extreme weather, constantly changing environmental conditions, extended periods of intense activities, dead and decomposing animals (both during response and necropsy), prolonged periods of travel, insects, sick and injured animals, euthanasia, etc.
  • Be self-motivated and able to perform activities both as part of a team and independently
  • Be available to perform support activities (24-7) as needed during the period of appointment

Position Requirements

·         Successful candidates will be required to complete a final report on their fellowship work which will be submitted to the Aquarium's Batten Fellowship Endowment Committee

·         Fellows will give an oral (MS PowerPoint) presentation summarizing their experience at the conclusion of the appointment

  • Must possess a valid driver's license.

Fellowship Learning Objectives

Develop fundamental hands-on skills in humpback whale photo-ID, stranding response and rehabilitation:

  • Develop skills in survey methodology
  • Perform systematic data and image processing tasks  
  • Develop skills in matching fluke and dorsal fin images, photo-processing and with photo and data management software
  • Produce educational materials for VAQ whale watch operations
  • Perform post-mortem examinations on sea turtle and marine mammals
  • Perform basic health assessments of rehabilitation patients, including vitals collection, wound treatment, administering medications, and blood processing.

Minimum Commitment Required

480 hours

Work Location​

Virginia Aquarium's Marine Animal Care Center

Application Requirements

If applying via email, please send application to interns@virginiaaquarium.com and copy vaqstranding@gmail.com. A complete Fellowship application packet must include the following components. Incomplete application packets will not be considered.

  • Cover letter (including your available start date, any photo-ID and stranding response experience, and a statement explaining what you hope to gain from your experience and how you may apply these skills to future experiences)
  • Resume (including GPA, completed coursework, and previous experience)
  • College Transcript(s)
  • One reference letter (from an advisor or professor that may speak on your academic background) and contact email and phone number for a second reference
  • Interview