​​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 positions.

Sea Turtle and Marine Mammal Stranding Response Batten Fellow

The Virginia Aquarium’s Research & Conservation Division is now accepting applications for Sea Turtle and Marine Mammal Stranding Response Batten Fellowships. The application deadline is January 31, 2021. Fellows are expected to work 800 hours over approximately five months, starting between May and July. Fellowships will be fulfilled in accordance with COVID-19 safety guidelines and positions are subject to change based on the most current recommendations. Housing is not provided by the Virginia Aquarium. Fellows are fully responsible for fulfilling all requirements of their home institutions to receive academic credit. This competitive position includes modest compensation to help offset personal and incidental expenses over the course of the appointment period. 

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 & entry, photographing, report writing, 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. 


  • 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.
  • Be willing to learn how to drive response vehicles, if accepted (required). 
  • 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. 
  • Attend VAQS orientation and City of Virginia Beach Defensive Driving.
  • Possess a valid U.S. driver’s license.
  • Pass a City of Virginia Beach background check. 
  • Be available to perform support activities (24-7) as needed during the period of appointment.
  • 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 project with a final deliverable (paper/report and oral presentation). 
Fellow is expected to be available 4-5 days per week, 8 am-4:30 pm. Weekend and holiday coverage is expected.

800 hours

VAQS Volunteer Manager and Project Supervisor 

Virginia Aquarium’s Darden Marine Animal Conservation Center

A complete Sea Turtle and Marine Mammal Stranding Response Batten Fellowship application packet must include the following. Incomplete application packets will not be considered.
  • A Cover letter indicating the specific Batten Fellowship opportunity for which you are applying. There is some flexibility with the fellowship start and end dates; please include any known schedule conflicts in your cover letter.
  • A Fellowship expectations letter. This should detail what you expect to do and gain from your experience.
  • Resume
  • College Transcript(s)
  • Two letters of recommendation. One must be an academic reference.
Forward your completed application packet to:

Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
717 General Booth Boulevard
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451 
Attn: Volunteer Engagement – Batten Fellowship 

If applying via email, please send application to Interns@VirginiaAquarium.com and copy vaqstranding@gmail.com. Please type “Stranding Response Fellowship” in the subject line.  Incomplete application packets will not be considered.