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 now being accepted for the following:


Research & Conservation Division

Application Deadline: Winter/Spring – December 5, 2016

The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center’s Research & Conservation Division is offering a Batten Fellowship position with Research Conservation and the Stranding Response Program (VAQS) during the winter/spring of 2017. We are looking for a motivated, detail-oriented individual to assist primarily with humpback whale photo identification efforts while gaining experience in marine mammal and sea turtle stranding response in Virginia.

Qualified candidates compete for a position which includes a stipend to help offset personal and incidental expenses. Housing and transportation cannot be provided although staff may suggest lodging options if available. These positions are a minimum of 12 weeks. 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. Successful candidates will be required to complete a final report on their Fellowship work.

Fellowship applicants will be assessed on their completed coursework, GPA, cover letter, resume, expectations letter, two reference letters (one must be from an advisor or professor that may speak on your academic background), previous experience with photo-ID and marine mammal research and the interview.

Candidates Must Meet the Following Requirements

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Have a valid U.S. driver’s license and good driving record
  • Demonstrate interest in a career in marine science
  • Demonstrate strong attention to detail
  • Have basic math and computer skills and experience with databases and data entry (using MS Excel and Access and advanced programs such as SQL, GIS, R, etc. preferred)
  • Be able to swim and be comfortable in and around open water and boats
  • Be self-motivated, possess problem-solving skills and able to perform activities both as part of a team as well as independently
  • 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, team activities, individual activities, sick and injured animals, euthanasia, etc.
  • ​Be available to perform support activities (24-7) as needed during the period of appointment

Expectations Overview

Fellows will be expected to study a topic selected through discussion with a VAQS supervisor and complete a research paper for presentation at the end of the appointment period. Fellows will give an oral (MS PowerPoint) presentation summarizing their experience at the conclusion of the appointment and complete a survey/exit interview. If the fellowship serves as academic credit, it will be the responsibility of the Fellow, not VAQS, to ensure that any requirements for academic credit at a home institution are fulfilled. Although there is some flexibility in the term of the 12 week fellowship, field work will be mostly in January/February.

Primary Duties, Research & Conservation

  • Learn pertinent research protocols
  • Assist with humpback whale photo identification and cataloging efforts, including gaining experience with:
    • Data collection and processing using MS Excel, Access, ArcGIS
    • Image sorting and processing using ACDSee and IMATCH
    • Matching humpback whale fluke and dorsal fin images to the mid-Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalog (MAHWC)
    • Stocking research kits (datasheets, biopsy sampling supplies, electronic survey equipment)
  • Assist VAQS staff on vessel based research cruises for marine mammals

Secondary Duties, Stranding

  • Assist VAQS volunteers and staff in field stranding response and/or recovery of dead and live marine mammals and sea turtles. Activities may be conducted under adverse weather conditions
  • Assist in the collection of Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Network data
  • Participate in postmortem data collection, necropsies (animal autopsies), sampling, and data management
  • Assist in care for animals during rehabilitation, including but not limited to: food prep, feeding, extensive cleaning (mopping floors, laundry, dishes, cleaning tanks), and other animal husbandry duties

Materials Required in Application Packet
Incomplete application packets will not be considered.

  • Cover Letter
  • Resume (including GPA, completed coursework and previous experience)
  • A letter stating your expectations of the fellowship
  • ​(2) Letters of Recommendation (one must be from an advisor or professor who can speak to your academic background)

Application Deadline

Application deadline for the winter/spring 2017 session is December 5, 2016.  Notification of acceptance will occur no later than December 19, 2016. For questions about this position, contact Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response at vaqstranding@gmail.com.

Forward your completed application packet to:

Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
717 General Booth Boulevard
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451
Attn: Volunteer Resources Office – Batten Fellow Applicant

OR email complete application packet to aquavols@virginiaaquarium.com. Please put “Batten Fellow Application Packet” in the subject line.