Virginia Aquarium Foundation Batten Fellowship: Pinniped Enrichment Assessment Project




Organization: Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center (AZA Member)
Location: Virginia Beach, Virginia, United States
Job or Internship: Internship

Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science CenterExhibits and Husbandry Division2014 Batten FellowshipMarine Mammal Enrichment Assessment(Stipend Provided)The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center is offering a fellowship position in the Mammals Section of the Exhibits and Husbandry Division during the spring/summer session from May to September. The position focuses on the Aquarium’s Harbor seal collection. This fellowship will be supplemented by a $3000 stipend to offset a portion of personal and incidental expenses. Incidental expenses may include the purchase of items necessary to complete the project. A stipend payment schedule will occur every two weeks when staff checks are issued. Stipend funds will be broken up in to even payments throughout the Fellowship session. Batten Fellowship Requirements for Application:Batten Fellows candidates must meet the following requirements for application:• Must be 18 years or older • Must be a rising college junior or senior, recent graduate or be pursuing a post-graduate degree in a science-based program • Must have demonstrated pursuit of a career in marine science, aquaculture, zoo and aquarium management or veterinary science through college course work• Must have sound, basic math and computer skills using MS spreadsheets, database utilization, creation and data entry• Must have a valid U.S. drivers license and good driving record• Must be able to swim and be comfortable in and around open water • Must be self-motivated and able to perform activities alone or as part of a team • Must be able to lift and carry 50 pounds and assist with lifting and moving larger loads • Must be able to work in extreme weather conditions (high heat, cold, humidity)• SCUBA certification is not required • Strong observational skills and data gathering skills will be necessary. • Strong interpersonal skills necessary. Materials required in application packet:Fellowship applicants will include with their application, a current college transcript detailing completed coursework to date and GPA, cover letter, resume, a letter stating expectations of the Fellowship, and two reference letters (one must be from an advisor or professor that may speak on your academic background). Batten Fellowship Schedule:The selected Batten Fellow will determine his or her own schedule, but will be required to work around the schedule of the Aquarium’s husbandry staff and animal programs that involve these animals. There may be times when the Fellow may carry out observations and work on the project during staff husbandry and programs. The accepted Fellowship candidate may be granted access to the animal areas in focus after hours with consent from the Aquarium’s Curator of Mammals, Director of Exhibits, and Animal Care Staff. • Fellowship duration: 400 hours• Working onsite on weekends, holidays, before and after work is possible and may be necessaryBatten Fellowship Expectations Overview:Batten Fellows bring a higher level of dedication and scientific interest to the experience, will be integrated more fully into staff activities, and expected to significantly contribute to the goals of the division. Fellows will perform data entry of a particular data set as the primary goal of their fellowship experience. Batten Fellows will be expected to work with their Virginia Aquarium supervisor to develop an appropriate database for the organization of the data set they are assigned. Fellows may be regularly incorporated into husbandry duties that support their understanding of the data with which they are working. Fellows will give an oral (MS PowerPoint) presentation summarizing the preliminary data results of their work at the conclusion of the fellowship and complete a survey/exit interview. It will be the responsibility of the Batten Fellow, not Fellowship supervisor, to ensure that any requirements for academic credit at a home institution are fulfilled.Project Location and Focus: This position will be in the Mammals Section of the Exhibits and Husbandry Division during the spring/summer session from May to September. It will focus on the Aquarium’s collection of harbor seals.Project: Evaluate the effectiveness and value of the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center’s enrichment program for its collection of harbor seals. Assess effectiveness and value on both visually sound and visually impaired seals in the collection. Duties to help accomplish objective:Inventory current supply of enrichment items utilized for the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center’s harbor seal collection and evaluate effectiveness of each item used to enhance their environment and welfare. Determine if any items offer any exceptional stimulation for our seals and if visual acuity has any impact on what is preferred. Evaluate and if possible refine the process of enrichment management to help enable the husbandry staff to more effectively implement and monitor this program on a daily basis. Key considerations are: Understanding the process of selection, construction and introduction of new enrichment items and evaluating the impact of these items on the animals. Do the animals respond to these items and if so, how, when and for how long? Near the end of the Fellowship, Fellows will develop and construct at least one new enrichment item. Funds from stipend can be used to help fund the construction of the enrichment item. Evaluate animal’s interest in this new item. Additional duties to help the selected fellow accomplish his or her objective: Assist in the duties of aquatic exhibits husbandry and maintenance in the mammals department with focus on the daily care and feeding of the Aquarium’s harbor seals. Responsibilities will include but not be limited to feeding seals, food preparation and support of husbandry team as needed. This will be especially important at the beginning of the Fellowship to orient the candidate to the routines of the animal husbandry staff and animals. Additional requirements – In addition to the general requirements for Exhibits and Husbandry positions as listed above, applicant must also meet the following additional requirement: Must have demonstrated pursuit of a career in marine or veterinary science through college course work. Must be able to swim and be comfortable in and around open water that is cold. SCUBA certification is not required. Strong swimming and snorkeling experience is desired Obtaining rabies pre-exposure at the applicants own expense is recommended but not required. Acquiring rabies pre-exposure will provide opportunities for possible contact with other mammal species under the care of the Animal Training Team and allow consistent mammal contact while being supervised.Preference Graduate level student with demonstrated background in marine mammal husbandry and/or formal behavioral training.Expectations: Fellows will perform data entry of a particular data set as part of the goal of their fellowship experience. Batten Fellows will be expected to work with their Virginia Aquarium supervisor to develop an appropriate database for the organization of the data set they are assigned. Fellows will be regularly incorporated into husbandry duties that support their understanding of the data with which they are working. Fellows will give an oral (MS PowerPoint) presentation summarizing the preliminary data results of their work at the conclusion of the Fellowship and complete a survey/exit interview. It will be the responsibility of the Batten Fellow, not the Fellowship Supervisor, to ensure that any requirements for academic credit at a home institution are fulfilled. Fellowship applicants will be selected on their completed coursework to date, GPA, previous related experience detailed by their resume and supported by their letters of reference, letter of expectation and an interview.Stipend: A stipend of $3,000 will be provided to the individual selected to complete this project.Deadline to apply: All applications are due by March 1st, 2014. Notification of acceptance will occur no later than April 15, 2014. Applications are to be mailed to Virginia Aquarium Volunteer Services – Batten Fellows, 717 General Booth Boulevard, Virginia Beach, VA 23451. Applicants not accepted for a Batten Fellowship position will have the option of being considered for a general internship (no stipend) with the Exhibits and Husbandry Division, if interested. Applicants also interested in the possibility of a general internship are encouraged to include this information with the Batten Fellowship application, OR complete a separate internship application.