Each summer, the National Aquarium provides minority undergraduate students an opportunity to participate in hands-on conservation science activities focused on wetland ecology and animal rescue! In addition to providing extraordinary opportunities for hands-on learning, this program addresses the need for greater representation of minorities in the conservation and environmental science fields.
Throughout their internship, students are encouraged to participate in experience-building opportunities for future careers that involve current issues of coastal ocean and conservation management and will have the opportunity to work with our staff and partners that are actively engaged in conservation, research, and management issues. Since 2003 this program has supported 45 students, and of the 35 students that have graduated, 22 have gone on to pursue a career in conservation science.
Our 2013 class included: Renesha Chiles (Chemistry Major at Virginia Union University), Fatima Castro (Biology Major at Virginia State University), Matthew Eicholtz (Environmental Science Major at University of Maryland College Park), and Mia Price (Biology Major at Virginia State University). Over eight weeks students worked with Aquarium staff from our Biological Programs Department including: herpetologists, horticulturalists, aquarists, volunteer divers, marine mammal trainers, laboratory technicians, and veterinary staff.
They also participated in educational outreach activities, wildlife training, and animal husbandry with Aquarium partners including: MD Department of Natural Resources, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Living Classrooms Foundation, National Park Service, MD Environmental Service, Department of Defense, Biohabitats, US Fish and Wildlife Service, MD Port Authority, and the Chesapeake Bay Trust. Activities with partners included:
- Restoring a tidal wetland at Naval Support Facility Indian Head and Stump Neck Annex (Indian Head, MD)
- Osprey banding at Patuxent River Park (Upper Marlboro, MD)
- Shark tagging (Ocean City, MD)
- Restoring a fresh water wetland with elementary, middle and high school students (Horeheads and Elmira, NY)
- WOW! The Wonders of Wetland’s education outreach training (St. Michael’s, MD)
- Invasive species removal at Cylburn Arboretum (Baltimore, MD)
- Debris cleanup and wetland restoration at Masonville Cove Environmental Educational Center (Baltimore, MD)
- Necropsy of a harbor porpoise (Oxford, MD)
- Sea turtle release (Scotland, MD)
- National Aquarium Animal Rescue outreach event at Seacrets Jamaica USA (Ocean City, MD)
- Construction of Floating Wetland Islands (Baltimore, MD)
At the conclusion of the summer students report on their experiences and the value of this type of opportunity. If you are interested in seeing their presentation, click here.
One student best summed up her experience with the following; “The internship was super awesome! I really enjoyed the opportunity and I miss you all very much. I shared the detail of my 8 weeks with my close friends, family, and colleagues. They were please to hear I enjoyed myself. The conservation team, including aquarium staff, really helped me make my final decision in what I want to do for graduate school; herpetology. This program was so diverse that it opened my eyes to all areas of science. I'm considering doing conservation volunteer work in the future whatever part of the world I am in.”
The Aquarium will continue to maintain contact with all participants following them on their career path and offering support through recommendations and job opportunities in the conservation field.
The program was supported by the Dillon Foundation, Rosenbloom Foundation, PPG Industries, and Darden Restaurants.