DCCC Introduces Aquarium Science Program; is One of Only Two Programs of its Kind in the Nation

DCCC Aquarium Science

April 25, 2013 - Davidson County Community College is making waves by adding a new component to its Zoo and Aquarium Science program – aquarium science. The program, which begins in the fall 2013 semester, will offer coursework and training, as well as hands-on internship opportunities that will ready students for careers in that field.

Those interested will have the opportunity to learn more about the program during two information sessions, to be held at 5:30 p.m. on May 14 and May 16 in Room 110 of the Conference Center on the Davidson Campus.

“This is truly an exciting development at Davidson County Community College,” says Mark Stevens, faculty in the Zoo and Aquarium Science program at DCCC. “Only one other community college in the nation has a program like this, and it’s in Oregon. This program will give students an opportunity to do something with aquarium science not available anywhere else in the state, or east of the Mississippi.”

The aquarium science program, which will allow students to earn an associate degree in applied science, is designed to help students become entry-level aquarists, working with marine and aquatic life found at public aquaria, zoological parks and research facilities throughout the world, notes Stevens. Students will not only take courses, but also complete lab work on campus, thanks to the addition of a new teaching aquarium; renovation of an existing building to create the teaching aquarium lab is set to begin in the summer of 2013.

DCCC has also partnered with five aquariums in North Carolina – Pine Knolls Shores, Fort Fisher, Roanoke Island, SciQuarium (part of Greensboro Science Center) and Discovery Place (Charlotte) – which will give students the opportunity to complete internships. There, they will have the chance to work with the daily care and husbandry of aquatic species, as well as work to educate the public.

“The partnerships that the college has strategically made with these facilities ultimately provide training and intense, hands-on experiences for students under the direction of professional aquarists and curators with species that we wouldn’t be able to house and maintain on campus,” Stevens says. “In addition, these partnerships also provide valuable networking experiences as well.”

In addition to coursework and training, the program plans to afford students the experience of educating the public through partnering with four local school systems in Davidson and Davie counties to provide STEM based learning components for elementary and middle school students.  

“The plan is to eventually coordinate with local school systems to schedule tours that will tie into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) initiatives, as well as ecology and conservation programming. The availability of the programming on our campus makes these learning experiences for students in elementary and middle schools convenient and affordable,” Stevens says. “This initiative will also give our students an opportunity to be involved in service learning, through teaching and inspiring young students to be better stewards of the earth.”

The opportunities that stem from this program are remarkable, Stevens adds. Students graduating from the aquarium science program may opt to begin a career immediately as animal keepers, caregivers, attendants, technicians, nursery workers, as well as entry level aquarists and research assistants or continue their educational experiences in marine biology at a four-year institution.

“For example, to be successful as an entry level aquarist, it’s vital that students have hands-on experience working with a diverse collection of fresh water and marine life forms,” Stevens says. “Our program will fully prepare students for this and many other aquarium-related careers.”


*Editor’s Note: Pictured is Nicole Pepo, who is caring for penguins at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore during a summer internship.

Founded in 1963, Davidson County Community College is noted for its quality educational programs and services. As one of 58 institutions within the North Carolina Community College System, DCCC offers studies in more than 50 degree programs. A fully-accredited, multi-campus college, DCCC celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. It is committed to developing minds, inspiring imaginations, and preparing students for enhanced career and educational opportunities within a changing global environment. Visit Davidson County Community College on the Web at davidsonccc.edu.