Island University Partners with Texas State Aquarium to Teach Animal Care Operations Course

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and the Texas State Aquarium (TSA) have partnered to offer a Special Topics course titled “Texas State Aquarium Animal Care Operations – a Look at Conservation, Welfare and Research.” The course will be offered during the 2018 summer I session and will provide unprecedented opportunities for biology students to study animal care activities at the aquarium.

“A&M-Corpus Christi prides itself on the quality of our learning and research opportunities,” said Dr. Kelly M. Quintanilla, president and CEO of A&M-Corpus Christi. “We are excited to expand our partnership with the Texas State Aquarium for a mutually beneficial exchange for students, faculty, and scientists alike.”

The course, which will meet at the Aquarium Monday-Thursday from 9:30-11:25 a.m., will include lectures and hands-on activities. To register for the course, students must, at a minimum, have completed Biology 1407 and have the permission of A&M-Corpus Christi instructors. Eligible students can look forward to learning from both A&M-Corpus Christi and TSA instructors. A&M-Corpus Christi instructors will include Dr. Ed Proffitt, professor and chair of the Department of Life Sciences and Dr. John Scarpa, associate professor of aquaculture. Instructors from the aquarium will include Jesse Gilbert, TSA senior vice president and chief operating officer, as well as the staff of the TSA’s fish & herpetology, marine mammal and bird & mammal departments.

“We’re excited for this opportunity to play a larger role in molding the next generation of scientists, wildlife conservationists and animal care experts,” said Gilbert. “Our professional staff possess an immense collection of knowledge in animal husbandry, education and conservation, and we’re eager to pass that on to students and prepare them for their future careers.”

Aquariums and zoos have unique requirements that balance animal care and health with public display for general education and conservation research. This special topics course will examine these requirements through case studies involving aquatic, terrestrial and avian organisms at TSA, including discussions about the aquarium’s administrative, dive, marine mammal, bird, mammal, fish, herpetology, and wildlife rescue and recovery operations.

Building off of the strong relationships between the Island University and the TSA, both organizations entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in fall 2017 to collaborate on academic courses with an emphasis on public aquarium animal husbandry and aquatic systems. One of the major goals of the MOU is to mutually strengthen both entities’ advancements in life science and engineering through future research collaborations between the COSE and TSA. Additionally, the MOU will open the doors for directed independent studies and student internships at the Aquarium.