Mystic Aquarium, a division of Sea Research Foundation, Inc., CT

Description of Elective Experience: 

Since its inception in the mid 1970's, the veterinary externship program offered by the Veterinary Services Department at Mystic Aquarium, a division of Sea Research Foundation, Inc. has welcomed scores of veterinary students and veterinarians from institutions worldwide. Our current veterinary externships are available to qualified veterinary students with an interest in aquatic animal medicine. Veterinary externships are clinically-focused, and externs are required to complete a literature review or research project during the externship, the results of which are presented in lecture format to our staff.  Veterinary externships are available for periods of time ranging from three weeks to four months and are available during both the fall and spring semesters (we do not offer veterinary externships over the summer). Veterinary externs are encouraged to come for the longest possible period for maximum opportunity and exposure. Only one veterinary extern will be present at any given time to provide each extern with the most hands-on experience possible. Veterinary externs are also offered the opportunity to learn about the aquarium’s husbandry operations through short (half to whole day) rotations through our water quality laboratory and penguin, fish, invertebrate, herptile, and marine mammal husbandry areas as time allows. Depending on the length of externships, short rotations in our research lab may also be available. To accommodate the different methods whereby students are allocated blocks of time for preceptorships, externships etc., we accept students on a rolling admissions basis. Applications for veterinary externships frequently exceed available openings and positions are often filled over a year in advance. Interested potential veterinary externs are encouraged to submit their application early.

Institutional and Educational Resources - staffing, equipment, etc.: 

The supervising veterinarian for this externship program is residency trained and boarded by the American College of Zoological Medicine. Veterinary externs will also work with a residency trained Associate Veterinarian and a postgraduate Veterinary Intern.

Educational Resources Available:  Journals, Books, etc.

Student Responsibilities - what is expected of students in terms of hours, days of the week, shadowing or actual support?: 


Veterinary externs will typically work a Monday through Friday schedule, with Saturdays and Sundays off as desired. The main duties of our veterinary externs will be to 1) assist the veterinary staff with all clinical cases, 2) attend and participate in clinical/teaching rounds, 3) complete the required research project or literature review assigned, and 4) to present the results of the project to our staff in seminar (power point) format. If time allows (or on the vet extern’s days off), externs will rotate through the laboratory and various husbandry areas based on availability and the extern’s choosing.

Externship Projects:

For successful completion of the veterinary externship program, all externs must complete a project during their externship. Externs coming for four or more weeks generally complete a short research project, whereas externs coming for shorter periods may be asked to perform a literature review on a relevant topic instead. Externs are encouraged to come up with project ideas on their own; however, a project may be assigned. Externs should avoid proposing studies involving invasive techniques on live animals. Our Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) must review any projects involving live animal procedures. Mystic Aquarium staff members (e.g. research, veterinary, laboratory, or husbandry staff) may supervise research projects. Planning and approval for extern-designed projects take time. We therefore encourage potential externs with a specific project in mind to begin the process early. Applications submitted too late for committee approvals will not be addressed.

Student Housing (include costs, amenities, pet friendly, contact info if different from elective contact info): 


All externs must attend a brief orientation conducted by our Human Resources Department on the first day of the externship (generally a Monday). Please note that veterinary externships are unpaid (volunteer) positions and that externs are responsible for providing their own transportation, food, and housing during their externship. We will be happy to answer questions regarding logistics and can occasionally arrange for externs to stay with aquarium staff or volunteers for low rates ($100-$150 per week), but this is not guaranteed. Veterinary externs are expected to dress in the same manner as aquarium staff members. This consists of a scrub top or uniform shirt and khaki pants or khaki shorts. Khaki pants/shorts bottoms and closed-toed non-slip shoes are provided by the extern. Uniform shirts or sweatshirts are generally available for loan to externs during their stay. If appropriately sized uniform items are not available for loan, students can purchase required items. We require that all veterinary externs provide proof that they are currently enrolled in an appropriate health insurance plan.

Jen Flower, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACZM
55 Coogan Blvd.
Mystic, CT 06355
United States
Animal Type: 
Is student housing available?: 
Hours of supervision by a licensed veterinarian per week: 
8 hrs/day, 7 days/week