Photo by: Nan Renner, Birch Aquarium

Birch Aquarium’s UC San Diego Student Impact 2023-2024

UC San Diego students are an integral part of Birch Aquarium

La Jolla, CA (June 20, 2024) — As the public outreach center for Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, Birch Aquarium serves an important role as a connection point for UC San Diego students who dive into its mission through coursework, presentations, jobs and volunteering. From welcoming newcomers during Triton Weeks of Welcome to engaging in a myriad of academic and social events, the aquarium plays a vital role in student life, while students, in turn, infuse the aquarium with fresh energy and ideas. 

One way Birch Aquarium supports UC San Diego students is through direct impact on coursework. Thanks to work by the Hub for Scripps Science, a new aquarium department that brings together the aquarium and Scripps researchers to engage the public, Birch Aquarium served 839 UC San Diego Students through classes and partnerships as part of 17 individual courses across numerous disciplines. Through these partnerships, students in wide-ranging courses from Coastal Ecology to Environmental Ethics to Underwater Archaeology came onsite for presentations and other educational opportunities, providing real-world learning experiences. 

“When Birch Aquarium works with campus partners, they learn from us and we learn from them. This mutual learning also benefits our guests, especially when students present their work to the public,” said Dr. Nan Renner, Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships.

In addition to welcoming UC San Diego students as part of their coursework, Birch Aquarium also provides student employment opportunities. During the 2023 - 2024 academic year, Birch Aquarium employed 77 students, making up half of its workforce in departments including Exhibits (8), Guest Services (29), Education (16), Husbandry (17), Marketing (1) and Special Events (6). 

Through this employment program, UC San Diego students receive credit for their work at Birch Aquarium through the Co-Curricular Record which allows experience outside the classroom to be included in their official records. These experiences are invaluable ways to expand students’ options and build their resumes. 

“Over my 30 years at UC San Diego, working with undergraduate students has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career,” said Ken Steitz, Finance and HR Manager at Birch Aquarium. “The opportunity to mentor and collaborate with these bright, motivated individuals has been a constant source of inspiration and fulfillment. Their contributions and enthusiasm have supported the aquarium’s success and fostered a dynamic and innovative work environment.”

Birch Aquarium’s volunteer program also engaged 66 UC San Diego student volunteers, including 46 undergraduate and 20 graduate students for a total of 1,896 hours of volunteer service.  

students participate in a yoga class on a blue patio at Birch Aquarium at sunset, overlooking the ocean
UC San Diego students participate in the Tritons RISE Yoga Event “Under the Sea” at Birch Aquarium. Photo by Jordann Tomasek, Birch Aquarium. 

Students visited Birch Aquarium through numerous nonacademic programs throughout the year as well. Tritons RISE Yoga Event “Under the Sea” was presented in partnership with Counseling and Psychological Services and UC San Diego Recreation. There were approximately 170 Tritons at the event which combined creative-based reflection activities, sunset yoga, community building and the healing elements of the ocean into a memorable experience for students. During Triton Weeks of Welcome (TWOW) 2023, Birch Aquarium welcomed 3,763 UC San Diego students during the university-wide orientation. Additionally, Birch Aquarium saw 550 students book self-guided visits and 2,291 students visit through General Admission. The aquarium also added over 275 student memberships across undergraduate and graduate memberships. 

In total, Birch Aquarium counted over 8,000 UC San Diego student engagements over the academic year. These student interfaces all further Birch Aquarium’s mission of connecting understanding to protecting our ocean planet by bringing the students into the center of the important work being done at Scripps Oceanography, and fostering educational growth for the next generation of leaders.

Birch Aquarium is proud to offer discounts to the UC San Diego community. Students, staff and faculty of UC San Diego save $3 off general admission tickets as well as special pricing on Memberships. Visit the Discounts and Rewards page for details. Learn about volunteer opportunities at Birch Aquarium and find student employment opportunities on the UC San Diego Handshake portal.