It is still so I left teaching in the public school system in 2001 to become a volunteer for Oceans for Youth, a nonprofit on a mission to teach ocean awareness. Charlie Snead was principal at Hendersonville Elementary School, and I somehow talked him into believing in my goal of getting our mountain-based kids to the sea. We loaded a charter bus with 45 kids and adults and did the first manatee and water shed trip to Crystal River, FL. And the momentum just kept growing. In 2009, I opened the first Team ECCO Ocean Center in an 800 sq. ft. room with 6 aquariums - most all of which were donated. People came. I established the current Aquarium in 2011 to ever-increasing demand for classes and programs. Rebranding came in 2018, moving us forward to become the Aquarium & Shark Lab by Team ECCO. A fish was hatched. The numbers have grown with our age. In 2021, we reached 4,500 people in classes and programs and hit 10,000 visitors through the doors. All of that happened teaching Tuesday 9-3 and Wednesday - Friday 9-12 noon and having public visiting hours Wednesday - Saturday 1-4 pm for 40 weeks of the year. It all seems so unbelievable to me.
Today, we are well known for our study in behavioral imprinting with sharks, rays, and reptiles. Guests are amazed at the live small shark and ray feed in our 2,000-gallon shark study tank. Our shark study team has been picked up by the Field Museum in Chicago. They will use our data on parthenogenesis in bamboo sharks as a part of their publication later in 2022.
“ Experience is the best teacher and a positive learning experience can change a life” ~ B.J.R.
- On average, our facility is host to 6 senior projects, three college biology projects, and numerous student trainings and consults each year. We are active members of the NC Science Network, the American Elasmobranch Society, The Environmental Education Sites of NC, The Career and Technical Education Advisory Board for HCPS, and the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce. The Team ECCO staff and interns have partnered and networked with other major education sites such as the UA Biosphere 2, the St. Augustine Aquarium, River Banks Zoo, Odysea Aquarium, Fl Aquarium, and the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine. Team ECCO engages minds and bodies with custom field exploration trips to local and distant points of environmental interest on manatees, aquafer systems, coral reef development, sea turtles, shark research, and mangrove recovery. If it has to do with the sea, it has to be Team ECCO. We bring the sea to WNC.
- We train and incorporate student interns and volunteers into daily care and maintenance. The Executive Director shares her passion for teaching with her love of the ocean as a volunteer. Team ECCO has three part-time paid positions: front desk/bookkeeping; Lead Intern; & Assistant Director. Those involved take such pride in the work that they perform. Even on days when we are not open, we are there dedicated to making sure that our animals are taken care of.
We feel fortunate to work with such supportive partners in our community. Are you interested in becoming more involved in Team ECCO? If you'd like to find out about volunteer opportunities, visit our Get Involved page. If you'd like to learn more about becoming one of our Partners, Contact Us. If you are interesting in sponsoring a tank here at the Team ECCO Aquarium, download and fill out the Tank Support Form below.
Check out our current partners: