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Aquatic Animal Health

The University of Florida has a very active aquatic animal health program that is a collaborative effort between the College of Veterinary Medicine, the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience, the Program in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences (School of Forest Resources and Conservation, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences) and the Biology Department (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences). Partnerships with federal and state agencies, and other public and private aquatic institutions throughout the state further enhance the scope of the program, including USDA-APHIS-Veterinary Services, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, SeaWorld, the Florida Aquarium, and commercial aquaculture facilities, just to name a few.Florida’s unique and diverse ecosystems, and broad academic programs, create a unique opportunity for veterinary students to receive specialized and directed training within the veterinary curriculum. The purpose of this certificate program is to identify and recognize veterinary students with an interest in aquatic animal health and provide guidance to them during their veterinary studies to help them develop a knowledge base in this specialty.

Aquatic animal medicine is a rapidly expanding specialty of veterinary medicine within the American College of Zoological Medicine (ACZM). Aquatic animal medicine emerged as a veterinary discipline in 1968 when the International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine had its organizational meeting in Menlo Park, California. Since then the discipline has expanded considerably and today includes aspects of food supply veterinary medicine through aquaculture practice, zoological medicine with aquatic display animals, companion animal and wildlife medicine. Some training in aquatic animal medicine has been available to veterinary students at the University of Florida since the College of Veterinary Medicine accepted its first class in 1976. The program has experienced significant growth since 2000 when programs in marine mammal health, aquaculture and fish health were merged into a comprehensive aquatic animal health program. The certificate program described here is a broad educational program that gives veterinary students a unique opportunity to nurture their interest in this exciting and diverse field. This certificate program is the first of its kind and faculty members are anxious to work with motivated students to help them meet their career goals.

Students who successfully complete this program will receive a certificate that documents their concentrated training in aquatic animal health during their DVM curriculum. This certificate will identify the newly graduated veterinarian as an employment prospect for an entry level position in aquaculture, or a veterinary practitioner able to provide basic medical care to aquatic animals as part of a companion animal practice. Post-DVM training may include continued graduate education working towards a Masters or PhD degree, internships or specialized clinical training in zoological medicine. Guidance from faculty can help veterinary students clarify career goals and pursue appropriate paths to achieve these goals.

The successful student in this program will be required to complete a total of 15 credits, which includes 7 credit hours of a core curriculum in aquatic animal health: Diseases of Warm Water Fish (VEM 5374, 2 credit hours), Sea Vet Clinical Training (VME 5378, 3 credit hours), and an externship (VEM 5892, 2 credit hours) or research project (VEM 5991, 2 credit hours) approved by program faculty. In addition, the student must complete 8 credit hours from a list of elective courses (included below). The student will be assigned a mentor from the aquatic animal health program faculty who will work with the student to select the elective courses most appropriate given the student’s interests and career goals. Students who enter the veterinary program with undergraduate or graduate course work relevant to aquatic animal health may petition the faculty for up to 4 credits towards their certificate from some of their previous work. They may do so by submitting a formal letter to our program education committee, describing in detail the related work, how it pertains to aquatic animal health and why these credits are needed to supplement course credits currently available through the program.

To participate in the aquatic animal health certificate program veterinary students must be in good academic standing and maintain a 3.0 GPA in the veterinary curriculum. If a student is placed on academic probation, his or her ability to participate in this program will be curtailed until the period of academic probation has been completed in a satisfactory manner. Applications for admission to the certificate program will be accepted no earlier than the spring semester of your freshman year in vet school, once fall grades of the previous semester have been released.

The Core Curriculum in Aquatic Animal Health

Please note: A full, detailed list of required courses for the Aquatic Animal Health Program can be found on pages 16-17 of the student handbook.

The core curriculum consists of entry level courses in fish and marine mammal medicine.

  • Diseases of Warm Water Fish (VEM 5374, 2 credit hours) offered during the summer A term of even years and
  • Sea Vet Clinical Training (VEM 5378, 3 credit hours) offered summer A each year.

Students who enter the College of Veterinary Medicine as freshman in the fall of an odd year will be able to take these courses at the end of their freshman year. Students that enter the program in the fall of even years may take Diseases of Warmwater Fish the summer prior to entering the veterinary curriculum. Additional credit may be granted for similar courses offered at other institutions as substitutes.These include:

  • Aquavet (University of Pennsylvania and Cornell University)
  • AQUAMED (Louisiana State University)

Program faculty can guide students in identifying course work that will fulfill this core requirement. In addition to this core course work, students will be expected to complete

  • an externship (VEM 5892, 2 credit hours) or
  • research project (VEM 5991, 2 credit hours)

Both must be approved by the aquatic animal health faculty.

Elective Classes in Aquatic Animal Health

A broad range of elective course work is available from within the College of Veterinary Medicine as well as from other units on campus. The student and his or her mentor should work together to identify elective classes that are consistent with the student’s interests and career goals. A list of potential elective courses is provided below. Approval of aquatic animal health program faculty may be sought for relevant courses not on this list.

Please note: A full, detailed list of elective courses for the Aquatic Animal Health Program can be found on pages 18-21 of the student handbook.

Contact Information:

Dr. Iske V. Larkin – Faculty Profile
Research Assistant Prof & Education Coordinator

Dr. Ruth Francis-Floyd – Faculty Profile
Professor & Director of Aquatic Animal Health Program

Program Web Site: