Living in Western North Carolina, the opportunity to explore marine life from different parts of the ocean is a scarcity. That is why in 2001, Team ECCO was started as a learning program to reach and teach students of all ages about the ocean. Location should not be an excuse for lack of resources and knowledge, so Executive Director, Brenda Ramer decided to take action. She worked to grow and expand Team ECCO, gaining full IRS 501 c 3 non-profit status in 2005.
Four years later, the first Team ECCO classroom was established. What started out as a simple 800-square foot room grew in two more years to a public aquarium. In 2011, Team ECCO opened the doors of the first inland aquarium in North Carolina- The Team ECCO Ocean Center & Aquarium on Main Street in Hendersonville, North Carolina.
In 2017 our marine research progressed under funding from the NC Science Museum Grant program, the Community Foundation of Henderson County, and the Henderson County TDA. This support allowed us to reach out even further. With our re-branding we became the Aquarium & Shark Lab of Team ECCO. Stepping up, we renovated many existing displays and added our new 2,000 gallon shark study tank. We enter this tank twice daily to feed and monitor the behavior and development of our 3 sharks. Also, this is the new holding tank for our shark hatching and development study.
Our Aquarium is home to dozens of species of tropical ocean fish and invertebrates. We house a reptile collection that includes frogs, lizards, geckoes, turtles and tortoises, which are kept under strict guidelines and permit from NCDNR.
We are the only ocean education lab and hands-in marine study center in Western North Carolina, Upstate South Carolina and Eastern Tennessee. Our programs include but are not limited to fish ID, marine adaptations, reef/mangrove/grass bed ecology, water quality, turtle rescue, local reptile education and marine bio diversity.
In order to expand our learning even further than our aquarium, we partner with outside institutions to provide the most well-rounded education that we can. These places include organizations such as the Georgia Aquarium and the UA Biosphere 2 in Oracle, AZ.
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 3 part time paid position: 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.
Team ECCO encourages minds and bodies with custom field exploration trips to local and distant points of environmental interest. These areas of interest include manatees, aquifers, coral reef development, sea turtles, shark research and mangrove recovery.
Experience is the best teacher and a positive learning experience can change a life.