I’ve been a volunteer at the Vancouver Aquarium since September 2011. Compared to some of my fellow volunteers, who have been volunteering for decades at the Aquarium, I am a “newbie”. With the love and support of my family, I am in the midst of dedicating six months of my life to volunteering.
So far, my experience at the Aquarium has me believe I’m now a part of something truly amazing and I’d like to give you an inside look at my life as an Aquarium volunteer.
I have been a member for six years now. I’d visit regularly to chill with my coffee in front of the beluga habitat and say ‘hi’ to my favourite fish, the arapaima in the Amazon gallery (or ‘Prince’ as I call him). Every time I came to visit there was always something to learn. Eventually, I decided to apply to become a volunteer.
At the time I had no idea what being a volunteer would entail, but was super excited when I passed my interview and was invited to attend volunteer training. After 25 hours of training, I was ready to get started. Now I volunteer five days a week and have just reached my 100-hour milestone!
On Mondays, I work with a team of staff and volunteers to get the Inquiring Minds school program off the ground. This is a fun program where students explore the scientific method and create an experiment using Hermit crabs to answer questions like: Are hermit crabs afraid of the dark?
On Tuesdays, I join the super heroes at the Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre who spend their shifts cleaning seal bins and preparing fish for the animals to eat. Together we help rescue and rehabilitate sick or injured animals, including Jack, the rescued harbor porpoise. For 12 weeks, volunteers and staff observed Jack around–the-clock and I was one of the volunteers who signed up for these shifts braving the wet and damp weather. Now Jack is getting stronger and stronger and, the other day, I had the chance to swim and play with him. It was one of the most magical moments of my life.
On Wednesdays and Thursdays, I assist in the wet lab with the Intertidal Marine Biology class. At first, I was intimidated because I hadn’t been in a biology class for 17 years, but now I look forward to every class. I can’t wait to excite the students’ when I tell them our backyard is the second most diverse ecosystem in the world!
On Fridays, I help with another school program about climate change. One of the activities has students collecting bean bags around the galleries to “feel” their carbon foot print. It’s very cool.
I also joined the Aquarium volunteers this September for the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. This year, our dedicated team cleaned up 100 kg and 800 cigarette butts from Second Beach in just two hours. When the people passing by on the seawall clapped and thanked us for our efforts it was a total ‘feel good’ moment.
In fact, my whole volunteer experience here at the Aquarium has been truly amazing, engaging and inspiring – it has changed my life forever!
Lesley is one of 1,000+ Aquarium volunteers who help to us effect the conservation of aquatic life. Together, they contributed more than 80,000 hours of service last year. In honour of International Day of the Volunteer (Dec 5), we thank every one of them for their incredible contributions to our team. If you have been inspired to become an Aquarium volunteer, visit www.vanaqua.org/volunteer