The Vancouver Aquarium’s B.C. Hydro AquaVan is back at the Aquarium for a well-deserved break. This year, the B.C. Hydro AquaVan program delivered more than 100 days of programming to 51 communities throughout British Columbia and Alberta. Interacting with over 25,000 students and community members, the B.C. Hydro AquVan covered more than 15,000 kilometers of highway to bring rich learning to far-reaching communities.

As the Aquarium’s primary outreach tool, the B.C. Hydro AquaVan brings the wonders of the Pacific Coast to students and community members who cannot otherwise visit our facility in Vancouver.  Onboard, we carry with us a variety of intertidal marine species from the coast of British Columbia.  Many community members we engage have never seen an ocean themselves and, often, we are the first (and only) contact they have ever had with marine species, such as sea stars, sea urchins and even wolf eels.

As the only aquarium outreach program in all of North America to spend extended periods of time on-the-road, the B.C. Hydro AquaVan certainly comes with unique challenges – not the least of which is putting an aquarium in a truck! In our case, we have had to put four aquariums into a truck and to ensure proper and sufficient life-support for a variety of cold saltwater marine species. Long days, traffic jams, living out of a bag, being constantly on-the-go…these are all in a day’s work for the three staff and rotating intern support that travel with the B.C. Hydro AquaVan.

The challenges our team faces, however, pale in comparison to the look on a child’s face when we drive the B.C. Hydro AquaVan up to their school. This year, we had the pleasure of bringing our program all over Western Canada – from Vancouver Island and the Okanagan Valley, to the Peace River Region and Fort Nelson, to the Northeastern Alberta communities of Fort McMurray, Cold Lake, Athabasca, and many others. The further away from the coast we were, the more inquisitive the students. Inevitably, at each land-locked school we visited, students would do the exact same thing: they would place their fingers into the water of our touch-tubs and taste it and say: “It really is salty!”

We have another exciting year lined up for the B.C. Hydro AquaVan program in 2012, including travel plans to more communities than ever before. We look forward to updating you with exciting tales from the road in the coming year.

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