By Nicole Cann, manager of interpretive delivery
If you’ve been to the Vancouver Aquarium and watched an educational show, any show – from an Amazon Critter Corner that lets you get up close and personal with a cockroach to a Dolphin show where you get a sneak peek at some of the ground breaking research we’re participating in – you’ve seen an interp or interpreter as we’re officially called.
We’re the ladies and gentlemen in red that wear microphones and share stories about beluga whales, sing songs in Clownfish Cove, or help you aboard a train to the North Pole in the 4D theatre. You may have met an interpreter if you’ve ever been on one of our amazing animal encounters to meet animals like Schoona, our green sea turtle, or Gus and Ollie, our brilliant Hyacinth macaws. It might have been an interpreter who answered your question about how jellies can see or why an octopus changes colour. We interpreters are responsible for all of the public programming and education at the Vancouver Aquarium and we’re pretty sure it’s the greatest job in the world.
I’ve been educating visitors at the Aquarium for over six years but when my friends and family ask me what I do and I say, “I’m an interp,” I usually get a few odd looks. “What languages do you speak?” is often the first question I’m asked when people hear my job title. It just so happens that I speak fluent French but that’s not necessary for an interpreter. The language we all speak is the language of science, the language of nature, and most importantly the language of YOU!
It’s our job to connect our incredible animals and the important conservation issues facing them to you and your lives, to answer that all important question: “Why?” “Why should I care about that?” “Why is that so cool?” If we’ve done our job well you won’t even know its happening but you’ll leave the aquarium absolutely in love with the marine world and filled with a fiery passion to protect it in any way that you can. That’s what happened to me.
When I was four years old my parents brought me from the wild plains of Winnipeg, Manitoba, to visit the Vancouver Aquarium and I saw my very first whale. That moment of my life is perfectly preserved in my memory as the moment my life changed forever. I had never seen another creature so big, so powerful, so beautiful, and so COOL! I was in love and I wanted to know every single thing there was to know about it. Luckily an interpreter found me that day and patiently answered every question my four-year-old brain could come up with. I don’t know how long she actually spent with me but it felt like a lifetime, and she packed a lifetime’s worth of information into fun, relevant themes that I could take home with me. Suddenly I understood that what I did back home in the prairies affected these amazing creatures all over the world, even in places I’d never been before, like the Arctic.
That day changed my life. From that moment on I was hooked on whales, the ocean and nature. Every day I remind myself how lucky I am to be working in a place like the Vancouver Aquarium where I can talk to hundreds of people a day about the animals that I’ve loved my whole life and hopefully change their lives too. That’s why I feel like I have the greatest job in the world; because maybe, just maybe, the next person I’ll talk to will be just as inspired to change the world.