This week, April 6-12, is National Volunteer Week, and in honour of the 1,000+ volunteers who support the Vancouver Aquarium’s conservation, education and research efforts every year, we’d like to share the countless ways that volunteers help to enhance the visitor experience.

When I visit a zoo, museum or aquarium, I always try to talk with one of their ambassadors. Why? Well, a brief conversation with someone “in the know” makes the experience – and information – much more memorable. Last year, I visited the Sydney Aquarium and spoke at length with someone about the platypus, and can still recall more information about that animal than the rest of the animals combined!

But learning cool facts about the animals so that you can impress friends and family with your newfound knowledge is only one reason why you should connect with our volunteers. You should also chat with them because they have great stories, know all the tips and tricks to help you make the most of your visit and spread their infectious passion and enthusiasm to others.

When you arrive, first stop by the Windows on Research exhibit in the Canaccord Financial Exploration Gallery to learn more about the important research being done both behind the scenes at the Aquarium, off-site and on the ocean. Then, visit our Information Desk in the Pacific Canada Pavilion for maps, directions and a closer look at the showboard. The volunteers there can help plan your visit based on the interests of your group, show you the best viewing spots at the marine mammal shows, and let you know about our visitor services. Tourists can also get recommendations for local restaurants and information about other attractions to visit while in Vancouver.

While you wander the galleries, connect with a volunteer in a navy blue Aquarium shirt. Doing so can also lead to those right-time, right-place experiences unique to every visit. Our gallery greeter volunteers love to show you must-see animals in a particular gallery or point out something new, cool or truly unique – which is the best way keep things fresh for our members and regular visitors. Volunteers can help you find the sloth camouflaged amidst the trees in the Amazon Gallery, share their first-hand experience in the rehabilitation of Daisy and Jack (our rescued harbour porpoises), and help you get hands-on and up close with some of our invertebrates. Talk with a volunteer and you will get insight into the behind-the-scenes world of the Aquarium, be amazed by the new things you see, learn and do as well as be inspired to take action.

Gallery educators are often found next to an animal habitat with a cart full of props for you to touch and feel. They use these tools to tell you more about the animals in our care – what they eat, where they live and what challenges they face – as well as tell you what actions you can take in your everyday lives to help protect these animals. Examples include: choosing Ocean Wise sustainable seafood at restaurants or markets, joining the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, committing to reducing energy consumption or becoming a gallery educator volunteer yourself.

Without question, talking with a volunteer will enhance your visitor experience. You will walk in excited, but you’ll walk away amazed, engaged and inspired.  Our volunteers add value to your admission and help create a truly unique, customized and priceless experience every time you visit.

This week is National Volunteer Week. The Aquarium thanks its 1,000+ volunteer team who enrich the visitor experience and help us achieve our mission to effect the conservation of aquatic life. If you would like to become a volunteer, please visit our website here for more information.

By Lindsay Baker, Vancouver Aquarium’s manager of volunteer services


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