Bob Hartnett is the quintessential example of engagement. He began volunteering at the Vancouver Aquarium in September 2012, when a friend of his, one of the Aquarium’s executive officers, recommended the volunteer program to him. He began in the education department, providing tours of the penguins and other exhibits, which he says “was a wonderful introduction to the facility.”

Today, after a year and a half at the Aquarium, Bob has volunteered in half a dozen programs, including the Marine Mammal Rescue program, AquaVan and Gallery Greeters. His favourite volunteer role, however, is as an AquaLab educator, where he helps high school classes discover local invertebrates. Students move from table to table, learning about different phyla with animals they can observe and touch. Bob says, “It is a high-energy program that is never the same hour to hour.”

Bob’s tireless volunteer work enriches his life outside the Aquarium, too. He likes to take his kayak out into the shallow waters of our local shores and look for the animals he knows from the Aquarium. As a retiree, when he’s not kayaking Bob spends his time gardening, travelling with his wife, caring for his grandson, or devouring yet another book.

Bob’s favourite aspect of volunteering at the Aquarium is the people – the staff and volunteers, the students, teachers and visitors – each of whom, he says, is always smiling and always discovering something new. He remembers one person in particular, a 10-year-old boy he met near the Quadra Island exhibit in Treasures of the B.C. Coast who spent nearly 20 minutes with him in a focused discussion about the animals on display. He remembers his well thought-out, interesting questions, and says he would be lucky if he could meet just one visitor each day who was as engaged as that boy.

At Spring Splash, the volunteers’ annual recognition event, Bob won the Star Award for outstanding volunteer service within the Education Department.

To learn more about the Aquarium’s award-winning volunteer services program, and how to be a part of our amazing volunteer team, visit here.

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