Have you ever experienced a beluga show at the Vancouver Aquarium? Were you drawn in by the animal’s white blubbery bodies or amazed at the variety and volume of sounds they can make? Did you learn something new about belugas or did you just discover these animals for the first time? Our beluga shows are designed to give you an amazing opportunity to connect with the animals you are seeing, engage you in your learning about the species and their Arctic home, and to inspire you to join us in protecting these animals, their environments, and in turn, ourselves.

Creating a new marine mammal show is a big undertaking; it takes a lot of time, people and practice. That’s where I come in. It is my job as the Interpretive Specialist for Marine Mammals to develop and deliver world-class marine mammal shows for visitors like you. I love my job, and I take pride in knowing that my programs directly support the Vancouver Aquarium’s mission is to conserve aquatic life.

We want to ensure that we are delivering exciting and educational programs to you, so we review and revise our shows every day and we usually develop new marine mammal shows about every two years.  The first thing our team needs to do when developing a new show is decide what our conservation focus will be and what we want you to be inspired to do after watching our progam. We call this our “call to action.”

Next, I need to know what the beluga trainers and interpreters want to showcase in the program. These are the people that you see doing the beluga shows every day; they are a highly skilled team of people who are passionate about sharing beluga and Arctic issues with the world. The trainers often have new enrichment behaviours they have worked on with the belugas, or the interpreters might have new stories about the Arctic that they want to share with guests.

It takes me months to write out ideas, watch enrichment sessions with the belugas, research facts and current studies and talk to researchers themselves about their work. As an Aquarium Interpreter, while we may speak different languages, our main job is to translate science and make it accessible to all of our visitors. After I compile all of these ideas from all of these sources I have to craft them into one thematic, engaging, and relevant presentation.

Finally, the draft writing and edits need to go through a chain of approval which includes experts in interpretation, animal care, research and Arctic issues, and that’s before we ever start practicing the show with staff, belugas and visitors. After several weeks of practice and incorporating your feedback, we are ready to officially unveil the new show!

I feel a swell of pride when a new show debuts; it’s a labour of love, it’s a feat of collaboration between many people, and it’s the result of months of effort to create the perfect show.

Our newest beluga show, which debuted on June 21, will encourage guests to think about protecting the Arctic differently. We still need to turn off our lights, but we all need to and can do more RIGHT NOW. Being informed about decisions that impact the oceans around us, understanding your political representative’s position on protecting threatened spaces, and voting are all powerful tools that each and every one of us has at our disposal.

We all need to take action on behalf of belugas because it’s not just their future we are conserving; it’s ours too. I am proud to be a part of the visitor experience that guests have when they see a beluga show at the Vancouver Aquarium, and I am hopeful that with the help of these vocal white whales, I can continue to inspire people to actively protect and conserve belugas in bigger ways every day.

To learn more about our focus on Arctic conservation, and how our belugas are helping, visit here.

Guest blog post by Lauren Hartling, Vancouver Aquarium interpretation specialist

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