Harvey Lloyd once said, “Travel is like an endless university; you never stop learning.” Self admittedly, I may have taken this sentiment a little overboard.
Having recently completed my undergraduate degree in zoology and committing years of experience to the field of conservation biology, I was naturally thrilled with the invitation to join the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre community – an organization that spoke loudly to my own values. Best of all was that I would be an interpreter, using my knowledge and creativity to connect people with our oceans.
There was only one foreseeable problem. I have a condition. I, Dan Clarke, suffer from wanderlust.
It is an extraordinarily stubborn condition, characterized by the inexplicable desire to explore the world. Any attempts to fight this unquenchable thirst for travel and adventure are futile and the only viable form of treatment is to simply surrender. Fortunately, in doing so, I have learned more about the natural world and our place within it than I could have possibly imagined.
Almost one year ago, I was unexpectedly approached and offered a second job of a lifetime as a global adventure leader for a start-up adventure travel company. If I chose to accept, I would be responsible for leading groups around the world to experience some spectacular adventures. I was sold.
At least I was sold until reality kicked in. I would have to choose between travel and the Aquarium. I approached my Aquarium manager with this dilemma and I was overjoyed when she expressed her total support. She was the first to recognize that I would be able to apply everything that I’ve learned and experienced from my travels to our guests here at the Vancouver Aquarium.
There are some unfortunate realities that I have learned while on the road. Roadside zoos for example which aim to make a profit from the exploitation of their local wildlife have made me a strong advocate in using our powerful voice as a consumer, especially when we travel, in supporting other non-profit organizations dedicated to conservation like ours. On a single 10 kilometre stretch of highway in one Asian country I was offered a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to kiss a live cobra on their head, ride an elephant and take a nap next to an adult tiger in chains. With no governing authority like the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to provide assurances about the health and safety of these animals I chose to opt out of all three.
While on tour I also witnessed remarkable conservation success stories. Recently, while sailing through the Islas Ballestas in Peru, my tour and I were treated to an hour of unrivalled wildlife display. Here a colony of Humboldt penguins was thriving in their natural environment amidst bottlenose dolphins, sea lions and countless other sea birds. Moments like these serve to humble me and remind me of the importance and success of our own conservation programs. I absolutely love returning after my overseas tours and being able to share these new stories of conservation success and comparing them with our own here at the Vancouver Aquarium.
It has been two years since I joined the ranks of the legendary and highly eccentric interpreters at the Aquarium and I can’t imagine leaving. For most, this two year milestone may seem like a short period of time – but for a nomad like myself who has seldom lived in the same part of the world for more than a year – it becomes a testament that I have finally grown my roots here in Vancouver; they just happen to be aquatic.
Blog post by Dan Clark, nomad and interpreter at the Vancouver Aquarium.