The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre marks its 60th anniversary this year — an amazing milestone indeed. In this time, our staff has brought a myriad of experience, ability and can-do attitudes with them which had made this world-class organization what it is today. Many of our staff have been women, in fact, nearly two-thirds of our employees — 62 per cent — are women.  In recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8, we’d like to share some of their stories with you.

Ruby on Terrace Beach in Ucluelet.

Ruby on Terrace Beach in Ucluelet.

Ruby Banwait: Ruby’s aquatic career began in 2002 as a volunteer for the Vancouver Aquarium. In 2007 she was hired on as a BC Waters Aquarium Biologist and she now cares for many species of fish and invertebrates. Ruby spends much of her day in dive gear, whether she is offsite in some of the world’s most spectacular cold-water diving locations or maintaining exhibits onsite or at the Vancouver Airport. She recreates the dynamic Pacific Oceans landscapes in her habitats at the Aquarium and waves back at eager viewers in the Treasures of the BC Coast gallery. Her passion and experience also led to a four-month opportunity to help open the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium in Newfoundland. This seasonal facility uses Ruby’s expertise as curator, dive safety officer, floor plan and exhibit designer, engineer, purchaser, animal collector, aquarist, interpreter, general manager and advisor to the board of directors.

Ann oversees our best-kept secret: the library!

Ann oversees our best-kept secret: the library!

Ann Dreolini: Did you know that the Vancouver Aquarium has its own library? Ann manages the plethora of requests that come to our library on a daily basis including interesting ones like “where can I buy concrete?” And, “How much is that concrete going to cost me?” (This request came from a Brownie for a project.) Sometimes folks just want to browse the shelves, while others need photos to support a presentation. Our library mostly serves employees and volunteers, like the Interpreters who might be sourcing information for shows or the education team designing new programs that meet the school curriculum. But it’s also open to the public by appointment. Ann manages the many books, journals, DVDs, photos and slides, older magazines, and the organization’s archives.

Carla hard at work in the genetics lab.

Carla hard at work in the genetics lab.

Carla Crossman: The Vancouver Aquarium has its own onsite genetics lab used for studies on different species of marine mammals, but many of our researchers are focused on killer whales in particular. One of Carla’s current projects is using genetics to understand the mating system of the mammal-eating Bigg’s (or Transient) killer whales. Thanks to decades of research by the Vancouver Aquarium and partners, we have detailed killer whale family trees mapping out mother-offspring relationships. Bigg’s killer whales are listed as threatened in B.C. (largely due to their small population size of roughly 300 individuals) which makes Carla’s work vital to understanding this species. Specifically, determining paternity is quite difficult since male killer whales don’t participate in parental care. Understanding how these whales select their mates may provide an understanding of the genetic diversity needed for healthy Bigg’s population.

Susan on an Alaskan adventure.

Susan on an Arctic adventure.

Susan Archibald: Susan has been with the Vancouver Aquarium for five years and has over 25 years of experience in marketing, communications, fundraising, government and stakeholder relations, brand management, strategic planning and high-profile event management. Her previous experience includes working with the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver as well as five years in Asia helping the United Nations assist with the first democratic election in Indonesia’s history. Susan uses all that experience to lead the Aquarium’s External Relations team, responsible for many annual and capital fundraising and special events (like the annual Toast to the Coast and Night at the Aquarium). Susan’s team is responsible for over 25 per cent of the revenue for the Vancouver Aquarium, funds that have helped to support the rescue and rehabilitation of animals like Chester and a green sea turtle currently in our care.

Of course there are many other amazing women making waves at the Aquarium, click here, here, or here, for just a few more of their stories.

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