The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is not just a concrete building, it’s a living, breathing entity. It’s alive with animals that teach us about survival on a changing planet, alive with staff members and volunteers who spend every day sharing stories of the natural world with visitors.

The Aquarium is a valuable teacher, and there are many life lessons I’ve learned through working here:

All life depends on water so we must do what we can to conserve it

This is at the very heart of what we do. From literally conserving water by reusing sea water in our buildings’ heat exchange system, to cleaning shorelines and waterways across the country, we know the ocean is precious and worth protecting. We rely on the ocean for so much: leisure, clean air and food, among other things. Doing whatever we can to keep garbage out of the oceans and save vulnerable species is really the least we can do.

Life is about simple pleasures

Need a reminder? Head to any jellyfish exhibit to see the wonder in a child’s eyes. Something as simple as gazing into an exhibit together, and discussing how animals live, is an easy way to connect and enjoy a shared moment.

Children remind us of life's simple pleasures.

There’s something special about watching children discover sea life.

Life is about helping each other out

I see this both in and out of the water. Many animals could not survive if not for the symbiotic relationships they have with other animals. Take the hermit crabs in the Sechelt Inlet exhibit for example. The sea anemones living on their shells, with their stinging tentacles, offer the hermit crabs protection. In return, they get whatever food scraps are floating in the water after the hermit crabs have had their meal.

Out of the water, the Aquarium only runs as smoothly as it does because of the efforts of all the staff members and volunteers. It’s not unusual to see someone in one role assisting in a completely different area. It’s all about striving to achieve a common goal.

Marine animals need each other just as we need each other. Image courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, INDEX-SATAL 2010.

Marine animals need each other just as we need each other. Image courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, INDEX-SATAL 2010.

Life is full of little surprises; take a moment to appreciate them

In an era of go-go-go, it’s easy to move on to the next big thing without appreciating the little things right in front of you. Did you see the bamboo shark baby wriggling in its egg case last month? Do you see the tiny stickleback dads defending their nests with vigour in the Stanley Park’s Shores exhibit? Linger just a bit longer in every moment to truly appreciate everything going on around you.

Life brings sadness but we can get through anything together

Animals grow and die and so do people; that is the circle of life. It’s OK to feel sad and remember the good times we had with an animal or friend. Being together helps us share the burden of sadness and support each other as we move forward our own time.

There is so much more to learn at the Vancouver Aquarium. Every visit is an opportunity to make your own discoveries.

Written by Karen Glanzberg, content writer/producer at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre

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