Volunteers help behind-the-scenes to make the jellies at Vancouver Aquarium come alive.

Written by volunteer blog writer Adrienne Gee

Watching jellies float along and propel themselves through the water is one of the most serene and awe-inspiring activities visitors to the Vancouver Aquarium can do.  Did you know that there is a team of dedicated volunteers who get their hands wet to make this possible? That’s right, behind the scenes, there are volunteers who help staff raise and care for the jellies you see on display, in addition to many other jellies that are used for research and education purposes. They are involved with husbandry tasks such as water changes, feeding, cleaning habitats and more. 

“This is the best place in the world to volunteer,” Bob, one of the jelly husbandry volunteers, enthusiastically states when I met him at the aquarium during one of his shifts. Bob began volunteering with the Vancouver Aquarium in 2012. In his time at the aquarium, he has held many roles, including wet lab assistant and gallery educator. His dedication and commitment earned him the privilege of assisting staff with the care of the jellies. 

Bob normally starts his shift by making the jelly food for the day. Jellies are usually fed live artemia, which are also known as brine shrimp or Sea Monkeys. Once the food is made, he tours the galleries and feeds each jelly exhibit. After feeding the jellies, he usually completes tasks such as cleaning habitats behind the scenes, cleaning filters and skimmers, water changes, and anything else that needs to be done to assist the staff with their tasks. His tasks vary from shift to shift, and he enjoys the variety.

Curious about the jellies’ infamous defence mechanism, their stings, I asked Bob if he was stung often and if they hurt. He told me that when he first started, he did get stung regularly but the stings were not dangerous, but more of a nuisance. He took me over to a habitat and showed me how fine some jellies tentacles were. Their tentacles were almost invisible to the naked eye. He quickly added that he rarely gets stung now and credits this to more experience with working with jellies.

Volunteering at the aquarium follows a theme in Bob’s life because his love of animals started at a very young age. As a young boy, he started “spending an awful lot of time” at the local pet store and over time, befriended the owners. The owners, seeing Bob’s enthusiasm for animals, asked him to help with odd jobs around the store. One day the owners asked him to bring his mother in, to praise Bob for his dedication and his hard work. They also wanted to ask his mother, if they could pay him for his hard work. His mother refused to allow them to pay him, but they came to an agreement where Bob would be paid in hamsters, as he was very fond of them. This first ‘job’ sparked in him a love for animal husbandry which he has carried his whole life and brought him to his current roles within the Vancouver Aquarium.

The Vancouver Aquarium would not be the world class attraction that it is without the hard work and dedication of volunteers, like Bob. They are the lifeblood of the organization and give so much to ensure visitors have an amazing experience. There are so many different roles that a person can volunteer for including teaching the public about the animals in the galleries, assisting with the Wet Lab program, helping with after hour events and so much more. Husbandry roles are limited and are given to volunteers who demonstrate dedication and commitment, like Bob. We invite you to visit our volunteer page for more information about recruitment and opportunities.

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