The Vancouver Aquarium: More than just a place to visit

The Vancouver Aquarium: More than just a place to visit

By: Laura Thornborough | SFU Alumni
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I visited the Volunteer & Civic Opportunity Fair at SFU Burnaby campus last month to find out about different volunteer opportunities in and around the university. One of the guests at this year’s Volunteer and Civic Engagement Week was the beloved Vancouver Aquarium. Many people see the Aquarium as just a place to visit but there is another great way to get involved with the Aquarium…volunteering! Personally, I enjoy volunteering at venues that are part of our great city so I decided to speak to Mari Otomo, the coordinator of youth volunteers at the Vancouver Aquarium, about various volunteer opportunities, what they entail and offer.

Opportunities at the Aquarium are diverse and entertaining. All together there are over 70 volunteer positions available, but the Aquarium does not recruit all of them at the same at any given recruitment. Although the majority are education or conservation based, the positions are beneficial for university students currently enrolled in any major.

Volunteers will receive extensive training before they begin volunteering. There are seven 3-hour mandatory sessions that all volunteers need to attend as part of their general training. The sessions do not require any teaching but participating in the training. After volunteers have gone through their training, they start shadowing other vetran volunteers before they start teaching themselves. It is expected that volunteers commit to at least 6 months or 100 hours.

The Aquarium offers great practical experience for those already exploring the marine mammal field but it also provides an opportunity for those not in this field to develop a variety of different skills. Mari informed me that there are lots of SFU students currently volunteering at the Aquarium and some have been there for years and are in various concentrations of study. In fact, Mari herself was a political science major when she attended SFU!

The Aquarium recruits three times per year. Recruitment is closed until December, but as students know, December creeps up on us quite quickly so now is a good time to start thinking about fitting it into your winter schedule. For a reminder about recruitment opening volunteering at the aquarium in December, simply email volunteer@vanaqua.org with “Remind Me in December” in the subject line.

If you are planning on volunteering keep these following requirements in mind:
• Be at least 14 years of age
• Be able to attend the orientation session and all of the training sessions (4 weeks)
• Have valid Medical Coverage
• Be fluent in English
• Be eligible to volunteer in Canada
• Be able to commit to a minimum of 6 months – one four (4) hour shift per week
• Be able to navigate the Aquarium facility safely
• Be able to purchase Volunteer t-shirt and Volunteer Manual ($40 cost)

For those looking for an even more intensive experience, Vancouver Aquarium has internships. Interns are recruited seasonally based on the needs of the Aquarium. Students are generally chosen for internship positions and the choice is made based on the students skill set and their availability. Canadian students are given priority but international students can also apply.

At this time the Vancouver Aquarium is accepting applications for the following internships, so apply today!
• Marine Mammal Training Internship Program – For those interested in a career in Marine Mammal Training
• Marine Mammal Rescue Internship Program

Remember to include relevant skills and experience in your resume. And go to the Aquariums website  to apply.

River Works is the least intensive of the volunteer programs and requires the least amount of time commitment by volunteers. Volunteers at River Works monitor and restore estuarine habitats along the Fraser River. It is hard work at times and requires physical activity but it is a great way to show your interest in environmental stewardship and to meet others who have an interest in restoring wetlands.

So, as you can see, the Vancouver Aquarium is not just a venue where Vancouverites can visit marine life, it is also a place where students can learn valuable skills and further their careers. As well, it is a place where the public can help advance green eco-friendly initiatives and protect marine and aquatic life.

By Laura Thornborough, SFU Alumni

Posted on October 01, 2009