“To do what I can to protect our waters”
Marine Mammal Rehabilitation
Vancouver Aquarium Volunteer
Kelsey Fonda has always had a love for the water. That’s what happens when you grow up with a tug boat captain for a father.
“I am probably on a boat once a week at least” she says. “Growing up a lot of times he’d be working on something and I’d be stuck sitting there on the dock. I guess those times of contemplation by the water kind of make you think and it stuck with me.”
And think she did, all the way into the Sciences at Simon Fraser University, where she is completing a degree in Biology with a minor in Physical Geography. But these childhood experiences have led to more than just a degree for Kelsey—they laid the foundation for a passion and commitment to protect the waters and those animals living in them.
In an effort to learn more, she began volunteering at the Vancouver Aquarium in 2001, a natural fit for someone with an interest in marine mammal research and rescue in Vancouver. Since then, she has expanded her engagement in the cause to include helping with research in the Aquarium’s Marine Science Centre as well as volunteering with the Marine Mammal Rehabilitation Centre in the summer, a place, she says, where you “have to have a strong heart”.
“We do have to put some seals down” she laments. “Sometimes they come in and they’re in distress and you just really want to hug them”.
According to Statistics Canada, the number one reason youth participate in voluntary activities is because they are motivated by the cause behind the action. In fact, across all age ranges, cause-based volunteerism is the most popular reason to get involved. With Kelsey, the passion behind her choice to volunteer is apparent in the way she talks about why she does what she does.
“At the Aquarium, there was a stellar sea lion named Tag” she relates. “Tag got me through first and second year chemistry and statistics classes. I would go there at 8:00 in the morning before the public got to the Aquarium and I’d see Tag and think “I want to help you” so I’d come back to school and it would make me work harder.” Unfortunately the 15-year old Tag passed away last year from cancer, a dark day for many of the staff and volunteers, who have the same connection Kelsey does to the marine world and all it’s creatures.
While it can be hard to manage those moments with her heart so invested in the animals, Kelsey says the variety of ways she can contribute and see the rewards keep her coming back.
“Seeing [rehabilitated animals] be released—words can’t describe—it’s nice to see. Helping the public to understand. Even if you can stop one person from polluting it makes a difference. Research, not only helping animals in the Aquarium but also other animals out in the wild” she pauses and then adds “I think people typically think ‘oh, I’m going to go volunteer at the Aquarium and stand there and tell people that’s the way to the Amazon’” but there are lots of opportunities to help out and actually get involved”.