Arts & Life, Special Projects, Student Choice Awards Winner

Volunteers at the Aquarium of the Pacific get it done

When you go to the Aquarium of the Pacific and you find yourself in corridors of tropical fish and frolicking otters, it is easy to miss a vital part of the whole experience.

Out in the open or sometimes behind the scenes, volunteers united in their passion for the ecosystem dedicate their time to work at the aquarium. Those volunteers are part of the reason why students at Long Beach State voted the Aquarium of the Pacific as the “Best Place to do a Good Deed.”

“We have a tremendous crew of volunteers who help out throughout the aquarium, and they help out off-site as well,” the manager of volunteer services Cassandra Davis said.

Several families explore the ray habitat touch pool, with a couple of them touching the animals for the first time. Rays are a part of the shark family, but some are them are still safe to touch.
Several families explore the ray habitat touch pool, with a few of them touching the animals for the first time. Rays are a part of the shark family, but some are them are still safe to touch. Photo credit: Steven Matthews

Offsite volunteers help with repairing projects for endangered species, habitats and trash removal by helping create cleanup programs in coastal neighborhoods. The aquarium is celebrating its 25th anniversary as in-house volunteers are busy as well.

Jerry Bassett holds two volunteer positions and once a week, he’s an aquarist, where he helps with food preparation and feeding the animals. Other days, he is an education volunteer where he gets to work closer with the guests.

A group gathers to watch the feeding show for the seals and sea lions. Not only is this an opportunity for the animals to show off playfully to the crowd, but it also gives aquarium workers a chance to bring the animals on dry land for a quick inspection.
A group gathers to watch the feeding show for the seals and sea lions. Not only is this an opportunity for the animals to show off playfully to the crowd, but it also gives aquarium workers a chance to bring the animals on dry land for a quick inspection. Photo credit: Steven Matthews

“If there’s any guests that have questions, we will have an answer for them,” Bassett said. “If there are any facts that we find interesting about the animals, we like to give that to the guests and hopefully get them to discover more.”

Bassett’s favorite fact to give to guests is that even though otters spend most of their time in the water, their skin never gets wet because their fur is too thick. At one million hairs per square inch, water can’t penetrate it.

Sometimes volunteer work at the aquarium can lead to more.

Elena Range had a marine science background and started two years ago at the aquarium as an education volunteer. She realized that all she wanted to do was share her knowledge of marine life with others and now she’s a senior education specialist.

It’s a common sight to see school buses outside of the Aquarium of the Pacific. With that many students and other guests at the aquarium, the education workers and volunteers stay busy throughout most of the day.
It’s a common sight to see school buses outside of the Aquarium of the Pacific. With that many students and other guests at the aquarium, the education workers and volunteers stay busy throughout most of the day. Photo credit: Steven Matthews

Range coordinates directly with visiting schools to teach students about the aquarium and travels with the Aquarium on Wheels, a mobile exhibit truck. That way she gets to share her knowledge with communities and children who cannot access the aquarium or the ocean.

“Getting to see their faces and their expressions and their excitement for this new thing they’re interacting with and learning about, I think it’s a really fulfilling thing for me,” Range said.

There are also events and festivals that people can volunteer for, such as the upcoming Festival of Human Abilities in the spring.

“There are opportunities for people to volunteer as part of the festival and for people to learn more about people with different abilities and what they are doing to express themselves and engage others,” Davis said.

After a day at the aquarium, some students from a nearby school, along with their local peers, take a few moments to watch the fountain show before they head home.
After a day at the aquarium, some students from a nearby school along with their local peers take a few moments to watch the fountain show before they head home. Photo credit: Steven Matthews

For any student looking to do a good deed, the Aquarium of the Pacific is located at 100 Aquarium Way and is open year-round; they can reach out through the volunteer section on their website.

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