Eyes on Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre


The following is a guest blog post written and researched by one of Volunteer Victoria’s newest volunteer writers, Gwen Hill. Gwen is one of two Volunteer Victoria Media Copy Writers and she joined us in early 2011. She says she “has been writing for pleasure and craft since she figured out how to hold a pen”.  Enjoy!

To check out available volunteer opportunities with the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre, you can search their listings on Volunteer Victoria’s website:  http://ow.ly/46056.

The Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre opened its doors on June 20th, 2009, merging the resources and exhibits of the  Marine Ecology Centre from Sidney/Cowichan Bay, with those of the Sidney Marine Mammal Museum.

How many times have you poked a sea anemone?

If you’ve lived in British Columbia for more than a month, the odds are good that your answer is: ‘More than once’.  At the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre, you can combine the excitement of the ocean and all its inhabitants with the pleasure of learning their names, where they come from, and how they reproduce.

You enter the Centre through a large sliding porthole, which transports you – shaking and bubbling all the way – to the bottom of the ocean floor. (This is an illusion. Take deep breaths.) When you step out, you are greeted by the friendly, smiling face of a volunteer – or ‘Oceaneers’, as they are known.  After a brief explanation of what you’re about to see, you may wander to your heart’s content, and ask questions of anyone in a green vest. Lighted screens give information and surprising little factoids.  Did you know there were near-albino sea cucumbers?  Would you like to see one?  I know just the place!

“Our Oceaneers really are the heart and soul and very much the personality
of the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre. They are what brings the experience
alive for our visitors, and we see them as absolutely fundamental.
The range of experience and backgrounds that they bring, be they age 11 or 81,
makes our volunteers a core part of our identity.”

-Angus Matthews, Executive Director

If you were to volunteer, you would have the opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge about each creature inhabiting the many tanks and displays. Whether your interests lie in creating programs for school groups, designing interactive displays, or helping a child pick up their very first starfish, the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre has something for you.

Hayley and Joelle at the touch tank.

Volunteers can gain work experience while chatting with patrons in the gift shop, which shares its space with a suspended, full-scale skeleton of a killer whale.

Throughout the Discovery Centre you will find volunteers chatting with families, running school programs, designing new and exciting interactive displays, and teaching the proper way to poke an anemone. (Gently; with just your baby finger!)  Each volunteer attends a minimum of three training sessions per year, in which they learn about everything from Sea Cucumbers to Octopi.

To volunteer at the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre, you are asked to commit to 60 hours per year.  That’s just an average 1hr and 15mins flexible a week, though of course, you may want to do more! You will also be offered the chance to attend as many Marine Education training sessions as you like above and beyond the minimum of three per year. There is so much to do and see and so many ways to make a difference!

To learn more about the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre, visit their website at http://www.oceandiscovery.ca/ or just drop by!  More information about volunteering is provided at: http://www.oceandiscovery.ca/volunteer.

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