Friday, April 26, 2013

National Volunteer Week 2013: Volunteer Supervisors

One of the ways we help to create memorable and dynamic experiences for our volunteers here at the Aquarium is by pairing each volunteer with a volunteer supervisor. As experts in their field, volunteer supervisors pass on their extensive knowledge and experience to each of the volunteers they work with, giving them one-of-a-kind experiences they probably couldn’t get anywhere else!

Today, we have an interview with one of these supervisors to get their perspective on working with volunteers (and being one!)—Erin Weber of the Marine Mammals department!

What was your volunteer/intern experience at the Aquarium like?
After my internship ended I stayed on as a volunteer in Marine Animal Rescue department, as well as picking up a part-time position at the Information Desk in April. Over the summer of 2009, I also started to volunteer in the Marine Mammals department. (You may be wondering how I was able to be in three departments at the same time…for a few months I was actually at the aquarium 6 to 7 days a week!)  I eventually switched over to working part-time in Rescue and still volunteering in Mammals, until July 2010 when I got hired full-time into the Mammals department. And look at that - all my time in multiple departments actually paid off!

How do volunteers help you do your job?
Volunteers literally make our days possible. For the Mammals department they come in every morning, thaw hundreds of pounds of fish and squid, and bucket it up for each individual seal’s feeds for the day (14 animals each getting 3 to 4 feeds per day…that’s a lot of buckets!). They also help with various other cleaning and organizing tasks throughout the day. And lastly, they often play crucial roles in training sessions, providing an extra hand to be a “mock” veterinarian for training new behaviors, or even feeding an animal for doing something across the exhibit from us (such as a speed swim).

What has been your most memorable experience working with a volunteer?
Some of our volunteers (or past interns that stay on as volunteers) have been here for many years, so we all develop close relationships with them over our time together. It’s great being able to help get them connected with other opportunities in the field—my favorite experience was helping get a former volunteer get a job as a trainer at a facility I had interned at during college.

And a message to current and future volunteers and interns: There are so many resources available to you, as well as connections to be made, not only within the Aquarium but also with additional institutions. Most of the staff here have worked with colleagues at other facilities in the country, and even world-wide, so take advantage of this. We’re here to help you. Keep in mind, most of us were volunteers or interns once too!

Thank you Erin for all of your support!

Volunteers, how does your volunteer supervisor impact your experience?

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