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There’s More Than You Think

Education | Volunteering | Birds

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Brittany

Other than just regular volunteering and occasional special events, there are many other things that the Aquarium of the Pacific volunteers are involved it. One recent task that I can think of is the Orange County Kelp Restoration Project. I received an e-mail about this particular project a few days ago and I was immediately hooked. So, what do the Education Volunteers actually do in this project? Well, according to the description, the volunteers go out on a boat along with some divers and relax while the divers do their thing. Then, we will be able to do some water testing, sea urchin surveys, and record data… all on the boat! The description also mentioned that the area in which the boat will be in is a great place to spot wildlife such as dolphins, sea lions, migratory birds, grey whales, harbor seals and more. I immediately tried signing up but there was no more space available on my chosen date. I was considering signing up for a school day, because I really wanted to go as soon as possible, but that wasn’t the best choice. So, I’m just going to wait for the next batch of dates which will probably be sometime in January or wait and see if someone cancels and I can take their place. I am honestly so excited about this. I’ve been telling everybody about it. It sounds like it will be a wonderful experience.

One outing that I actually did get a chance to be involved in a while ago was to the Bolsa Chica Wetland Reserve. I think of that outing as somewhat of a mini field trip. It was for any Aquarium worker to attend it they wanted. It was my first time doing something with the Aquarium that was not actually on the Aquarium grounds. Anyway, I carpooled in the Yellow Submarine minivan (very fun!) and happened to meet another volunteer who, get this, had previously tried out to be a killer whale trainer at Sea World! So, we spent nearly the entire time talking and I asked her tons of questions. She mentioned how competitive it was and how challenging the swim test turned out to be. I learned a lot. See, working at the Aquarium along with people who are interested in the same things you are has its rewards. I can’t tell you how much I have learned form talking with different co-workers and guests.

Once we got to the reserve, we waited for the others to show up for a while. After a few moments, we then realized that we were waiting in the wrong spot and a few minutes later we were united with the rest of the group. Other than the people that I was carpooling with in the Yellow Submarine, I didn’t know anybody. But of course, that changed very quickly because Aquarium of the Pacific volunteers are just so friendly. :]. I learned a great deal about the birds that reside in the wetlands. Our tour guide knew so much information that it was mind-boggling. There were a few birds that I had seen before but had never really payed much attention to. But by the time the “field trip” was over, I knew all about when their breeding season was, what colors they were when they were juveniles and adults, what colors they were in their breeding season. It was great. I had actually been there before one a field trip in the fourth grade but I seem to have forgotten a lot…

I have had a few more experiences with being involved in the Aquarium while not actually being on Aquarium grounds like going on a boat called the Conqueror to assist with our seasonal Ocean Experience. That was really interesting. The Conqueror is actually a research vessel and has many cool tools on it. We collected a sample of the ocean floor and let the guests on the boat dig around through it and see what kinds of creatures they could find. I found a lot of ghost shrimp. I mean a lot. Also, before the boat actually left the dock, the Education Staff set up a trap by the breakwater to see what they could catch in it. It turns out that we caught a crab with a few barnacles on it. There were critters that were caught on previous days that were available for petting. I recall there being a few shovelnose guitarfish, bat rays, sea stars, keyhole limpets, a lizardfish (which actually was not available for touching because they are extremely sensitive and delicate), and a sheep crab. I think the sheep crab was my favorite. I had never seen one before, or anything like it for that matter. On the whole trip I also saw a few sea lions. I liked that experience so much I went on the Conquer multiple times.

So, there’s a little bit about some of the things Aquarium people like me do or are able to do outside of the actual Aquarium. Hopefully I can go on that kelp project soon and tell you all about it!

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Renee

Wednesday, November 28, 2007 08:17 PM

Hi Brittany,
Kudos for volunteering !  what do you know and/or what are your thoughts about the increase in the number of dead whales and the possibility of their deaths being related to the Navy performing sonar activity?
Renee

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Brittany

Thursday, November 29, 2007 06:01 PM

Thank you very much for that important question. I have forwarded it to the person with the most expertise in this area to respond.  Please give us a few days to post our answer.

Liz's avatar

Liz

Tuesday, December 04, 2007 12:20 PM

While scientific literature does indicate that marine mammals may be affected by exposure to human induced noises in the ocean, very little is still known about the prevalence and range of these effects.  Both the complexity of how sound travels in the ocean as well as the fact that many marine mammals are very mobile and their behavior is variable, make this issue controversial and complicated.  Whale strandings are attributed to a variety of reasons from sickness to ship strikes and possibly even sound for specific species of whales.  However, when it comes to sound it is hard to scientifically prove how it is directly impacting whales.  There is a lot of noise in the ocean, both man made (i.e. commercial shipping, defense-related, recreation activities) and natural (i.e. volcanic activity, animal sounds), and scientists are working hard to understand how all of these sounds effect marine mammals.  In the particular case you are referring to the evidence indicates that these whales died due collisions with ships.

References:
Hildebrand, J.A.
Impacts of Anthropogenic Sound on Cetaceans
IWC SC/E/13 (2004)

Coastal Commission Comments on the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammals
http://www.coastal.ca.gov/energy/comments-mmc-12-2005.pdf

NOAA Information
http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/acoustics/bibliography.htm

All blogs and comments represent the views of the individual authors and not necessarily those of the Aquarium.

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