The Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) has seen many great volunteers come and go over the years, but one volunteer who has seen the program through since the very beginning is Mary Sidlowski. She is a mainstay at nearly every one of our conservation events, a source of inspiration and comic relief.
Mary began volunteering for the Aquarium in 1993 because she was looking for “a rewarding way to fill her time.” Since then she has become an integral part of many departments; she divides her time between working in Australia Wild Extremes, the rainforest, membership, education, the Marine Animal Rescue Program, and ACT!
“I was in ACT! before ACT! existed,” Mary says with a smile. She recalls a time when the Conservation Team’s only projects were beach clean-ups at Assateague Island, and she says “every year it has gotten better and better.” Now Mary loves to participate in wetland and dune restoration projects, and really enjoys planting the grasses – even if it means being covered in mud! “It’s very rewarding work, because you get to immediately see the results of what you’ve done,” she explains.
When it was time for the Conservation Team to plant its one-millionth grass, there was no question as to who should do the honors. Mary mentions planting this milestone grass as one of the highlights of her ACT! career, but when asked to pick a favorite planting project she could not choose. “I just like planting, I don’t care where we are when we do it,” she replied.
As a member of the Marine Animal Rescue Program, Mary is active in public outreach. She loves to interact with the public, and she has a knack for getting her message across to visitors in a fun and interesting way. Mary also fondly recalls participating in a sea turtle release at Assateague Island, mentioning it as one of her favorite MARP memories. “That’s really what it is all about,” she said.
So what advice does this super-active volunteer have for people who are on the fence about donating their time? “Come, come, come! Come out and plant with us! It is really hard work, but it is worth it!”