Posts Tagged 'volunteering'

It’s National Volunteer Appreciation Week!

In celebration of National Volunteer Appreciation Week, we’re highlighting just a few of the amazing ways our volunteers have gone above and beyond to help the National Aquarium fulfill our mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures!

The passion and dedication of our volunteers led them to log a record-setting 124,390 hours at the National Aquarium in 2013 – a four percent increase over 2012’s total volunteer hours! The 2013 hours come from more than 960 volunteers and represents a $2.87 million workplace value (equivalent to approximately 60 full-time positions).

The Aquarium volunteer team represents a wide range of experience, skills and backgrounds including aquarists, divers, lab assistants, clinical veterinarians and more. The volunteers do everything from assisting at the information desk and diving to grass plantings and animal rescues, and they vary as much as their job descriptions.

The majority of the volunteers are from Baltimore and the surrounding counties, but some traveled from as far away as California, New York, North Carolina and West Virginia.

Here are some major volunteer highlights from 2013:

  • The Jellies Aquarist program tripled its volunteer and service hours.
  • High school students logged close to 10,000 hours in two programs.
  • Volunteers contributed more than 2,000 hours of underwater maintenance for Dolphin Discovery.
  • Eastern Shore Animal Rescue volunteers doubled their service hours to 1,153 in stranding and outreach activities.

For more information about volunteer opportunities at the National Aquarium, visit aqua.org/volunteer.

Stay tuned for more volunteer highlights throughout the week and join the conversation online using #NVW14!

Volunteer Spotlight: Jillie Drutz, Chesapeake Conservation Corps

We would like to welcome the newest volunteer of the Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!), Jillie Drutz! Joining the National Aquarium as the 4th Chesapeake Conservation Corps (CCC) volunteer the department has hosted, Jillie will be dedicating a year to helping the Conservation department in their endeavors to conserve, restore, and educate about the Chesapeake watershed.

national aquarium volunteer jillie

The Chesapeake Conservation Corps, a program supported by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, was established in 2010 by the Maryland Legislature in order to provide environmental service-learning opportunities for young professionals interested in pursuing conservation careers. The initiative pairs around 25 Corps volunteers with environmental organizations focusing on Chesapeake Bay conservation all throughout Maryland.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Jillie graduated in May of 2013 from the George Washington University in Washington, DC where she earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Biological Anthropology. She always knew that one day she would dedicate some time to working to protect the Chesapeake Bay, which is why she applied to the Chesapeake Conservation Corps. Jillie feels extremely honored to be assigned to the National Aquarium, where she gets to combine her love of fieldwork and education, and where she can learn more about how a museum institution can be involved in the local community.

Jillie has already had the opportunity to participate in wetland restoration at the Masonville fringe wetland and riparian buffer restoration at Farring-Baybrook Park and Indian Head Naval Facility. She has also worked with students in our Wetland Nursery Program. She enjoys working with community volunteers and students from various backgrounds during these projects, and is excited for the opportunity to give back to her city and her Bay. She cannot wait for the field season to start again in the Spring!

Sign up for one of our upcoming conservation events and come meet our new volunteer!

Thoughtful Thursday: Our National Marine Sanctuaries Tell an Important Story

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Over the years, we’ve been lucky to share America’s aquatic treasures with millions of visitors. Chief among those treasures is our nation’s network of marine sanctuaries!

Earlier this week, our Chief Conservation Officer Eric Schwaab sat on a panel on Capitol Hill to discuss the successes and importance of our Marine Sanctuary Program. His role was to highlight the shared goals of aquariums and the program – including to help people appreciate the economic and environmental importance of healthy ocean resources and to emphasize the wonder, diversity and importance of our National Marine Sanctuaries.

guam national marine sanctuary

Just like their terrestrial counterparts, the National Parks, National Marine Sanctuaries are protected areas of our oceans and Great Lakes that preserve the natural and cultural heritage of our country. They are places of recreation, research, conservation, protection and managed use. Since 1972 when the Marine Protection, Research and Protection Act was passed, 14 Marine Protected Areas (13 Sanctuaries and 1 Marine National Monument) have been designated. In total, more than 170,000 square miles of aquatic habitats are under the protection of the National Marine Sanctuary Program.

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Map of National Marine Sanctuaries (via NOAA).

Why are these areas singled out for protection? The answer is different for each sanctuary. Some, like the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary were created to protect significant cultural sites. Sixteen miles off the coast of North Carolina, the final resting place of the USS Monitor became the first sanctuary in 1975. The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was created to protect humpback whales and their habitat in Hawaii. It is considered one of the world’s most important humpback whale habitats, providing protected breeding, calving and nursing areas.

Many sanctuaries were designated because of their combined habitat and economic value. Managed, sustainable use of resources within sanctuary borders is allowed and strictly regulated. Recreational diving, ecotourism and fishing are all activities that are supported to varying degrees within the sanctuaries.

A loggerhead turtle in our Gray's Reef gallery

With all of the threats our oceans are facing, it is critically important that we continue to support underwater protected areas like these sanctuaries. It’s in these special places that we can study oceanographic processes and man’s effect on them. We can protect endangered species and habitats. We can learn how to manage for the sustainable use of our ocean’s resources. We can explore our underwater world in its natural state!

Finally, there are things we can all do to make sure these sanctuaries and our oceans are protected and healthy. You can volunteer (many sanctuaries need help with education, outreach, data collection and monitoring), sit on an advisory council or change one thing in your daily routine that will make a difference for our oceans and these special places.

Have you ever had the opportunity to visit a National Marine Sanctuary? Tell us about it in the comments section!

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Thoughtful Thursday: The Nation’s First Urban Wildlife Refuge!

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National Aquarium is proud to announce that our circle of partners at Masonville Cove will now include a federal agency: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)!  Today, the National Aquarium and its partners joined with government officials and community members to formally announce Masonville Cove as the first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership in the United States.

John Sarbanes

Congressman Sarbanes speaking at today’s designation.

Through the Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership program, FWS offices across the nation embarked on a mission to join forces with their local, urban conservation counterparts.  Dozens of worthy applications were submitted for official recognition, and eight partnerships were accepted for designation and support.  We are thrilled to announce that our own Masonville Cove is one of these eight!

Masonville Cove

Part of the recently restored area at Masonville Cove!

About the Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership Program
While the FWS refuge system encompasses some of our country’s most pristine and unique landscapes, a majority of the refuges are in remote locations, making them inaccessible to large portions of the population.  With 80 percent of Americans living in urban areas, they identified the need to find innovative ways to share the FWS mission with this expanded audience. Cue the Urban Wildlife Refuge Program!

Ultimately, the goal is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.  Through this new program, FWS aims to have a broader and more effective impact through partnering with existing urban conservation organizations.

At National Aquarium, our mission is to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures, and we are proud to take that mission beyond our doors with our amazing group of conservation partners. Today was a special day for National Aquarium at Masonville Cove.

National Aquarium is working to engage students and other local citizens in the process of habitat restoration and we are thrilled to be a part of this unique project – one that highlights the importance of creating and supporting a home for wildlife within an urban center and one that helps bring opportunities to connect with wildlife to urban populations.

- Eric Schwaab, Chief Conservation Officer for National Aquarium. 

Eric Schwaab at Masonville Cove

Our CCO, Eric Schwaab, speaking at today’s event.

While this initiative does not make the land at Masonville Cove a National Wildlife Refuge, it does mean that the FWS presence will be felt at the campus.  Already, several benefits have been realized including a FWS intern stationed at Masonville Cove, and the creation of a Wildlife Management Plan to maximize habitat use at the site.  All of the organizations involved share a common goal of environmental conservation and restoration, and by working together we all increase our chances of making this goal a reality in urban centers.

About Masonville Cove

The Masonville Cove Nature Area was opened in 2012 on a restored site owned by the Maryland Port Administration on the Patapsco River, allowing public access to the cove for the first time in over 70 years. The nature area offers opportunities within the city limits for walking, fishing, bird watching and other recreational activities. Currently 11 acres of the nature area are open to the public and, after further restoration in the next few years, 52 acres will be open to the public. National Aquarium helps lead community-based restoration efforts on the sight, engaging more than 1,000 volunteers in planting more than 45,000 native plants along the shoreline so far, including a wetland restoration event just last week.

Conservation Team at Masonville Cove

Our conservation team checking out Masonville Cove’s new official Urban Wildlife Refuge signage!

If you are interested in visiting the cove, there are many opportunities for recreation and educational programming.  Visit www.masonvillecove.org for details.  Masonville Cove is also looking for volunteers who love nature and enjoy sharing their passion with others! Friends of Masonville Cove work to improve and manage this urban wilderness area, as well as introduce other community members to the educational and recreational activities Masonville Cove has to offer. If you are interested in a long-term volunteer opportunity involving everything from debris cleanups to gardening to scientific wetland monitoring, please e-mail friends@masonvillecove.org for more information.

The National Aquarium will be hosting another habitat restoration opportunity at the Cove next Spring.  Sign up for our e-newsletter to keep up-to-date on these and other volunteer opportunities!

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Thoughtful Thursday: How Will You Spend Your Day To Serve?

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Last year more than 14,000 volunteers at 750 community service projects donated their time and talents during the first-annual Day to Serve. This unique event “unites people of all faiths, races, cultures, and backgrounds with the shared goal of helping those in need and improving the communities where we live”.

In 2013 event organizers hope to double the effort. They have set aside September 15-29 for the event and have asked organizations around the region to rally their volunteers to “Feed the Hungry. Heal the Planet.”

Governor Martin O’Malley says, “Starting September 15th, we’ll work together as a community – as Marylanders and Virginians, West Virginians and Washingtonians – to harness the incredible power of service. Marylanders are a compassionate, generous people who know the way forward can be found by helping our neighbors in need. For the second year in a row, we encourage all our citizens to join us in recognizing the connections between the health of our people, and the health of our land, water and air. Together, we can eradicate hunger, and protect and restore our environment.”

In honor of this year’s Day to Serve, the National Aquarium will host a wetland restoration project at Masonville Cove!

Masonville Cove

Local students and community volunteers will be planting 15,000 native wetland grasses along the banks of the Patapsco River. This event is part of a much larger restoration project that will be part of the long-term mission to revitalize the Baltimore Harbor, and will help to create valuable aquatic habitat right here in Baltimore City! This fringe wetland will create foraging ground for fish species like striped bass and white perch, and will provide nesting habitat for shorebirds.

Click here if you would like to join this greater effort to improve our communities. Hope to see you there!

The Masonville Cove Project is a partnership between the National Aquarium, Maryland Port Administration, Maryland Environmental Service, and The Living Classrooms Foundation.

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