Share your enthusiasm about marine animals and, in doing so, help to create more new stewards for Long Island Sound by signing up to serve as a volunteer at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.
Sign-up deadlines are approaching soon for separate February trainings: to become Gallery Ambassadors (ages 18 and up) and for a new volunteer program for ages 14 to 18 called ECHO (Education Conservation Heritage and Outreach).
“Volunteering here is fun and personally rewarding,” said Ann Marie Lisi, the Aquarium’s associate director of education. “Weekday shifts are perfect for retirees and stay-at-home parents after they get their kids off to school. And the new ECHO program offers a great experience for high-school students thinking about a career in marine biology or the environmental sciences.”
The volunteer program is critical to The Maritime Aquarium’s ability to fulfill its mission of educating and inspiring guests about Long Island Sound and the world ocean. Last year, volunteers gave an invaluable 18,575 hours of service.
By engaging with guests and interpreting exhibits – such as the new seal exhibit, Shark & Ray Touch Pool and “Jiggle A Jelly” – Gallery Ambassadors raise awareness and help to create new stewards of the Sound. Prior knowledge about the marine world isn't necessary. That's what will be taught in the upcoming training course.
Deadline to sign up is Thurs., Feb. 3, followed by virtual interviews with applicants on Feb. 8 and Feb. 10.
Selected candidates will be invited to evening training workshops on Tues., Feb. 15 and Thurs. Feb. 24 (both live online) and on Thurs., Feb. 17 and Tues., Feb. 22 (both at the Aquarium). Participation in all four sessions is required. Candidates also must complete an online course.
You must be at least 18 years old to sign up. Adult volunteers are especially needed for weekday time slots. The minimum time commitment required of Aquarium volunteers is 100 total hours, at four hours per week for weekday volunteers and four hours per month for weekend staff.
For Gallery Ambassadors, a $50 fee covers the costs of training materials and uniforms.
ECHO is designed for high-school students who are passionate about the environment, conservation and The Maritime Aquarium. They’ll staff special interactive displays and lead Aquarium guests through mission-aligned activities, guide young guests in the new “Sea & Discover Zone” exhibit opening soon, and participate in hands-on community-science opportunities in the field focusing on marine debris.
In this new tiered program, teens also will have opportunities to rise through responsibility levels as they interact with guests, staff mission celebrations, and help mentor and supervise ECHO teens at lower levels.
“ECHO teens will gain valuable, transferable skills that will aid them in preparation for life after high school,” Lisi said. “We’re excited by how the program will create confident community advocates who are well-versed in both local and global conservation issues and initiatives.”
Anyone ages 14 to 18 and currently enrolled in high school is welcome to apply to ECHO.
Sign up between Feb. 1 and March 1. Virtual interviews with applicants will be held on Wed., March 9 and Fri., March 11.
Selected candidates will be invited to evening training workshops on Wed., March 16 and Fri., March 18 (both virtual) and on Sat., March 19 (at the Aquarium). Participation in all three sessions is required. Candidates also must complete an online course.
During the school year, ECHO teens must volunteer during two shifts per month on weekends and holidays, plus additional hours for citizen science and professional-development opportunities. A minimum of 50 hours is required for each of the fall and spring trimesters. Time commitments change during the summer trimester.
The Maritime Aquarium is grateful to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for awarding a grant to support the launch of the ECHO program. Thanks to the grant, the $50 registration fee is waived through August 2023.
All Maritime Aquarium volunteers receive discounts in the Gift Shop, Cascade Café, 4D Theater and on many programs.
The Maritime Aquarium is fully open with special COVID precautions for guests, volunteers and staff. Masks must be worn by everyone over age 2, no matter their vaccination status. And all staff and active volunteers must be fully vaccinated.
Learn more – and sign up – at www.maritimeaquarium.org/volunteer.