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This is Volunteer Appreciation Week, which The Florida Aquarium has good cause to celebrate. Manager of Volunteer Services Chelsea Gomez says the 266 active volunteers “interact with guests, care for animals, dive in the exhibits” and are “involved in every single area in The Aquarium.”
Perhaps it is a stretch to say the Aquarium, which employs about 220 full and part-time workers, could not function without volunteers, but as Gomez says, “the volunteers make the difference between a good guest experience and a great one.” The volunteers also make The Aquarium efficient and economical. In the last quarter alone, Gomez says they accounted for 8,000 hours and saved the operation more than $150,000.
Volunteer ages range from 15 to 97, and Gomez says the primary requirements are that they are willing to work hard and that they are passionate about the Aquarium’s vision to “Protect and Restore the Blue Planet.”
It was the Aquarium’s dedication to marine resources that attracted Katie Hartwig (pictured below), a graduate student who began volunteering last year. She is pursuing an environmental education degree with a focus on raising awareness on how plastic debris harms ecosystems. At the Aquarium, with its exhibits that entertain and educate, she found “a reflection of what I hope to accomplish.”