Volunteers are an integral part of National Museums Liverpool, and without them, important work would not be able to take place. To celebrate Volunteers Week we are meeting more volunteers as part of a bumper Volunteer Spotlight series so we can really celebrate the different contributions that our amazing volunteers make.
I’m quite fortunate in my role that I get to go out and about to our various venues to meet amazing volunteers, for this Spotlight, I was incredibly lucky to meet Chloe and Laura from the Aquarium at the World Museum and gain an insight into a small part of their day to day routine, which for me, involved a behind the scenes tour of the Aquarium!
From the get go, it was clear how much knowledge and passion Chloe has for her role volunteering with the Live Centres team; she is currently studying Wildlife Conservation at Liverpool John Moore University and was ready for a new challenge when she came across the Aquarium Volunteer – Student Placement. The placement would provide her new experiences and fill the gap between university and work. Not only that – but the experience would look good on a CV.
Laura, who is an Education Demonstrator with the Live Centres team, explained that there aren’t that many places where you are able to gain experience in conservation, it’s a hard field to get in to. Laura is really supportive of having volunteers and placement students as it allows the team to do bigger, more exciting projects. It struck me how well Chloe understood the creatures that she works with and their personalities, from a feisty lobster, lazy crab and which dogfish liked having their belly rubbed; I suppose when you are around something regularly you get to know them!
There has been a lot of training provided for the volunteers to ensure that everyone has a strong understanding of the creatures and their respective needs. Feeding is a meticulous process, from weighing out individual meals, dietary requirements and knowing how to feed each creature (trust me, they’re all different!). In addition to feeding time, Chloe and the other volunteers spend their time cleaning the tanks, syphoning old food and transferring fish. Its not all animal husbandry, Chloe also takes part in demonstrations for the public, activity days and craft events.
As with all Spotlights, I asked Chloe what her favourite part of the role is (this must be hard when you get to study amazing creatures). Her first answer was the excitement that you feel when there is a new delivery of baby fish and the second was hand feeding the archer fish. What makes feeding the archer fish an interesting experience is if you stick the food to the insider of the tank, the archer fish will spit at it so that it drops into the water. I can understand why it’s a fun watch.
Chloe’s interest in wildlife extends further than university and volunteering; she has a house full of creatures including a giant snail, a snake, a gecko and bearded dragon to name but a few! A lot of her pets are rescues and are often in poor health when Chloe gets them, but she uses her specialist knowledge to nurse them.
However, as a break to all of the wildlife, Chloe is a keen gamer, sci-fi fan and crafter. She enjoys cross stitching and felting which comes in handy for the Aquarium team crafternoons [in preparation for public events]. Volunteering and placements are great for both the staff team and the volunteers. Chloe explained that not only is it great experience but she has been able to meet new people who are experts in their field; more importantly, they’ve become friends! Laura echoes this, explaining the importance of having volunteers and how it also benefits the creatures that they are working with, as those new to the field boost the enthusiasm of everyone in the team, they make interesting observations and recognise when the animals are reacting differently. Not only that, but they come on board with lots of new ideas and fresh information from their studies.
There are lots of changes planned for the Aquarium at the World Museum and it’s going to be an exciting time for the Living Centres team, volunteers included! Having had a sneak peak, and the opportunity to meet some of the wildlife behind the scenes I think you will be in for a treat when the Aquarium reopens!