High school students can get commuity service hours by volunteering at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center.

High school students can get commuity service hours by volunteering at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center. (Courtesy photo)

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center on Stearns Wharf is seeking volunteers ages 11 and older to share their passion for the ocean and its inhabitants.

As Santa Barbara’s local aquarium and marine science center, the Sea Center gives volunteers an opportunity to educate the public about Santa Barbara’s coastal environment, perform hands-on demonstrations, and give live animal presentations at the Shark Cove, Intertidal Wonders, and Wet Deck exhibits.

Volunteers learn about the care and biology of sea creatures such as sharks, rays, sea stars, and anemones. They gain valuable experience as educators communicating science, translating scientific terminology and technical information into casual language understandable to aquarium visitors of all ages.

Volunteering offers a chance for high school students to collect community service hours needed to graduate, but many find it a reward in itself.

“I have far exceeded what I needed,” said high school student Elena Everest, explaining why she has remained a volunteer, giving about 150 hours when only 60 hours are required by the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

“I wanted some community service hours, and I needed some people skills,” she said. “I kinda needed to learn how to talk to people, but as time went on, I really grew to love it here. You learn something new every day.”
Volunteers also grow to appreciate the unique biodiversity of the Santa Barbara Channel by seeing it through the enthusiastic eyes of visitors from afar. Volunteer Derek Calzada shared a memory of some particularly excited guests:

“One of the first weeks that I’m here, I meet this family from the Midwest. They run in here looking for the sharks,” after a lifeguard told them they could actually touch sharks at the Sea Center. “They ran up [here] with all their might, and were touching the sharks for 15 minutes, and the mom said that was their best experience in Santa Barbara.”

Volunteer Amelia Danko said she values the opportunity to be an ambassador not just for Santa Barbara, but for ocean health, and its importance to the health of the planet.

“Working at the Sea Center, you can not only share your knowledge about the sea creatures we have here, but also remind visitors to protect our oceans,” she said.

The Sea Center welcomes volunteers of all ages, but those under 14 years must volunteer with a guardian. The experience offers ongoing opportunities to learn about local marine life, meet people, and promote ocean conservation.

Volunteers can attend monthly advanced trainings, lectures, and occasional field trips to marine habitats. Past trips have included guided tours to unique areas not typically open to the public.

For more information on the Sea Center’s volunteer program visit sbnature.org/scvolunteer or contact the volunteer manager, 805-962-2526 ext. 104, or scvolunteermanager@sbnature2.org.