Volunteers Get A Deep Dive on Local Marine Education

How deep does your marine education go?NSMEC Curator Jenny Wright stands infront of a fish tank at the aquarium.

Focused on educating the public about the local marine ecosystems of the Sunshine Coast, the Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre (NSMEC) is close to the iconic Atl’kitsem (Howe Sound), Sechelt Inlet and the Skookumchuck Rapids, all supporting a rich diversity of marine life. Operating under a collect-hold-release model, their 1,200 square foot aquarium showcases 30 habitats of exclusively local marine animals, which will be released back to the local marine environment.

Last year NSMEC received a $4,425 Responsive Community Grant to develop and launch VEEP- Volunteer Environmental Education Program, designed for individuals interested in or already volunteering with the Marine Education Centre. The program helps to build capacity by increasing the volunteers’ knowledge base and their marine education expertise.

While the initial vision for the program was to offer in-person lessons, COVID restrictions forced the team to alter the plan and develop the program for online learning. The program is now delivered using an engaging mix of learning tools including video, story mapping and knowledge review.

Program participants work through four key topics of marine education within our region, chosen because of how they link together- Eelgrass, Sea Stars & Other Echinoderms, Glass Sponge Reefs, and Rockfish. Eelgrass is an important habitat for species and is where Sea Stars go to breed, and Glass Sponge Reefs are a habitat for Rockfish.

Getting the word out was initially challenging but thanks to the savvy folks at NSMEC 15 people have completed the program and earned their certificates! One participant’s reflections summed it up beautifully, “I learned so much about how intricate the balance in the survival of these creatures and plants is and my eyes were opened wide to the delicate yet powerful connection every living thing has to each other no matter where we are on the planet.”

If you’re interested in completing the NSMEC Volunteer Enironmental Education Program, you can register here or by contacting NSMEC Curator, Jenny Wright at jenny@gibsonsmarine-ed.org

Looking for more stories about the impact our grants are having on the Sunshine Coast? Find more great stories about community building, here

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