Recently I was trying to find something to do with my spare time besides sitting on the computer or playing the Wii. I came across a volunteer opportunity at the local aquarium and put in my application. Earlier this month I graduated from the 8 week course and am now a “Docent” at the Tennessee Aquarium. If you don’t know, like I didn’t, a Docent is a person who provides information or leads a tour group. Once a week, sometimes more, I go to the aquarium and spend 4 or more hours stationed throughout the building answering questions from guests. While I get very interesting and challenging questions from all ages, by far the most common question is “Where is the bathroom?”
Regardless, I find it a very rewarding way to spend my free time. The Tennessee Aquarium boasts the second largest fresh water aquarium in the world, having only recently lost the number one spot to Mall of America. It has also received the nation’s highest award for community service, the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, for its work with the local community and re-populating the river and lake sturgeon population. A species that, due to the harvesting of its caviar, is highly threatened.
You will find everything from small Shiners, large sea turtles, sand tiger sharks and even a sting ray touch tank where you can pet and feed the rays. Divers regularly enter the tanks to feed the animals and speak with guests through a special intercom system in their masks.
It’s fun to watch the wonder of children and adults alike while in the jelly fish area, where numerous rare species of jellies reside as well as huge spider crabs and a couple of octopus species. On some days I simply wander the building, approaching guests as I hear them wondering about a specific animal.
Of course I get perks like the ability to enter the aquarium at any time I like free of charge, taking my family members behind the scenes to watch how food is prepared and distributed to the animals and a significant discount on the gift shop items.
So, if you’re ever in Chattanooga, Tennessee, come on down to the Aquarium and see us! Look for me in the Penguin or Delta Swamp exhibits, as those are my favorites.