First off, my apologies for having taken so long to post about my NAIB aquarium diving gig. That’s doesn’t reflect a lack for news, nor is it how I intend to keep this blog. It’s just been an eventful few months. So thanks for your patience. At this point, I’m still in the training phase. I thought I was done with all the studying, but man, was I wrong.
After accepting the invitation to join the team at the National Aquarium, new volunteers are faced with a series of classroom lectures. In the past, these lectures were administered over a couple weekends at an off-site facility. This year, to save money they moved the classes to the Aquarium. That meant doing them after-hours, which meant me driving up to Baltimore on several weeknights to hear the lectures. Usually right around the time when the beltway shuts down completely.
So admittedly, I missed one or two. In all, the courses were:
1. NAIB Orientation, tour of the aquarium
2. Rainforest exhibit, “Interpretation I”
3. Australia exhibit, “Interpretation II”
4. NAIB Safety and Security, “Interpretation III”
5. Sharks and bony fish, the Chesapeake Bay
6. Coral reefs, jellies
7. Final test
I could be mistaken on the order or specifics. Basically, this was a series of lectures given by curators and scientists particular to each area, with the goal of providing new volunteers with a general understanding of the major exhibits at the Aquarium. The “Interpretation” sections were lighthearted, practical lessons in interacting with visitors and optimizing the experience for guests. I should point out that these sessions were not exclusively for scuba divers; in fact, the majority of volunteers attending were aquarists’ assistants and those working the floor.
The lectures were all very good. I enjoyed them and thought that I got a lot out of them. However, on the final test I blew it. It was awful. I think I got a 76% (which was about a “D” or so when I was in school.) The material was way above my pay grade so hopefully it won’t affect my work in the tanks, and maybe over time I’ll learn more about the areas in the Aquarium where there is no diving. (For example, I know for a fact that I got one or two questions wrong about the Kookaburra. I’m not sure I know what a Kookaburra is, and I definitely couldn’t tell you why he is kept away from other animals like him—reptiles, frogs, birds? …don’t know.) I think this was the only exam in which your final score was not used as a determining factor in your position—unless perhaps you just flunked altogether—but more of an analysis as to where each volunteer needs work moving forward.
But it’s over now. No longer do I have to battle the traffic to Baltimore on a Tuesday at 5:30pm, while Tara struggles with a grumpy baby on her own. No more getting lost in Scaggsville, MD (which, believe it or not, I should know my way around) looking for gas stations in the middle of the night.
Now I can put that damn test behind me and get to studying up on the lonely Kookaburra.
all photos © Jeff Nesmith