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Volunteering

What You Need to Know About our Volunteer Program

At Mystic Aquarium, our mission is to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through conservation, education and research. No one plays a bigger part in achieving that mission than our volunteers. In fact, there are entire programs that would not be possible without the support of our volunteers!

If you’re thinking about applying to our volunteer program, we encourage you to take a look at the following information before submitting your application. You’ll find volunteers from all walks of life at the Aquarium — students, retirees, homemakers, even full-time workers. If you choose to apply, placement will occur after your interview and will be based on your interests, availability, experience and our areas of need.

Requirements

Click on the descriptions in the ‘Roles & Departments‘ section below to learn more about our roles. Make sure you review these carefully, as each role has different schedules, commitments and requirements.

Husbandry Programs– Applicants must be at least 18 years old. Volunteers need to commit to a full day each week for at least six months.

Non-husbandry Programs– Applicants must be at least 15 years old. Scheduled volunteers need to commit to a minimum of 100 hours. These volunteers give a minimum of a half-day weekly, or a full day every other week.

Special Events– If a weekly or bi-weekly commitment isn’t possible, we also have volunteers who periodically assist with activities at the Aquarium, including overnight programs, summer camps, seasonal events, administrative projects and more.

We ask that all volunteers come appropriately dressed for their location, comply with our staff policies and procedures, and, above all, bring their enthusiasm!

Benefits
  • Free Aquarium admission for yourself
  • Discount on purchases in the Aquarium Gift Shop and Penguins Cafe
  • Staff rates on programs and tickets
  • Continuing education and training
  • Annual Volunteer Appreciation Night
  • Invitations to all staff events
  • Worker’s Compensation benefits
  • An opportunity to be part of our community
  • Unparalleled experiences learning and developing unique skills

In addition to these benefits, your work as a volunteer will pay you back in other ways. As a volunteer, you will:

  • Gain experience in an exciting field.
  • Receive on-the-job training in a friendly work environment.
  • Have the satisfaction of helping others and spreading environmental awareness.

Best of all, you’ll contribute to our mission of research, education and conservation.

Roles & Departments

Volunteers are involved in a wide variety of functions at the Aquarium. Following initial training, volunteers assist in several roles, including exhibit education, classroom assistance, animal rescue and husbandry in animal care areas. We also have specialized SCUBA volunteers who dive our exhibits, as well as special events volunteers who assist with individual events and projects.

Do you want to get your feet wet without actually getting your feet wet? Strengthen your office skills, help out behind the scenes and see the many areas that make the Aquarium tick. We’re looking for help with all sorts of office work and projects.

Minimum Age: 15
Duties: General office work (labeling, sorting, filing, copying, etc.)
Qualifications:

  • Computer skills (Microsoft office experience is helpful)
  • Strong customer service skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Phone skills

Our Animal Rescue Program responds to reports of live and dead marine mammals and sea turtles along the coastlines of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Fisher’s Island, New York. In many circumstances, these animals are in need of rehabilitative care.

Our goal is to provide the best quality animal care to all our rehabilitation patients and then, once healthy, release them back to the ocean.

Minimum Age: 18
Duties:

  • Assist with the overall care of stranded marine animals in our rehabilitation clinic including but not limited to:
    • cleaning of pools
    • preparing food buckets
    • administering medications and vitamins
    • operating life support equipment
  • Assist with the execution of routine husbandry procedures including restraint procedures for veterinary exams and tube feeding of seal pups
  • Perform essential record keeping procedures
  • Help with response to marine mammal and sea turtle strandings
  • Perform other assigned duties

Qualifications:

  • Capable of lifting 50 pounds
  • Physically able to execute the duties of the position
  • Ability to swim
  • Strong communication and teamwork skills
  • Comfortable handling raw fish
  • Good attention to detail

We have a great summer opportunity for those who love to help in a camp counselor role. Volunteers in this area will sign up for individual camps that span a few days to a week at a time.

Minimum Age: 16
Duties:

  • Assist with sign-in, activities and tours
  • Serve entire class (usually 3-5 days)
  • Participate up to eight hours per day
  • Other assigned duties

Qualifications: Must enjoy working with children – be prepared for a changing schedule each day

*Volunteers do not need to make six month commitment for this role.

We are looking for volunteers interested in sharing their passion for the marine environment and education. Volunteers assist the Education & Conservation staff with programming that ranges from working with preschool students in our Sea School classroom to school groups in classrooms at the Aquarium and in schools.

Minimum Age: 15
Duties:

  • Familiarize self with class outlines
  • Maintain a working knowledge of Aquarium animals and exhibits
  • Maintain proper uniform
  • Assist Aquarium teachers in teaching classroom and field programs for students of all ages
  • Travel with Aquarium teachers to present outreach programs at local schools
  • Present public programs within the Aquarium
  • Perform other duties assigned

Qualifications:

  • Communication skills
  • Enjoy working with children
  • Enthusiastic personality
  • Some biology and public speaking experience is helpful

Our Summer Camp Counselor In Training (CIT) program is specifically designed for students ages 16 -18 to provide experience working with children in a unique camp setting. Our teen volunteers will develop leadership and communication skills, as well as increase their comfort with public speaking, all under the guidance of our experienced camp staff.

Requirements
Student must:

  • Attend volunteer orientation and camp training sessions at Mystic Aquarium prior to the start of the summer camp season
  • Have had a physical within the past three years and submit the Aquarium’s health form signed by a doctor
  • Commit to volunteering for a minimum of two weeks during the summer (6/18 -8/24), Monday – Friday, 7:45am-4:15pm
  • Be able to fully participate in all physical outdoor field-based experiences with campers

Benefits

  • Receive community service hours
  • Gain experience working in a team under the mentorship of experienced educators
  • Attend camp field trips and meet with marine career professionals
  • Lunch voucher for Penguins Cafe while volunteering

Responsibilities

  • Assist with camp setup
  • Engage campers in activities during camper drop off and pick up times
  • Assist camp counselors with programming which includes classroom programs, crafts, and Citizen Science activities
  • Assist with camper supervision at the Aquarium and on field trips

Contact Becky Hirsh, Camp Director, at BHirsh@MysticAquarium.org or 860.572.5955 ext.158

Docents play an intricate part in helping to create a positive, long-lasting experience for every guest who visits the Aquarium. On a daily basis, a Docent will deliver fun, educational speeches to the guests about many of the different animal species found around campus. Docents will also get the chance to work hands-on with a variety of different species including marine invertebrates, sharks, rays and birds.

Duties:
• Maintain knowledge of the Aquarium’s emergency procedures, including guest and animal procedures
• Demonstrate Mystic Aquarium’s core values of respect, excellence and promotion
• Smile and proactively greet, direct and inform all guests with courtesy, diplomacy, tact and friendliness
• Maintain up-to-date knowledge of exhibits, animal collection, programs and general Aquarium information concerning campus activities and venues to provide accurate information to guests
• Ensure facility’s cleanliness and safety for guests, staff and animals

If requested, reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

The marketing department is looking for volunteers to assist with special events throughout the year that can range from family events to fundraisers. You could be assisting kids with table top activities, craft activities, games or scavenger hunts, crowd control, checking in guests or manning registration tables. Prior animal knowledge is not required; we will provide you with all that you need to know. Event time frames vary, but do include school vacation breaks in February, April and December as well as seasonal events in summer, fall and winter.

Minimum Age: 16
Duties:

  • Assist guests with activities, crafts, games, etc.
  • Initiate contact with guests, providing a positive experience through being helpful, friendly and knowledgeable
  • Crowd control as needed
  • Provide a positive experience through being helpful, friendly and knowledgeable
  • Relay accurate, consistent, quality information about Mystic Aquarium to guests of all ages, either in groups or one-on-one
  • Perform all other assigned duties

Qualifications:

  • Enthusiastic and outgoing personality
  • Must enjoy working with children and the public

Exhibit Hosts provide support to Guest Services docents during some of our busier and more hands-on exhibits. These habitats involve the guests being able to touch a variety of aquatic animals and are a popular destination for many of our guests.

Exhibit Hosts assist through informing guests about the exhibit’s safety and animal guidelines, encouraging guests to touch and experience the habitat and relaying interesting facts and stories about the animals.

The Arctic Coast is a high-energy environment where volunteers are able to learn about what it’s like to work alongside beluga whales.

Minimum Age: 18
Duties:

  • Care and maintenance of our beluga whales
  • Care and maintenance of exhibit (cleaning, food preparation, operation of life support systems)
  • Assist with presentations, classes and contact programs
  • Assist with routine husbandry procedures
  • Record keeping
  • Participate in animal training procedures
  • Participate in development of husbandry techniques and practices
  • Work with other staff to fulfill areas and facility programming needs
  • Perform other assigned duties

Qualifications:

  • Ability to lift 50 pounds
  • Physically able to execute the duties of the position
  • Ability to swim
  • Strong communication and teamwork skills
  • Commit one full day each week for six months

The animals in our Main Gallery habitats range from tetras to jawfish and seahorses to stingrays. In this role, volunteers get hands-on husbandry experience, learning to clean exhibits, prepare food and assist in feeds with our fish and invertebrates.

Minimum Age: 18
Duties:

  • Care and maintenance of fish and invertebrate collection and exhibits
  • Assist in specimen acquisition and quarantine
  • Execute routine husbandry procedures
  • Record keeping
  • Participate in development of husbandry techniques and practices
  • Work with other staff to fulfill area and facility programming needs
  • Monitor operation of life support systems
  • Ensure all husbandry areas are clean, organized and hazard free
  • Perform other duties as assigned

Qualifications:

  • Capable of lifting 50 pounds
  • Physically able to execute duties of the position
  • Ability to swim
  • Strong communication and teamwork skills
  • Good attention to detail
  • Can work in fast-paced, high-energy environment
  • Comfortable handling raw fish
  • Works well with others and has a positive attitude
  • Strong desire to learn
  • Commit one full day each week for six months

In our Foxwoods Marine Theater, volunteers are invited to watch California sea lion training sessions and shows in order to learn more about animal behavior and learning theory. We are looking for motivated volunteers who are ready to take the initiative and dive into this field.

Minimum Age: 18
Duties:

  • Scrubbing and cleaning
  • Food preparation and handling
  • Care and maintenance of California sea lions and their habitat
  • Assist in sea lion shows, training sessions and classes
  • Assist in animal medical procedures when necessary
  • Provide environmental enrichment for animals
  • Record keeping
  • Perform other assigned duties

Qualifications:

  • Capable of lifting 50 pounds
  • Physically able to execute duties of the position
  • Ability to swim
  • Strong communication and teamwork skills
  • Available for a varying schedule (typical schedule being
    January-April, 8:00am-4:30pm, weekdays/weekends;
    May-June, 8:00am-4:30pm, weekdays/9:00am-5:30pm weekends;
    July-August, 9:00am-5:30pm, weekdays/weekends;
    September-December, 8:00am-4:30pm, weekdays/weekends)
  • Commit one full day each week for six months

You will help care for and learn about Steller sea lions, Northern fur seals and harbor seals. The Pacific Northwest exhibit is a dynamic, fast-paced area and we are looking for enthusiastic volunteers!

Minimum Age: 18
Duties:

  • Care and maintenance of various species
  • Food preparation
  • Care and maintenance of exhibits
  • Observe marine mammal training sessions
  • Learn about marine mammal training (including reading and exams)
  • Record keeping
  • Work with other staff to fulfill areas and facility programming needs
  • Perform other assigned duties

Qualifications:

  • Capable of lifting 50 pounds
  • Physically able to execute duties of the position
  • Ability to swim
  • Strong communication and teamwork skills
  • Ability to work in all weather conditions, including heat, rain and snow
  • Commit one full day each week for six months

Volunteers in this area get the opportunity to do some hands-on work at our outdoor penguin habitat. As with all of our husbandry areas, we are looking for motivated, active people to get their feet (and likely more than just their feet!) wet as they learn about this exciting field. 

Minimum Age: 18
Duties:

  • Assist with care and maintenance of colony of African penguins
  • Care and maintenance of habitat including cleaning, food preparation and operation of life support systems
  • Assist with routine husbandry procedures
  • Record keeping
  • Participate in animal training procedures
  • Work with other staff to fulfill areas and facility programming needs
  • Perform other assigned duties

Qualifications:

  • Capable of lifting 50 pounds
  • Physically able to execute the duties of the position
  • Ability to swim
  • Strong communication and teamwork skills
  • Interest in animal behavior and training
  • Comfortable handling raw fish
  • Good attention to detail
  • Physical, hands-on work
  • Commit one full day each week for six months

This volunteer opportunity is your chance to enjoy the Aquarium after hours and then camp out in the Main Gallery (be sure to bring a sleeping bag)! 

Minimum Age: 15
Duties:

  • Assist teachers with crafts, touch tank activities, tours, etc.
  • Perform other assigned duties

Qualifications:

  • Enjoy working with children
  • Does not require 100 hours of docent work
  • Volunteers participate up to 16 hours at a time overnight (5:30pm-9:00am)

Our dive program is an occupational dive program which requires well-developed team work, with each worker assigned a task or a number of tasks as part of their role. Fundamental differences between occupational and recreational diver training arise out of the duty of care a working diver has to manage not only their own safety, but that of other members of the diving team. Your recreational dive training is a prerequisite to our occupational dive program. In addition, our volunteer divers must represent Mystic Aquarium in a professional, courteous and knowledgeable manner.

Minimum Age: 18
Duties:

  • Help maintain clean and healthy environment for our animals
  • Dive exhibits on a monthly basis during scheduled times
  • Ensure safety as buddy diver or topside standby diver
  • Remain aware of exhibit and dive protocol changes and observe/interpret animal behavior and report to appropriate husbandry staff member
  • Maintain clean work areas and keep accurate dive logs

Qualifications:

  • Able to make required dive commitment
  • Must be able to dive twice a month for six months
  • Ability to lift 50 pounds
  • Most dive openings are during the week (AM or PM) as weekend spots are often filled
  • Must show proof of 40 logged dives (a logged dive is considered to be in open water for 20 minutes or more and a minimum of 15 ft.)
  • Must meet all basic requirements and evaluation process for divers including:
    • SCUBA certification at Rescue Diver Level or above by nationally recognized training program (NAUI, PADI, SSI, SDI)
    • Current First Aid and CPR, AED and Oxygen Administration certifications by recognized agency
    • Must pass Mystic Aquarium’s written dive exam with a minimum score of 80%
    • Must pass mandatory dive physical and have recommendation from physician
    • Must fully meet our physical standards for diving as outlined in our Diving Medical Exam – the Medical Exam form must carry the signature of a physician to verify that you meet these standards. The doctor you choose must meet at least one of the following credentials:
      • Board Certified MD or DO 2
      • Navy Dive Medical Doctor (DMO)
        *Please note: ALL of the prescribed tests must be included to satisfy our requirements. All costs associated with medical evaluations are at the diver’s expense.
  • Must pass required swim test and SCUBA evaluation
  • Final acceptance into the Volunteer Dive Program will be made at the end of this evaluation process by our Dive Safety Officer (DSO)

Please direct any questions to Kathleen Freeman, Volunteer Coordinator at 860.572.5955 ext. 209 or KFreeman@MysticAquarium.org

Do you want to educate the next generation of marine biologists? Then volunteer for our Sea School preschool program!

Minimum Age: 16
Duties:

  • Assist with classroom activities (crafts, reading, sand and water table, and motor skills games)
  • Work with other staff to fulfill areas and facility programming needs
  • Perform other assigned duties

Qualifications:

  • Able to commit to one, three-hour shift a week
  • Enjoy working with young children (3-5 years)
  • Time slots available include Monday-Friday, 9:00am-12:00pm; Tuesday and Thursday, 1:00pm-4:00pm

Open to anyone unable to make a year-round volunteer commitment, this program provides you with some experience in marine animal husbandry.

Running from late May to late August, this is a full-day volunteer experience with a half-day in a husbandry program and a half-day in our Guest Services department, which provides a great overview of Mystic Aquarium!

Duties: 

  • Care and maintenance of exhibits
  • Food preparation
  • Record keeping
  • Observation of animal training procedures
  • Educating Aquarium guests

Come and join an amazing group of high school students who work together to explore and conserve local and threatened environments as well as to get fellow high school students and the public involved in community programs.

Members of this group regularly participate in beach cleanups, amphibian monitoring, hosts workshops and summits and develops of conservation-based activities for fellow students and the public.

Minimum Age: 14-17
Duties:

  • Participate in field programs such as amphibian monitoring and coastal cleanups
  • Develop interactive educational programming that focus on current conservation efforts
  • Interact with public on special conservation event days
  • Assist in the development of public conservation programs

Qualifications:

  • Enjoy working with the public
  • Enthusiastic about environmental conservation efforts
  • Able to attend training session and commit to bi-weekly Monday evening meetings (6:00-8:00pm)
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