Dawn Day in the Wildlife: The Marine Mammal Center Volunteers & Family Outdoor Education

This is a sponsored post by Dawn and the second post of a four-series posts on my experiences with #DawnDayintheWildlife.  To read the first post on the series please click HERE.

As part of our "Day Day in the Wildlife" at The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC), I had the opportunity to shadow a volunteer cleaning the center and possibly making fish milkshakes! Unfortunately, due to infectious diseases that can be passed from mammals to humans during pregnancy, it was highly recommended to not participate in the "active volunteering" part of the event.

Photo Courtesy of Susan Goldman

I was a little disappointed but being early in my pregnancy I didn't want to take any risks.  That just meant I spent more time getting to know the wonderful Kathy Crawford, Education Volunteer.

Before I dive into all the work volunteers do a TMMC, thanks to Dawn and their camera crew you can hear exactly what the center provides for families looking for outdoor education and adventure from Kathy herself!

Getting to Know Kathy Crawford, Education Volunteer

Dawn had paired me up with an Education Volunteer like Kathy because she is also a mom and they knew how much I love wildlife and the outdoors!  Thanks to people like Kathy many children can learn about marine mammals and what they can do to protect animals from getting injured.

It was very inspiring to listen and learn about Kathy's path that led her to volunteer at TMMC.  Being a single mother of three children in Michigan, she didn't have time to volunteer, or any ocean nearby.  She wanted to be a marine biologist in college but life ended up taking her on another path.

A couple of years ago, Kathy visited TMMC and decided that if she ever moved to the San Francisco Bay Area that she would definitely wanted to become a volunteer.  Last year, Kathy moved to the area and she was able to live out her dream and work with marine mammals primarily in Education but also volunteers in the "Stranding and Releases" areas.

As a youth worker myself, an icebreaker question I love to ask to get conversations rolling is "What is your favorite animal?" and Kathy immediately answered: "Harbor Seals," which led to one of Kathy's favorite volunteer experience which is so touching....

"The one that really touched me was when we had a very premature harbor seal name Myclovial.  She was very weak and still covered with fur.  She was unable to keep down formula, so we knew she wouldn't have any chance of getting better without nutrition.  Normally we do not hold the animals very long, but she was so close to death that my supervisor said I could hold her after we tube-fed her to keep her head up and hopefully keep her meal down.  It worked.
But by the third meal, she was really limp and I knew that she probably wasn't going to make it.  When I was holding her, she grabbed my finger with her flipper.  I felt like she was saying goodbye to me.  She died a couple days later, but I just felt we did everything we could and that felt very good." ~ Kathy Crawford, Education Volunteer

With that touching story, the Harbor Seal is now my favorite marine mammal.  Kathy spent the rest of the morning teaching me the differences between harbor seals and sea lions and what to do in case we find a injured or stranded marine mammal.

Photo (Left and Right) Courtesy of Susan Goldman.

Photo (Left and Right) Courtesy of Susan Goldman.

FYI, Sea lions have little ears and large flippers and harbor seals don't.

Seals & Slippers: Sleep Under the Stars and Summer Camps

Another great program Kathy talked about was the "Seals & Slippers" family program! Families can register to camp at TMMC courtyard and fall asleep under the beautiful night sky with the sounds of the Pacific Ocean and sea lions!

Photo Courtesy of The Marine Mammal Center

This great program allows children participate in fish dissections, observe sea lion feedings, go on a guided hike and most importantly spend quality time with their families!  My family will probably join in on the fun once my children are old enough.  For more information about this program please visit The Marine Mammal Center website.

Sea Quest is 5-day education summer day camp where children from elementary grades 1st-6th, can explore marine science and ocean conservation!  For more information on Sea Quest please visit The Marine Mammal Center website.

A few more amazing facts about TMMC Volunteers:

  1. TMMC has 1100 volunteers annually!  With only 45 paid staff members this organization is primarily run by volunteers.
  2. All volunteers must be trained depending in the area training can last two days to ongoing "on the job" training.
  3. Volunteers can be as young as 15 years old and can be part of the "Youth Crew".
  4. TMMC also provide externships, which provides veterinary students in their final/clinical year to gain experiences under the guidance of veterinary staff/volunteers.
  5. Volunteers are located in three different locations in Northern California and in Kona, Hawaii!

Chasqui Mom Last Thoughts...

I was truly blown away by how TMMC is run by so many volunteers!  These are people who give their time to saving these animal whether its actually working with animals or volunteering for an administrative position in the office.  Volunteers are vital to TMMC completing their mission...

"Our mission is to expand knowledge about marine mammals - their health and that of their ocean environment - and to inspire their global conservation." -- The Marine Mammal Center

Thanks to the volunteers like Kathy Crawford and partnerships like TMMC and Dawn, these beautiful animals have a great chance in surviving.

I would like to thank Dawn who provided this sponsored trip.  As always these are my true and honest opinions.

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