Meet the “Mother of Volunteers”

It’s National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and we’re shining the spotlight on the “Mother of Volunteers,” the woman who single-handedly created our Volunteer & Intern Services program from the ground up for WAVE Foundation at Newport Aquarium. The woman with a vision is no other than Jenny Greber, Community Engagement Manager, and head of the Volunteer & Intern Services program.

Jenny Greber

“I started the volunteer and intern services program from scratch, which has been a wonderful opportunity.”

“I started at the aquarium in July of 1999, and the grand opening was May 15, 1999, so I came in less than two months later and after three weeks I had my first volunteer on the exhibit floor.”

“I actually created my job.  I was living in Seattle at the time and my mom sent me this newspaper clipping in the mail that said an aquarium was being opened (in Newport). I called and explained to them that I had volunteered and worked for the Seattle Aquarium and I told them I would like to come and help out there.”

Initially they told her that they were not going to have volunteers. They told her to call back later after they had officially opened, and call back she did.

“I called back every month for three months,” said Greber. “On the last call I gave them a list of reasons why they really should include volunteers in their aquarium.”  They were so impressed by her determination that they asked her to fax over her resume. From there, Greber would have a phone interview with the aquarium, they faxed her an offer, she accepted and the rest as they say is history.

Jenny Greber has been at the aquarium for almost 19 years. Her anniversary is this July.

“I started the volunteer and intern services program from scratch, which has been a wonderful opportunity.”

Jenny has been here every step of the way and has seen the WAVE Foundation and Newport Aquarium grow along the way. Believe it or not, at the time, not everyone was on board with the idea of having volunteers.

“There’s always road blocks with change, whether it’s good or bad, its human nature. People resist change, regardless of what it is. Coming in after the aquarium opened was challenging, people were worried that these volunteers were going to take their jobs, and they weren’t,” says Greber.

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“Volunteers are icing on the cake, they aren’t the cake, they are the icing, and they are here to help, they are here to share our mission, they’re here to engage our guests and add that extra sugar on top value that we want to keep giving on a consistent basis.”     

“My favorite part about my job is that I have the opportunity to allow the community to take part and be a part of this family. The community enhances that family dynamic. To have others experience that is awesome and that’s my favorite part.”

Of course with being the Community Engagement Manager for almost 20 years, there are many parts of Jenny’s job that she adores.

“One of the things I get really excited about is where people land after they get done having their journey here, this is just a stepping stone for a lot of the younger people in our community. It’s so wonderful to know the hundreds of people that we put into the industry that are now at AZA accredited institutions,” she said.

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WAVE Foundation was awarded the Inspiring Service Volunteer Engagement Award at the SVP Fast Pitch Awards.

“To see the teenagers who are now PhDs, to see some of the summer naturalists who are now veterinarians, to see some of the volunteers and interns who are now working here as employees, no matter what department they’re in.”

Jenny’s experience, “building  a program from scratch to having over 300 active volunteers,” is unparalleled, according to Dan Dunlap, the Conservation Education Curator at WAVE Foundation.

“Her knowledge of the volunteer industry and her connections in the community are irreplaceable,” said Dunlap.

WAVE Foundation’s Volunteer Department recently won a prestigious award at Social Venture Partners’ fifth annual Fast Pitch competition. WAVE was recognized with the Inspiring Service Volunteer Engagement Award.

“I love my job, this is my dream job, and I’m really excited to be able to see where we started, see where we are and to have an idea of where we’re going to go.”

Jenny Greber has changed the lives of thousands of volunteers and interns, and helped hundreds secure job opportunities within AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums.

Want to volunteer? Come and join our family at WAVE Foundation at Newport Aquarium and check out our volunteer and intern services opportunities on WAVE Foundation’s website or give the Community Engagement Office a call at 859-815-1424 for any questions you might have! This is a family you will be proud to be a part of!

 

Shark Central Reopens after State of the Art Transformation

Shark Central, the 4,500-gallon immersive touch tank, that has captivated guests since 2006, just reopened to the public after a state of the art transformation over the summer. In August of 2017, the exhibit temporarily closed for an upgrade. This meant sending the nearly two-dozen sharks that call Shark Central home to the offsite animal health facility until the completion of the project.

What makes Shark Central  unique is the opportunity to see and touch sharks from around the world. Some of the sharks in Shark Central are from the West Coast, like the leopard sharks, shovelnose guitarfish, and California horn sharks. Others are native to South Africa, such as the striped catsharks (also called pyjama catshark), and the leopard catshark. There is even a shark that can only be found in Australia – the Port Jackson horn shark.

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Guests can touch six different species in the Shark Central touch tank.

The biggest upgrade to Shark Central is behind the scenes, but vitally important – a new state of the art life support system. This new system was the major hype with all of the biologists working on it. Aquatic Biologist Scott Brehob shares his enthusiasm about the new design and more efficient system.

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Aquatic Biologist Scott Brehob eagerly shows off the new energy efficient life support system behind the scenes.

“I’m incredibly excited to have a brand new and more efficient life support system that gives these sharks great water,” Brehob said. Brehob takes care of the sharks in Shark Central. He has seen the evolution of the exhibit since it first opened in 2004, and shared his passion for taking care of the sharks in his Takeover Tuesday post.

The system is a technological upgrade; it’s less bulk and more bang, just like the ever evolving cell phones we use. We won’t get into the entire scientific nitty gritty; but the new pumps are VFD (variable flow drive) and they include their own computer systems. This allows for the biologists to manually type in what they need from the pump that feeds the tank and the bio towers. If they need more flow to the tank and less pull from it, they can simply type that in. Also with the upgrade, if one of the pumps goes down, the other one can do the work for it, ensuring optimal safety and efficiency.

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Other changes include resurfacing the tank walls, a new paint coat on the exhibit, new decking, and a new concrete ledge. When asked about his favorite part of the project, Assistant Curator Dan Hagley stated he “enjoyed the plumbing aspect and getting to use new things I’ve never played with before that will make it a lot easier for the biologists to maintain the tank.”

Teamwork played a big role in completing this project, and it would not have been possible without the help of the volunteers and interns who assisted our animal husbandry team, and engineers. Volunteers helped drain the tank and cleared out all of the gravel and river rocks so a crew could then come in and resurface the tank walls.

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A ton of work went into this transformation, some of which we could easily overlook like cleaning the new gravel before filling it in the tank! The new filtration systems could easily do that work over time; however, the gravel is very dusty and makes the tank cloudy if it isn’t cleaned beforehand. To save time and get the exhibit looking as nice as possible, several staff members and volunteers took on the task of cleaning the new gravel before shoveling it into the exhibit.

After filling the tank with freshly washed gravel, our biologists filled the tank with water. They made sure the temperature is 60 degrees – these sharks are accustomed to that cold temperature in their native environments,  Brrrr! Biologists also made sure the water has accurate flow rates, balance, and chemical levels before bringing the animals back in. The animals are brought back within a number of moves to ensure that all is well in the environment.Shark Central

“I love being able to educate people about these fascinating animals from around the world. Many people don’t even have the opportunity to see sharks up close, but our guests get to interact with them,” said General Curator, Mark Dvornak.

Dvornak shared his passion about the transformation and how the new water system will give the sharks the optimal healthy environment that a unique touch tank needs. His last big project was the new Stingray Hideaway. It is a larger scale touch tank project that is also open for visitors to experience along with our better than ever Shark Central!

Be sure to stop by and visit Shark Central to see the energy-efficient improvements on your next visit. There are sharks from all over the world awaiting your arrival right here, at Newport Aquarium.

 

Help Protect the Earth on Earth Day and Every Day

As we get ready to celebrate Earth Day, here are some things you can do to help protect the Earth. The National Ocean Service put together this list 0f 10 choices you can make for a healthier planet.Earth Day NOAA

Living with less plastic
Reduce the amount of reusable plastic in the world. According to a recent report, by the year 2050, there will be more plastics in our ocean than fish. Small changes over time add up to a big difference, especially when using plastic.Less Plastic

Protecting endangered animals
When guests visit Newport Aquarium, not only do they get to see amazing animals, but they also get to learn about how to help those animals and their environment. Newport Aquarium and other AZA accredited zoo and aquariums work to protect some of the world’s most endangered animals in their facilities.

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Nearly all species of sea turtle are classified as Endangered. Newport Aquarium is a part of a sea turtle rehabilitation program, to rescue and release baby sea turtles back in to the wild.

Aquariums allow for people to see and interact with animals that they never would get the chance to normally. Aquariums also give a chance of a close and personal interaction with animals that can allow for guests to develop a special connection and help develop a passion to protect the animals and their environment.

Importance of Water
Newport Aquarium hopes to educate people about the importance of water and about the everyday things they can do to help protect our oceans, planet, and animals. A “Water Story” sign welcomes guests to exhibits. Guests can discover diverse ecosystems, the source of our planet’s water and threats to the world’s water as they visit.

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The World Rivers exhibit allows for guest to learn about a highest density and diversity of nine different rivers from five different continents.

Newport Aquarium also strives to improve water quality and conservation efforts to help the aquatic life in both ocean and fresh water environments all over the planet. Learn more in our World Water Day post.

Learn to love sea life
Through education; you will grow to appreciate ocean and marine life and take a more caring and careful approach to all things oceanic. A great way to do this is to visit local aquariums and AZA institutions, like Newport Aquarium.

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Overhead view of the Coral Reef, guests can see on a behind-the-scenes tour at Newport Aquarium.

Reduce plastic
Stop one time plastic. Plastic bottles, straws and containers are dangerous for the environment. Try to use reusable products as much as you can. Whether it is water bottles, tuber wear containers, or reusable straws, using these items help cut down on the use on one time plastics. This in return, can reduce the amount of harmful plastic found in wildlife.

Always recycle
Recycling helps to reduce the pollution caused by waste. Try to make full use of the recycling depots in your local area.

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Volunteer and Donate
Volunteer to clean up local rivers and beach areas. Join thousands of volunteers at this year’s ORSANCO River Sweep, and clean up the Ohio River, its tributaries and riverbanks on June 17, 2017.  Volunteer with the WAVE Foundation  to excite, engage and educate our community about the wonders of aquatic life and the importance of conservation.

Most of us want to make a difference and do something good for the planet. Earth Day is the perfect time to reflect and see what we can do to protect our planet.