A Dedicated Volunteer

Volunteers are often the life blood of NGO’s. The Vancouver Aquarium’s Nikki Cloutier is 80 years old and has volunteered at the Aquarium for 44 years. She was in her kitchen one day in 1967 and there was “an appeal on the radio that if you were interested in children and animals, come have coffee at the Aquarium. No strings attached,” Nikki told me recently. She knew it was for her, because she likes to walk the beach and swim and has always wondered what is in the water.

stellar sea lionsSo Nikki went to the coffee meeting, then a Volunteer Orientation evening. At first she toured grade 8 children around the Aquarium. In 1968 the Aquarium’s first Manager of Education joined, and invited Nikki to work in the Wet Lab. In 1971 Nikki started working with small mammals, including “two orphaned Stellar Sea Lions, which weighed 26 pounds each, […] and needed to be fed regularly”.

She stayed in Marine Mammals from 1971 to 1991, doing beluga shows, preparing food, feeding the dolphin and other animals. Starting in 1991, Nikki worked in what is now called the Fish House, when you “come in at 7:30 in the morning and prepare all the feedings for the whole day”. After a while she enquired as to what else was available at the Aquarium, then for three years was a one day a week employee and managed the French programs. Nikki would take work home with her. In 1994 she decided she was “a better volunteer than an employee”, so moved on.

Around 1995 she joined Aqua News, in which volunteers use props to tell people about news and conservation. Nikki’s still there. A few years later they opened Windows on Research, which focuses on the research done at the Aquarium. Both mean new learning and related challenges. Nikki especially enjoys the children who are so full of growing knowledge. Some see her as Nikki the Elder. With her years of experience she’s a great resource and sometimes gets additional jobs such as identifying a box of slides.

The work “gives me the type of challenge I needed, so I’m quite happy at the Aquarium,” Nikki concluded.

She was on the Vancouver Aquarium Volunteers Council for about 8 years, including being President. They would manage events such as volunteer parties and auctions, using the money to benefit the Aquarium in various ways including buying new microscopes.

Nikki usually works Saturday morning, so if you see her stop by and say “hi”.

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Alison Wheatley

Alison Wheatley

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