Over the course of the last nine months, I’ve had the opportunity to serve as one of four Marine Education Fellows here at the UGA Aquarium. I knew since my first day in September that this would be one of the best years of my life, and I would walk away with a resume packed with valuable experience. One day of work never looks like the last when you’re a Marine Education Fellow. Our days are usually filled with teaching classes and assisting with aquarium work. However, with the coronavirus and social distancing in place, our job has changed. With this change, we have had the opportunity to learn new skills and grow in ways that we did not expect at the beginning of the year.
One major aspect of my position that has changed this spring is how much time I’m spending caring for animals in the aquarium. The fellows now spend significantly more time behind the scenes working with the aquarists to ensure the quality care that is expected for our animals. The work is shared amongst the four fellows, and we alternate working in shared spaces to promote social distancing while at work. We complete tasks such as cleaning the tanks, scrubbing rocks, prepping food, feeding the animals, changing the water in the tanks and testing water quality. One of my favorite things to do is clean the rocks in a tank and rearrange them into new structures. Working with our facility’s ambassador animals is a really rewarding part of my job, and I am grateful to be given the opportunity to spend more time doing animal husbandry.
During this pandemic, I have also been given the opportunity to telework as part of my work week. Like many people, this is my first time working from home. Teleworking has presented some unique challenges for me but has also allowed me to learn new skills and grow as an environmental educator. I worked closely with the Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant communications team to create a salt marsh exploration Instagram takeover. Salt marsh exploration is one of the education classes that I have taught many times during my fellowship. We often take visiting students out into the marsh to learn about the animals and habitats on Georgia’s coast. It was a totally new experience teaching it virtually. Working with my colleagues to make digital content for parents, students and teachers during this time has been an exciting new part of my job. It has proved to be a great way to share my love for coastal Georgia with people that I would never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise.
As we wrap up our year-long fellowship, it has been fun to reflect on all that I’ve accomplished this year. This spring has been unique and full of new challenges, but these challenges have led to the development of new education skills and best practices that I will carry with me throughout my professional career. I plan to end my fellowship the same way I started it, by being positive and continuing to share my love of the Georgia coast with anyone who will listen.