By Milou van der Lans, high school intern
Sea stars take their stomachs out and make sea star milkshakes of their food.
Sea urchins can give hugs.
Jellyfish are not fish; seahorses are. Male seahorses get pregnant.
I could continue for hours telling you all the things I learned at Birch Aquarium at Scripps in only three weeks. My name is Milou van der Lans and I’m a 16-year-old Dutch high school student. As a part of the bilingual program I follow in school, I got the opportunity to do a foreign internship and was lucky to be welcomed at Birch Aquarium!
My internship consisted of working in both the Education Department as well as with the aquarists. In the Education Department I helped in the classrooms, working with a lot of kids. And every class includes time when children get to interact with live animals, so I also had close contact with these animals every week, learning how to care for them before, during, and after classes.
I got even closer to the animals while working in the Husbandry Department This “behind-the-scenes” work included feeding animals, cleaning tanks, and making sure all the animals were in the perfect living conditions. I was able to learn about many different parts of an aquarist’s job.
I was also given the responsibility of assisting with a specific project in the Education Department: “Explore It” activities on the floor of the Galleria, during which visitors of all ages can learn about science through practical experiments. My project was creating energy with wind turbines, and I spent a lot of time developing and improving the activity for visitors.
Being an intern at Birch Aquarium has been the most wonderful experience. Not only do I know much more about marine biology, volunteering has also improved me as person. I feel more comfortable speaking in public and I learned how to connect with people of all ages.
The American culture has amazed me. In only three weeks I feel like I’ve adopted many local habits, partly thanks to my lovely colleagues. I enjoyed every second at Birch Aquarium. The extraordinary exhibits with such extensive and interesting information along with the exceptional expertise and kindness of the staff have resulted in an experience I will never forget!