Since the beginning of my internship and naturalist training back in January, I have encountered many types of students of all ages. Ranging from curious elementary school children to indifferent college students and vice versa. However, this past weekend I experienced a new crowd when the Monterey Bay Aquarium Docents visited Elkhorn Slough. The groups that consisted primary of retirees was lead by Monterey Bay Aquarium Senior Interpreter Jane Silberstein who is very familiar with the Elkhorn Slough.
During the initial orientation she talked a little about herself — she is a University of California Santa Cruz graduate who was studying Biology and focusing on whales and other sea mammals. When Jane was looking for a topic for her senior thesis, she discovered that studying whales was highly political, so she decided to look for other organisms to study. She quickly found macroinvertebrates and asked a professor of hers for advice. The professor then said “You know what? You should talk to this other student named Mark Silberstein (current Executive Director of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation). I think you two will get along.” Jane ended up during her senior thesis on the macro invertebrates found at Elkhorn Slough. With regards to her and Mark, she said “and the rest is history.”
It has come to the point where I am very knowledgeable about Elkhorn Slough ecology, and even though I wasn’t nervous, I was pretty interested in the fact that I was giving an interpretive walk to some very experienced docents. During the summer the Monterey Bay Aquarium is filled with thousands and thousands of tourists, which means that these docents definitely know what they are doing. I was expecting a serious walk filled with difficult questions much like professors who meticulously analyze final research projects, but it was actually the completely opposite. These experienced docents were filled with curiosity that rivaled those of small children. The walk was filled with jokes and innuendos, with the occasional plant or bird question.
After arriving at the South Marsh bridge we took a plankton sample and headed back to the lab. Once at the lab the excitement of these docents filled the room with laughter and fun which made the time just go that much faster. This taught me the important lesson that childlike curiosity is a life long gift that should never be lost. I was also promised the best of tours whenever I go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium but only after the summer of course.