I cannot believe that July has arrived and that it’s been four months into the internship already! With summer already here, there are also more opportunities to engage with the public at the trails or at other unique learning environments such as the Oregon Coast Aquarium. This is where I spent a whole day at for World Oceans Day as part of the field ranger programs. Being there brought back memories of my first field trip to the Monterrey Aquarium with my fourth grade class. To think that such an experience influenced my appreciation for all animals but also for the ocean itself, only made me realize how important places like aquariums and zoos are in fostering a positive mindset towards the environment. One of our main objectives for the event was to add additional fun learning experiences for people of all ages.
Our day at the aquarium gave the EFTA interns and I a special chance to talk to the visitors about the threatened Western Snowy Plover and the Ocean/Forests interactions in the Pacific Northwest forests. A lot of visitors were curious about the Western Snowy Plover and how could they not be? They are amazingly adorable with incredible adaptations that lets them withstand the harsh conditions of the Pacific coast beaches. I believe our table was a huge success because of our enthusiasm to share our knowledge about the unique species of the Siuslaw National Forest as well as the physical components and set up of our displays. We had a little bit of everything: a wonderful diorama of the Snowy Plovers and their beach habitats; poster boards with more information about their nesting and feeding behavior; replicas of the plover and Marbled Murrelet eggs; a mystery box and guessing game; colorful pictures of the species of salmon found in Oregon along with a physical representation of the habitat where they spawn; and last but not least all sorts of stickers and bookmarks. The best part about this day was hearing the visitors’ comments about how much they had learned about the “chunky” Marbled Murrelet or the adorable plovers.
Interpretation can definitely go a long way and after the event I am convinced it is a critical part in conservation. In the last two weeks I have seen how visitors enjoy their experience much more whether at an aquarium or at a trail when they learn something new about what they are seeing. I will never forget the comment that one visitor made after joining me on a guided hike at Drift Creek Falls Trail. “I’ve been on this trail many times before but I never noticed those things until now, thank you,” she said after learning about the unique components of the Oregon temperate rainforests. Therefore, to instill in people a sense of appreciation and stewardship for the natural world; that is the power of interpretation and community outreach.