Marine Matters – by Jan Tierney, Volunteer Co-ordinator & Aquarist at the Dolphin Discovery Centre
As featured in the South Western Times
Standing on the beach watching the dolphins interact with our visitors and volunteers always reminds me how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place. The fact that thousands of people from all over the world flock to our city to enjoy our beaches, our wildlife and our hospitality is incredible, especially at this time of the year when the weather really turns it on. Being our busiest time of the year, the Dolphin Discovery Centre (DDC) has also experienced a surge in visitors, both of the human and dolphin kind. Although the number of people visiting the Centre has peaked as expected during January, the Interaction Zone where dolphins visit us on the beach has also boomed with 8 different dolphins visiting more than 80 times for the month. Considering the total dolphin visit time was more than 20 hours, the amount of time they are spending in the zone has given the majority of people who visit the Centre a chance to see them up close and personal.
As a means of offering a safe and relaxed experience for both us and the dolphins, the Centre has for many years recruited community volunteers to co-ordinate the interaction experiences and maintain the grounds. Many of these volunteers are in fact international travellers themselves looking for a unique experience that they can participate in here in Australia. The average program lasts 6-8 weeks and provides them with not only one of the world’s most sought after opportunities to interact with wild dolphins, but also to participate in a conservation program aimed at protecting the marine environment. Science students also use the program as an internship for their degrees and post-graduate researchers often sign up for more than three months at a time to assist the on-site research team from Murdoch University.
The majority of volunteers however are still very much local, with up to 80 long term volunteers living right here in Bunbury. While many of them are part time workers and retirees, full-time workers and students are also members of the team and dedicate a few hours out of their busy weekend each week. Having such a diverse range of ages, experiences and nationalities also works well with the tourists with many commenting on their interaction with the volunteers as the highlight of their visit!
For those interested in joining the DDC volunteer team and getting involved in a community organisation that is genuinely committed to marine conservation and education now is the perfect time. This summer and autumn season is shaping up to be one of our busiest and we are now recruiting locals who are keen to join. All you need to qualify would be a passion for wildlife and conservation, enjoy the outdoors, and able to commit one 5 hour shift per week. The main role of a Dolphin Volunteer includes spending time with the dolphins when they visit, talking to the public about the dolphins and their environment and assisting in a few housekeeping and maintenance duties.
For more information about the program you can contact the Dolphin Discovery Centre during business hours or simply jump on the volunteering page at http://dolphindiscovery.com.au/discover/volunteering/