Our volunteers interpret marine life exhibits for more than 400,000 annual visitors.

Volunteer of the Month: November

Helen Stapleton

This month, we shine the spotlight on Helen Stapleton for her outstanding contribution to the husbandry department and indeed to the aquarium as a whole.

Helen has been a volunteer at Birch Aquarium since 2011, and since then has contributed almost 670 hours of her time.  She filled some greeter spots at first and then spent a full year of Wednesday afternoons as a tide-pool interpreter where she was a natural fit with her education and interest in all things marine.  Looking for a challenge and a new experience, Helen was matched up with behind-the-scenes opportunities as an aquarist assistant.

Husbandry staff say she is dependable, consistent, hard working and patient. She takes on tasks classified “not-so-exciting”, like taking temperatures (of all the galleries), preparing food for feedings, and cleaning the food prep counter at the end of the day. In a nutshell, Helen willingly and cheerfully does whatever is needed. Helen now works in the tropical galleries where, among other duties, she cares for corals. She sets the bar high, not only putting in a full 8-hour day on Wednesdays, but often staying later to complete her work to her satisfaction.

Though much of her volunteer time is spent behind the scenes, Helen is a model of customer service in the front-of-house as well.  In October, a guest was so happy with her experience with her two young kids at the tide-pool feeding that she took time to give this feedback online:

“A wonderful young lady named Helen was doing the feeding. She was entertaining, informative, funny, and had my kids fascinated! They felt comfortable enough to ask her questions and she was kind and willing to answer them. You could tell she was incredibly passionate about her job! With all the newfound facts about sea life learned from the wonderful Helen my kids we super excited to see the rest of the aquarium. She opened up a world for them previously unknown. “

She is so professional and dedicated that probably this guest did not even realize Helen volunteers her time. Thank you for what you do, Helen, and for making a positive difference all around you!


Volunteer at Birch Aquarium

Please Note: Open House events are scheduled quarterly. Once your application is submitted, you will receive details on how to sign up.

Help visitors from around the world discover the wonders of the ocean. Inspire conservation and showcase the groundbreaking research at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. 

Annually, more than 300 volunteers guide visitors through exhibits, answer questions, and work behind the scenes. From students and working adults to retired professionals, Birch Aquarium seeks a variety of expertise from volunteers of all backgrounds.

Thoughts from a Volunteer

"Working at the tide pools was something I looked forward to all week, and now that I've graduated it is the thing I miss most about school.  I've realized that working at the aquarium has fostered my confidence and communication skills, all from being on a beautiful patio four hours a week.  Thank you for letting me open the eyes of children to the wonders of the world.  Thank you for letting me share my knowledge and passion."
- Lauren, 4-year volunteer


All positions require attendance at a new applicant Open House which is offered quarterly. Volunteers are asked to make a minimum six month commitment of one 4 hour shift per week and to purchase an annual Volunteer Membership at $30 upon successful completion of the applicant interview. Volunteer member benefits include free unlimited admission for the volunteer, free aquarium passes annually, informative special lectures, and other discounts and exclusive opportunities. Applicants must be at least 16 to be considered for our program.

Volunteer Roles

Tide Pool Volunteer (year-round)

Help make our simulated tide pool and adjacent interpretive station come alive for our visitors by demonstrating coping strategies for life in a harsh environment.

Training: Attend one 2-hour mandatory training course.

Information Center Volunteer (year-round)

Welcome visitors, provide an orientation to the facility, answer questions and distribute literature on aquarium programs.

Training: On-the-job training.

Education Assistant (October through June)

Assist aquarium instructors in the classroom with hands-on curriculum covering a variety of marine topics including tide pools, fish diversity and kelp forests. Volunteers must first clear a background check to participate in this program.

Training: Attend one 4-hour orientation course.

Public Programs Assistant (year-round)

Assist instructors with onsite and offsite educational activities, including birthday parties, outreach classes and field programs.

Training: Attend one 4-hour orientation course.

Advanced Volunteer Jobs

* Volunteers must start in another area first.

Aquarist Assistant (year-round)

Assist aquarists by cleaning and maintaining tanks, monitoring water and air conditions, preparing food, feeding, and shore collecting. Due to the responsibilities involved in helping our husbandry staff care for our animals, aquarist assistants must work a consistent 4-hour shift on a weekly basis. 
Training: Previous experience is preferred, but additional training is provided on the job.
Volunteers only available on the weekends will have a longer wait than those available on the weekdays.

Docent Ambassador (year-round)

Serve in a lead capacity for interpretive volunteers and interns through mentoring, training, and serving as Shift Captains as requested by staff; develop and present interpretive talks and tours; be highly visible to the public in order to answer questions and convey information in an interpretive manner throughout the facility; give interpretive presentations during feedings including Kelp Tank Dive shows; and assist with evening special events. Training: Attend mandatory 32-hour training course and regular meetings.

Volunteers must work as an Exhibits Interpreter for 4-6 months prior to docent training. Docent training is offered periodically.

Who can I contact?

Volunteer Department
Email us!