2. Caring for Critters


What do our animals need to thrive? This session we step into the role of an aquarist and marine mammal trainer! Interact with live tidal pool sea animals and gain insight into the inner workings of our marine mammal department – how to become a marine mammal trainer, what they do day to day, and how they care for our marine mammals!


In our second JBC session this year, we put on our aquarist boots to lern all about how our animals big and small are cared for at the aquarium! We begin by exploring our intertidal creatures in the Wet Lab – who lives here, how are they fed, and how do we keep them safe? Then, we will move on to our big animals, learning all about enrichment, feeding, research, training, and all about life in our marine mammal department!

What did we do today?

  • Opening procedures for our Wet Lab: checking animal health, taking pool temperatures, siphoning debris, and learning a little bit about our intertidal animals.
  • Learned all about what it takes to become a marine mammal trainer from the source itself!
  • Made enrichment ice treats for some of our marine mammals, including sea otters, sea lions, seals, and the dolphins.
  • Caring for Dolphins program: got the chance to see our marine mammal trainers in action as they demonstrated how the animal behaviours are important and vital in animal husbandry.
  • Behind the scenes tour of the animal kitchen, marine mammal office, and enrichment area.
  • Observed Helen and Chester, learning about their beginnings at theVancouver Aquarium, how much care they required, and how we can tell that they are healthy today!

Questions to ask your Jr. Biologists

  1. What are some of the observations we made during our Wet Lab opening procedures? (temperatures, animal health, water spills, overall cleanliness, observation sheet)
  2. What responsibilities do marine mammals have? (animal mental and physical health, training, food preparation, cleaning habitats, general maintenance, interaction with public, giving interviews, behind the scenes tours, animal enrichment, training discussions)
  3. What is animal enrichment? What is its purpose? (an animal husbandry (animal care) principle that seeks to enhance the quality of animal care by identifying and providing stimuli necessary for psychological and physiological – mental and physical – well-being)
  4. What are some of the behaviours the trainers teach Helen and Chester that helps with animal care? (opening their mouths – tongue and teeth, showing their tails, laying on their backs to show their stomachs, etc.)
  5. What is special about Chester’s buoy? (it is like his soother – young whales and dolphins bump underneath their mothers to nurse, and Chester mimics this natural behavior with his favourite buoy. It brings him comfort, just like a soother would for a baby. When removed from the habitat, Chester has shown stressed behaviours, and is only soothed once the buoy is placed back)

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See your Jr. Biologists in action here!

Do you have questions for Club Volunteers or our Coordinator, Hailey? Ask away on our Discussion Board!


Brainstorm how our animal care at the Aquarium is similar to having and caring for a house pet. How do you enrich your pets at home?

Become a family volunteer with the Vancouver Aquarium, where you can learn even more and contribute to our animal care and well-being. Every player is a crucial member to our team!

Caring for our animals requires a lot of resources, time, and love from all of our staff here at the Aquarium. Check out different ways that you can help support our work!

Learning Objectives

Understand the role of an aquarist in caring for our intertidal animals.

Analyze the behind the scenes work in place to ensure our animals remain healthy, active, and engaged.

Propose various strategies for animal enrichment, which helps keep animals stimulated and challenges them mentally and physically.

Observe the behavioural characteristics of cetaceans.

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