Interacting with nature.
Experiencing the outdoors.
Exploring our world.
At first my perspective on these activities is nothing but positive. You probably have a relatively favorable outlook on the natural environment too, right? Even if you don’t consider yourself an “outdoorsy” person, you appreciate the beauty of a sunset, the impressiveness of a mountain vista, or the calm and peace that comes with being on the water.
Do you ever have feelings of frustration, sadness, or even anger when interacting with the outdoors though? Maybe when you witness others (or their evidence) getting in the way, interrupting, inappropriately engaging, or just downright trashing nature?
For me, the environment has always been a battle worth fighting for: An effort I poured my whole heart into with regards to time and personal choices. Unfortunately though, as I grew more involved in my professional life, and then journeyed into motherhood, my stewardship fell by the wayside. I haven’t been making giving back a priority.
Just this month however, I’ve recharged those batteries. Thanks to an amazing, and once in a lifetime, really, experience at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California and an event called “Dawn Day in the Wildlife”.
A little background…Why Dawn?
It all started with a little research. Almost 40 years ago, when working to try to find the most effective product to clean oiled birds, the folks at the International Bird Rescue determined that Dawn dish soap worked best at cutting oil faster than any other soap.
Now Dawn specifically supports The Marine Mammal Center and International Bird Rescue to increase the public’s awareness of the work these organizations perform to rescue, rehabilitate, and release wildlife. As you can imagine bottles and bottles of Dawn dish soap (more than 50,000) have been donated to these two organizations along with generous monetary funds. In addition to cleaning oiled birds, the soap is used to clean animal enclosures, kennels, and feeding supplies.
I was given the opportunity to expand my knowledge and understanding of the good work being performed by these two organizations in order to teach others and broaden the reach of their efforts.
The Marine Mammal Center
We began our day with a tour of the facility, which is the largest marine mammal hospital in the world. 45 staff members and 1,100 volunteers ensure that the center’s mission is accomplished.
First and foremost, the center takes in injured, abandoned and malnourished marine mammals with the most common animals treated being elephant seals, harbor seals, and sea lions. The second goal is outreach and education. The center works to tell the stories of these rescued marine mammals with an emphasis on teaching and inspiring young conservationists. The final aspect of their mission is research. Folks come from all over the world to learn from the facility because of the work accomplished through careful study of the animals and their environment.
I had the pleasure of shadowing Jill Hayward, a volunteer in the education department. Jill works as a docent at the information desk and viewing platform of the center, and is a tour leader. She’s been volunteering at the center since 2009 and has a heart for children. Her mission as a volunteer is to inspire and empower the students that walk through the doors so that they too can become stewards of our environment.
I’m so thankful for the time I was able to spend with Jill. In an upcoming post, I’ll share even more of her story. She’s a truly special individual and I get goosebumps just thinking about how well she interacts with young people. Her passion is contagious.
Because of my pregnancy and passing of possible infectious diseases, I wasn’t able to participate in the more hands-on activities (fish sorting, food preparation, and cleaning) within the animal rescue portion of the center.
Sea Lion Release
The most powerful part of the day occurred after we hopped into buses and drove almost 2 hours to the Chimney Rock area of Point Reyes National Seashore. At first we were just told we’d visit an elephant seal rookery to be able to check out some of the marine animals in their natural habitat. But our Marine Mammal Center leaders had a surprise up their sleeves, and told us shortly before our departure that we were indeed going to witness a release of three rehabilitated sea lions back into the wild!
We watched as the “Apostrophe”, “Row”, and “Fritters” all blissfully (and without much hesitation) made their way back into the ocean to rejoin their natural habitat. I was lucky enough to not only get to see the animals make their way into the Pacific, but I also played a part in the release my being one of the official “rope untiers”. Before the kennels (housing the sea lions) were lowered and opened, I got to release one of the ropes that was securing them in the back of the truck. It was the perfect ending to cap off our day of learning about the center, Dawn’s involvement, and the important efforts taking place. A magical moment.
Little Things that make a Big Difference.
Some, certainly not the entire, of the reasons why these animals need to be rescued lead back to human interaction. Something that we humans did that ultimately led to the animals needing the center’s help.
Remember how I said that sometimes our interactions in nature can bring on feelings of sadness, frustration, and anger? This is what I mean. Just one example is trash. Marine mammals can become entangled in all kinds of plastics that end up in their ocean homes. There is good news though. We can make simple changes and get involved in small ways to help:
- Clean-up the trash around your neighborhood on a regular basis. All trash left on the ground can eventually make it’s way into the ocean (even from very very far away!), so stop it before it gets there.
- Recycle, compost, and manage your waste to have LESS.
- Keep the wildlife wild. Don’t feed wild animals and keep your distance. Pass this onto the next others and we can make a huge difference.
There is much more to come from our day with The Marine Mammal Center and Dawn, so stay tuned. Over the course of the next few months, I will share more, and dive even deeper into some of the parts of our Day in the Wildlife experience. In the meantime, go take action!
Disclosure: A very special thank you to the folks at Dawn for making this experience possible and for sponsoring my travel and lodging in the San Francisco Bay area. As always all opinions and ideas expressed are my own.
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