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Below The Surface

Monday, May 13, 2013

Discovering ECHO: An Intern's Perspective



The instructions for my arrival at ECHO were complicated. Sent via email from my new boss, they went something like this:
Park in the back of the parking lot.
Find the red door by the loading dock and enter through it.
Turn right, go through a door.
Turn left, go through another door.
Go through a dark room until you see a lobby.
Find the Community Room.

I parked, I went through some doors, I found a room, I sat down. It was my first morning at ECHO, and I was apparently the only one to show up for the staff meeting. The panic induced by this realization, intensified by an eerie quiet that could only exist in an empty museum, quickly subsided at the sound of excited chatter. The room filled; people hugged each other and laughed. I smiled, declaring with a faux confidence to whoever asked that I was “Linda’s new intern.” I answered some questions about myself. I stood up, I sat back down. I shook hands with a friendly man who I now know as Phelan, ECHO’s Executive Director. No one mentioned Linda. But then, in an almost coincidental way, she took a seat next to me and introduced herself.

Since that morning in January, I’ve grown into my role as an ECHO team member and Linda’s intern. We’ve hosted adult science events, created new learning experiences for the museum floor, learned science from experts, kept earthworms from dying at the hands of rowdy children, decorated ECHO’s Action Lab in lieu of “real work,” prepared cheese platters, tasted German beer alongside a man with a handlebar mustache, flung mud off ECHO’s deck, and countless other tasks. We’ve shared awkward moments, confused glances, victorious high-fives and relieved hugs. One time I sat in a hot media closet clutching a radio and waiting for a voice to give me the OK to press just the right button at just the right time or else an entire event would be put on hold. One time I let some kids convince me our horseshoe crab had died on my watch. (It was really just taking a rest… on its back.) One time I thought a turtle was stuck between rocks. (Okay, fine. That has happened at least four times now; I always think the turtles are stuck.) One time I watched a hermit crab crawl into a new shell, change its mind, and crawl back into its old shell. One time I cried in the volunteer lounge because I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing.

Now, with only a couple weeks left as an intern here, I realize that those cryptic first instructions were actually simpler than everything that followed. I realize that all of my achievements and contributions, some great and some minute, were the direct result of both ECHO’s complex nature and a kind of intrinsic chaos that exists only in a truly creative, passionate, and inspiring place.

“Our real discoveries come from chaos, from going to the place that looks
wrong and stupid and foolish.” 
 Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters
Blog by: Erin Shetron, Spring 2013, ECHO Education Intern

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Congrats to Animal Care Volunteer Graduates 2013!

We, the Animal Ambassadors of ECHO, hereby state our heartfelt thanks and congratulations to some of our favorite caretakers who will be donning caps and gowns as part of the University of Vermont graduating class of 2013.  Although we understand that each of you have lives outside of our little world, we will miss you.  You have kept us fed, watered, and healthy and for that we are grateful.  A few of us would like to say a few words to each one of you:
Ashley returning a baby turtle to a clean tank.
On behalf of this year's group of hatchling Eastern spiny softshell turtles, I'd like to congratulate Ashley Waldron for earning her B.S. in Biology from the School of Arts and Sciences. We wish her luck in her pursuit of career doing and teaching science.  We are glad that she's staying in Burlington to see us off to the wild this June.

-Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle, no. 4







Brianna and a map turtle.

As part of ECHO's behind the scenes collection of Animal Ambassadors, myself and my fellow turtles would like to say "Thanks!" to Brianna Rainville for helping to keep our tanks nice and clean when she arrives on Sundays.  We hope that she remembers us fondly as she puts her B.S. in Environmental Studies  as she starts her new job working as an Energy Efficiency Represenative at EnSave, Inc. in Richmond, Vermont.

-Map turtle, Upstairs Animal Care










Pat returns a well-fed painted turtle to the Upper River




Although Pat Kemple has just joined us recently, I have been impressed with how quickly he has acquired the skills to keep us turtles in the Upper River fed and healthy.  If only there was an aquarium on campus from which we could watch you receive your B.S. in Wildlife Biology from the Rubenstein School of Natural Resources.  No doubt you'll bring the same enthusiasm to the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary this summer and wherever your westward travels take you after that.

-Painted turtle, Upper River Exhibit





Becca with a hatchling softshell turtle


We long skinny animals know we have a friend in Rebecca Eaton.  Despite her professed love of our warm-blooded mammalian brethren, she keeps my tank clean and tidy each Wednesday.  She has also taken a interest in keeping tabs on the weight of my buddy the juvenile milksnake.  We are confident that her B.S. in Biology from the School of Arts & Sciences and passion for animals will benefit wildlife as she pursues her interests in conservation biology and wildlife management.

-American eel

Friday, May 3, 2013

Teen Leadership at ECHO

ECHO's award-winning teen leadership program, E-Team, is one way that we connect to our communities and ensure that learners of all ages are engaged and empowered to make our world a better place. This year we are starting our recruitment process earlier than in the past.  Recruitment for members of the E-Team is happening now for next fall.  Interested candidates should return applications by May 19th so we can set up interviews and select a team of eight teens in time to work here at ECHO for the 2013-2014 academic year (September - May). 


E-Team member exploring furs with a guest

The E-Team is a great way for teens to directly engage visitors through science-related activities, hands-on crafts, and interpretation of exhibit areas. Over the course of the year, teens participate in weekly training in job skills, environmental science, and interacting with the public. During the weekend shifts, our teens become an essential component of engagement on the exhibit floor: explaining exhibits and leading activities for our guests. In the Spring the E-Team works with other groups to host special programs after hours. This March, the E-Team hosted five-hundred visitors in and event celebrating the mentoring community.  

E-Team teens making buttons
In addition to helping ECHO fulfill its mission, E-Team members gain valuable science content knowledge, job skills, social interactions with new peers, leadership experience, and various experiences that connect them to the lake and our community. They also receive a stipend of $20/week. 

Do you know of any teens that are interested in science and the environment, possess strong interpersonal skills, and are reliable? Applicants should be freshmen or sophomores next year. Please visit our website for more information at: echovermont.org/joinandsupportus/teenprogram
E-Team member presenting at the Champlain Sea Tank.

E-Team adventure on the lake