For more than a century, Waikiki Aquarium has educated visitors about Hawaii’s reefs and marine life.
Volunteers are on the aquarium’s grounds daily, and serve as guides and storytellers for its residents – from the smallest hermit crab to the largest monk seal.
Elise Rosica is circulation services manager at Hawaii Pacific University’s Meader Library, and in 2010 received her master’s degree in communication from the college.
She first got involved with Waikiki Aquarium after meeting volunteer program coordinator Mercedes Matthews at a volunteer fair on HPU’s campus.
Rosica took the first step as a volunteer on a sea hunt, which is the aquarium’s version of Easter-egg hunting.
“I had a blast,” she says.
Her positive experience led her to take training classes in May 2012, and now she leads shark talks and volunteers for Mauka to Makai (the aquarium’s Earth Day celebration), the concert series (five concerts every other week for 10 weeks) and Hunters on the Reef gallery.
Rosica also is an Edge of the Reef guide at the 7,500-gallon exhibit. “We’re the ones who talk about the sea urchins and hermit crabs,” she says. “We’ll also talk about the monk seals.”
You can find Rosica Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at her primary station at the Edge of the Reef exhibit at the aquarium.
“I talk about the invasive algae cleanups that are done,” she says. “We talk about the hermit crabs and where they’re found. We talk about the importance of leaving empty shells where they’re found, so hermit crabs and other creatures will have shelter to move into when they need to.”
She also has interesting information to offer regarding sea urchins, which prefer to attach to rocks with a good source of algae they like to munch on.
Edge of the Reef volunteers also discuss monk seals, including how to behave when you see them basking on the beach.
Visitors even can learn about Ho’ailona and Maka Onaona, two monk seals who call the aquarium home.
The satisfaction Rosica gets from interacting with visitors in engaging and educational conversations is enormous, and she adds that there are so many enjoyable aspects to volunteering.
“It’s a fair commitment, but it’s awesome,” she explains. “I have fun with the visitors. I get to talk to people from literally all over the world. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun, too.
“If somebody is looking for a worthy place to volunteer, they couldn’t pick a better place than the aquarium.”