Pam McPherson dives into her volunteer efforts, literally, donning a wet suit twice each week at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium.
On Thursday nights, Pam helps clean the 55-degree Oceanarium, home to beluga whales and white-sided dolphins. Pam jokes that she cleans beluga whale poop. “How big is beluga whale poop?” She laughs. “That’s a trick question. It’s liquid!” Pam and fellow volunteers dive in with brushes and a power scrubber to tackle the residue that builds on the bottom of the tank and rock walls. “The power scrubber is like an underwater lawn mower,” Pam remarks. “The bottom of the tank really sparkles after a good scrub!”
After cleaning the frigid water of the Oceanarium, Pam warms up Friday mornings as a Caribbean Reef Diver. As part of a presentation dive Pam prepares buckets of clams, shrimp/krill, smelt, squid, sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, seaweed and a nutritional gel to feed fish, rays and eels. During the presentation, Pam feeds the sealife, all while speaking through a diving mask, complete with underwater microphone! A guest Engagement Specialist stands outside the tank and interacts with Pam while she’s in the tank. When she’s not diving, Pam’s in charge of distracting an injured Green sea turtle named Nickel so it won’t steal the show, and feeding the bonnethead sharks from the tank’s surface.
Pam’s enthusiasm carries over into the workplace. Her clients and colleagues often frequent the Shedd to see her. She has also helped others become involved through the Shedd’s volunteer program. Let Pam know if you’re interested in a behind-the-scenes view of the Shedd’s Caribbean Reef. She’s happy to set one up!