My name is Robyn Bell, and I am currently a second year Bachelor of Education student at Trent University in Peterborough.
I began volunteering with the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTTC), specifically their Education and Outreach program, as a part of my alternative practicum placement. I knew that the OTCC would be a perfect fit for me because it flawlessly combines my two passions:
1. My love of animals → How could you not be excited to work with turtles every day?!? Not only are they adorable, but they are extremely fascinating creatures.
2. My love of biology → In addition to conservation biology, working with the centre enables me to explore the anatomy and physiology of turtle species, as well as their habitats and various roles within ecosystems.
Working with the OTCC has been both a positive and rewarding experience.
Every individual working at the centre, paid or volunteer, is there because they genuinely care about the conservation and protection of Ontario’s native turtle species. Their compassion for turtles exudes in all aspects of the centre. It is so nice to be welcomed into this tight-knit community, as well as to be supported in my practicum.
Working alongside Wendy (Education Coordinator at the OTCC) and Rachelle (summer student) for the past several months in the education program has been amazing. Both ladies have graciously taken me under their wings, and have bestowed upon me their vast knowledge of turtles. Their high energy is infectious, and their commitment to the program unwavering. Together they have encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and to take on new roles. I could not ask for two better people to work with.
At the OTTC every day is unique and exciting, which makes it fun to come to work. As a member of the education program, I have assisted in hosting interactive events both on- and off-site that promote conservation and stewardship. I have had the opportunity to travel from Peterborough to Stouffville (and everywhere in between), and to speak with groups of students, citizens, and even field naturalists. I have greatly enjoyed engaging with individuals of all ages and backgrounds, and relating to their personal stories about turtles. I continue to learn something new every day from these experiences.
My absolute favourite part, hands down, of volunteering with the education program was working hands-on with the non-releasable education turtle ambassadors: Paddy (Snapping Turtle), Shellbie (Midland Painted Turtle), Andrea (Blanding’s Turtle), Mappy (Northern Map Turtle), Rusty (Wood Turtle), and Picasso (Midland Painted Turtle). These special turtles are totally amazing, and so are their personal stories. These turtles create joy, and bring the OTCCs messages about the importance of conservation to life. Seeing a real, living turtle encourages myself and our audiences to strive for change (i.e. help turtles cross the road, bring injured turtles to the hospital, make a donation, and discourage development in wetlands, etc.).
Based on my experience with the OTCC, I highly encourage others to consider volunteering!