Not Your Average Opportunity

September 6, 2011 at 8:45 am Leave a comment

There are nearly seven billion people on Earth, and at the moment I was standing in the animal room at the Fernbank Museum, holding a small dead mouse in a forceps to feed to a European legless lizard, a weird thought occurred to me. Right now, there must be millions of people driving their cars. A couple billion, mostly on the other side of the planet, are sleeping. It’s dinnertime in some other time zone, so a vast number of folks are probably eating.

Brett Bannor, holding a legless lizard

But it is possible that at this exact point in time, I am the only individual among the seven billion who is feeding a mouse to a European legless lizard! But—even if there is, by chance, one other person on Earth feeding a mouse to a European legless lizard, is he being paid for it? If so, I’m still unique, because I’m feeding the reptile not as an employee, but as a volunteer.

How did I get so lucky?

Summer of 2009, I decided to volunteer on one of my days off. Like most who give their time in this manner, I thought it would be a way to gain a sense of fulfillment, as well as be helpful to a non-profit organization.

Fernbank Museum is a fascinating place, and it’s a convenient distance from my home, so I contacted Michele Kresge, the Museum’s Manager of Member and Volunteer Services, to ask if I could help. She invited me to an orientation session, where I learned about opportunities for volunteers, and I was acquainted with the Museum’s mission and policies.

After the orientation, Michele contacted me. In the email I had initially sent her, I mentioned that I had a long career taking care of live animals. Michele brought that up and asked me “Would you mind if I arranged for you to meet Lynn Anders, our Animal Care Coordinator? She could really use some help.”

Full disclosure: in those pre-Fernbank NatureQuest days, I had no idea Fernbank Museum even had live animals or an Animal Care Coordinator. But I’m glad it does, because I said yes to Michele and had the pleasure of meeting Lynn. For 2 years I’ve had a wonderful time assisting her in such diverse tasks as weighing an indigo snake, chopping produce to feed a blue-tongued skink, and changing the water in the diamondback terrapin tank. I’ve placed Madagascar hissing cockroaches in a transparent container and shown them to Museum visitors, being able to experience firsthand every possible expression of curiosity or horror the human face is able to show. It’s all been very rewarding.

And of course, I’ve fed mice to European legless lizards. Performing a task like that might not be your preferred way to spend your time. That’s okay—Fernbank has several other opportunities for volunteers, such as greeting guests when they enter the Museum and staffing the information desk at the entrance to the exhibit A Walk Through Time in Georgia. Besides, how many volunteers do you need to feed a rodent to a lizard?  That’s my gig and I’m not crazy about sharing it!

So if you have the time and the interest, I urge you to contact Fernbank Museum about volunteering.  They like people who commit their time almost as much as I like European legless lizards.

–Brett Bannor, Polaris Volunteer


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At Fernbank Museum, there’s much more than dinosaurs and giant-screen films. Even with our website, e-newsletters, Facebook pages and Twitter updates, there’s still a lot we’d like to share with you. This blog is an opportunity for the people that keep Fernbank running and constantly expanding, to share stories from their point of view. We hope you’ll enjoy these first-hand, behind-the-scenes glimpses of what goes into keeping a world-class natural history museum running. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback on these stories, to hear your personal experiences and hear any suggestions for topics. Happy reading!

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