California Academy of Sciences

Upon moving to San Francisco a few years ago, I knew there had to be volunteer opportunities similar to my experience in college at the Pittsburgh Zoo – I just had to find them. I had been to the California Academy of Sciences before and fell in love with its diversity of subject matters, its world-class commitment to research, and its approachable, modern tone. After doing a bit of research, I soon applied to become one of the Academy's iconic volunteer docents.

The process for becoming a docent was much more rigorous than that of other volunteer positions. Applicants had to undergo two rounds of interviews, several weeks of classroom training, study exhibit manuals, and pass the docent quizzes. After that, new docents had to volunteer for a minimum of 3 shifts a month for a year.

Despite the daunting list of requirements, being a docent has been one of the most rewarding ventures of my life. To this day, I regularly work at least twice a month at the Academy, dedicating my weekends and weeknights to something I love. I've been able to connect with residents all around the Bay area, blow guests' minds with information about the amazing natural world, work with a community of incredibly dedicated and passionate individuals, and gain access to world-renown researchers. But perhaps most importantly, I feel like I'm a valued, contributing member of the Academy and mine's shared mission to explore, explain, and sustain life in this world we all share.

A crowd favorite, the comet demo allows us to show guests the composition of comet nuclei while having fun with dry ice. (Safely, of course!)

A crowd favorite, the comet demo allows us to show guests the composition of comet nuclei while having fun with dry ice. (Safely, of course!)

The Ichthyology cart teaches visitors about the incredible diversity of fish by encouraging them to actually touch specimen from the collection.

The Academy's Living Roof is one of many sustainable practices they employ. Whale bones from found beached whales are cleaned by the microorganisms on the roof. As a docent, it's a great place to engage visitors about key conservation messages such as the importance of indigenous plants, the plight of bees and other pollinators, and the innovation of environmentally friendly design.

Every docent is trained to work in the touch Tidepool, teaching guests about the indigenous starfish and sea urchins found in our very own northern California tidal zones.