by Magali Grégoire
2017 was another successful year for Back to the Sea! While it was only our second year of operation as a society, we increased our impact exponentially. We participated in more events, recruited multiple volunteers, added to our core team of Board Members and launched our very own miniature marine interpretive centre - the Touch Tank Hut!
Here's a recap of the significant moments of 2017.
As you know, we operate our permanent and portable touch tanks on a seasonal basis. We began and ended the season with partnering events. Kicking off during Oceans Week HFX, we had a great time at The Ocean and You and An Ocean of Discovery events (click on the links to read blog posts from our volunteers). Then, a little later in the summer, we enjoyed a day at the Canadian Sea Turtle kiosk.
1 & 2: Oceans Week event at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. 3: Sea Turtle Network kiosk
The fall kept us just as busy with the You, Me and the Sea program (part of the Sustainable Oceans Conference) and the Bedford Institute of Oceanography Open House - all on the same weekend! Over 22,000 people came through the open house!
We also participated in the Halifax Oyster Festival and had our team members volunteer their time to hand out water to the participants of the Maritime Race Weekend.
1&2: Halifax Oyster Festival. 3: Maritime Race weekend water station.
Sandwiched between all those events is our biggest accomplishment to date, the Touch Tank Hut!
In just five weekends we had over 1,800 visitors!
The Touch Tank Hut is truly proof that you can be mini and mighty all at once.
We are grateful to have captured the interest of visitors, locals and the media with this initiative. See our media page for all Touch Tank Hut coverage.
1: Le Téléjournal Acadie with Radio Canada. 2: Interpreter and Aquarist Leah at the Global studios.
Thank you to the dozens of volunteers who helped make this achievement possible. This includes everyone on our Board, our staff, our Communications Committee, our Advisory Board, our volunteer interpreters and all our friends and family members who got their hands dirty and picked up a paintbrush, collected animals, cleaned, did plumbing, electrical and construction work. It's one long list and are hearts are full!
A huge thank you as well to all those who donated to the cause. Thanks to over 70 contributors, we surpassed our crowdfunding goal and raised $5150!
We are also grateful to our top sponsors and want to give a special shout out to Alderney Landing who donated the use of the space to us.
Thanks to Alderney Landing's continued support, we will be able to open this coming summer!
A VIP visit for Scotiabank employees as a thank you for their top level sponsoship.
That's not all! We are also very happy that our Founder was able to present at the See Change, Tides of Environmental Learning Conference hosted by the Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication. And finally, we had a blast during our Goodwill Bot event, a fundraiser put on by Good Robot Brewing Co.
Missed last year's Goodwill Bot? Save the date! We're doing it again on Monday May 21st 2018!
Before we sign off, we'd like to introduce you to our newest Board member who joined our team last year, Jonathan Primack. Jonathan is a Project Manager at Noble Grape and a father of two young children who are already among the Touch Tank Hut's number one fans! We're happy to have his energy and passion on our Board.
We would also like to thank Lisanne Jacklin who also joined our Board last year, however had to end her term early due do unforeseen circumstances. We thank her for her contributions and for remaining an important part of our team as our law advisor.
1: Jonathan on the far left helping out with the Maritime Race Weekend. 2: Lisanne with Alderney Landing Executive Director Bea McGregor and Back to the Sea Founder Magali.
Thank you to our founding Board members Maggie, Rodrigo, Courtenay and Greg who have been with us from the start and continue to work on all of Back to the Sea's initiatives, including the eventual construction of a permanent space.
While we remain a Society that is ran in most part with volunteer efforts, we were proud to hire our first staff last year. With Maggie stepping in as Board President, our Founder Magali stepped off the board and was able to take on a new staff leadership position as Executive Director. Leah and Kim were are first Interpreter and Aquarists and did a fantastic job inspiring all our Touch Tank Hut visitors.
From left: Leah, Kim and Magali
Here's to another great year and we look forward to opening our doors and welcoming you to the Touch Tank Hut on June 2nd!
Great experience for kids to see AND respect animals!
- 2017 Touch Tank Hut visitor
by Candace Nickerson
Over the past year I’ve had an amazing experience volunteering with the Back to the Sea Society. Starting off Oceans Week 2017 at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic’s Oceans and You event was the metaphorical cherry to top off my Back to the Sea experience!
Leading up to Oceans Week, I was feeling busy and stressed and the thought of another thing on my to do list was daunting. From the moment I stepped onto the waterfront, all of my worries were washed away in a tide of Ocean Optimism. Passing the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ preserved fish specimens, the World Wildlife Federation's Panda mascot and the excited participants, it was clearly going to be a whale of a day.
A fishy print made at Afishionado's table. This is how markets in Japan
indicate which fish they have for sale.
Over 30 ocean-loving organizations came together to share their passion, using exhibits, activities and displays, attracting hundreds throughout the day. From making ‘fish prints’ with Afishionado, to learning about how innovation can improve our oceans sector with the COVE (Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship), opportunities to witness the ocean's wonders were as far as the eye can sea.
Photo by Halifax Mermaids
People of all ages enjoyed Back to the Sea’s touch tanks, including locals, visitors from away and one very special guest, Raina the Halifax Mermaid! Looking at the ocean, with the many possibilities it holds, inspires all sorts of emotions, from curiosity to awe. At Back to the Sea, we are able to provide a peak at the many species who call our ocean home, right here in Halifax. I personally have never encountered an unsatisfied visitor while working with Back to the Sea. Even if a spiky green sea urchin may seem a little scary at first, learning about their way of life on the ocean floor always seems to satisfy!
Volunteering with the Back to the Sea Society has opened up an ocean of possibilities for me. We are lucky to exist in Canada’s Ocean City, within a network of amazing organizations and individuals working to care for our marine environment. All over the world, the ocean connects us through not only physical boundaries, but also in the way that it makes people feel. The Oceans and You event truly captured this connection, lending hope for a future of healthy oceans and seaside smiles all around!
Interested in volunteering with us? See our Volunteer page!
by Jessica Bradford
After recently volunteering with Back to the Sea at the Discovery Centre’s An Ocean of Discovery during Oceans Week HFX on June 10th, I wanted to share some of my experiences and recap my three favourite things about touch tanks as an ocean education tool.
We are, of course, lucky to live alongside the beautiful North Atlantic Ocean, but accessing our cold waters enough to really get to know the plants and animals found there is not always easy. Touch tanks bring the ocean to us, making the opportunity to learn about, observe, and appreciate our local marine life an experience that is accessible to all.
During three hours of volunteering at An Ocean of Discovery, over 150 people came by the touch tanks to scope out our sandy and rocky habitats and to meet the sea critters in each. That means, more than 150 adults and children were able to participate in this amazing and unique learning opportunity. That's not counting the additional 100 people who visited the touch tanks in the afternoon portion of the day.
Tiny blood star
Touch tanks are a hands-on and multi-sensory learning experience. This may include touching the suction-like tube feet of a common sea star, watching a hermit crab hide in its shell, seeing and hearing a soft-shelled clam squirt water out through its siphon, smelling the scents of the sea, feeling the coldness of the tank water, and so much more!
As a volunteer with Back to the Sea, I have had the privilege of not only meeting and connecting with people of all ages and backgrounds, but I also get to help facilitate connections between people and our cold water marine life. Seeing people touch a green sea urchin for the first time and going from apprehension to wonder in a matter of seconds will never get old to me! It is such an incredible connection to watch people form.
This list could go on! If you have not had a chance to visit a touch tank yet and have your own close encounters with marine life, then keep an eye on news and events for any upcoming opportunities.
Thank you to the Back to the Sea team for welcoming me as a volunteer – looking forward to many more Touch Tank Days in the future!
by Magali Grégoire
2016 is the year that the Back to the Sea Society was officially born!
I have been slowly working towards the idea of opening a "mini aquarium" in or around Halifax since the start of 2015. I began to spread the word as I worked with my mentor, Founder of the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium, and other advisors to build local relationships and put a plan in place. However, it wasn't until March 2016 that I welcomed my first official Board member, Maggie Sutherland.
Maggie was quickly joined by Courtenay Parlee and, a few months later, we added Greg Sheffer's name the team. Rodrigo Menafra completed our Board of Directors team for 2016 when he joined us in the fall.
These individuals bring to the table an incredible amount of knowledge and, above all, passion! Want to get to know them a little better? Read there bios here.
A huge thank you to these four wonderful people who have been among the first to believe in the proposed Back to the Sea Aquarium. Your hard work has already paid off!
From left: Magali, Maggie, Courtenay and Greg. Not pictured: Rodrigo.
Our biggest accomplishment of 2016 has been the Touch Tanks Days!
We created this event series as a proof of concept for the proposed aquarium. We wanted to obtain community feedback, spread the word and begin our mandate of ocean education.
And it was a huge success!
With a target of 500 visitors, we tripled this goal and saw over 1,500 people of all ages!
Touch Tank Day visitors with volunteers Ronnie and Candace.
We hosted a total of 7 Touch Tank Days, with 5 of them being in Fisherman's Cove. We received extremely positive responses from the surrounding communities, making us confident in our decision to establish the aquarium in this location.
Our thanks to Hope for Wildlife and the organizers of the Sustainable Oceans conference for inviting us along to their events.
Getting some help putting the animals away at the Hope for Wildlife Open House and some curious kids and parents at the You, Me and the Sea program.
Thank you to all the organizations and individuals that helped us in 2016. We look forward to continuing these partnerships and working together in the coming year!
Dalhousie University played an integral part in our Touch Tank Days. After experiencing some delays with our collection permit, John Lindley was able to ensure that we had some animals to show all of those who were anxiously awaiting our touch tanks.
Since we don't yet have a permanent tank system set up, we were able to keep our animals happy between Touch Tank Days thanks to the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. Paul Fraser set up our holding tank and ensured we could access the animals whenever we needed.
Some behind the scenes - Sometimes this work requires collecting seawater at night! We also need to collect kelp to feed our urchins.
Our Touch Tank Days had a home thanks to Board member Greg, his wife Catherine and their son and daughter in law Scott and Jenna.
It felt so great when we made those first few brush strokes in our signature colour!
It was through the Touch Tank Days that we welcomed our very first F(l)ounders, The Image Salon and Eyes on Optometry. As our first big donors, we will forever be thankful for their support!
Every donation is special and goes a long way, but it's extra meaningful when it comes from your target audience. We strive to inspire and educate young children and, in September, we received their vote of confidence!
After being nominated by 10-year-old Grace, the members of 100 Kids Who Care voted for us as their non-profit of choice. Each child in attendance brought $10 of their hard earned money and we received a donation of over $300.
We had such a wonderful time attending their following meeting in December to publicly thank Grace for her nomination and presentation and to show the kids some sea critters!
We had a blast participating in a few other ocean-themed events in 2016!
In June, I attended the Ocean Literacy Conference: Ocean Optimism and hosted a workshop titled A Catch-and-Release Aquarium for Halifax Metro: Come be Part of the Adventure! It was inspiring to hear what the participants had to say about their relationship to the ocean and how it has changed throughout their lives. I also received many great ideas for our future aquarium!
And last but not least, we wrapped up the year at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. Their second annual Family Fun Day was titled Fish out of Water, the perfect event to have our touch tanks! We saw over 350 people at the museum that day!
See our Events page for photos of all the events we attended!
Pier 21's mascot, Fenton, with two of our volunteers, Jessica and Joana (right of Fenton).
We had the chance to both start and end the year with some media coverage!
I did an interview on Mainstreet in January about small-scale aquariums and CTV Morning Live covered the Family Fun Day in December. But no need to go into the details here, we have Media page for that now!
We had a wonderful year and we can't wait to see what 2017 has in store for us!
We'll be working hard on our fundraising efforts to make the Back to the Sea Aquarium a reality (with a goal of opening in June 2018) and we look forward to keeping you up to date with our progress.
Thank you to all our advisors, volunteers, donors and to our consultants Ocean to Eye Level - we could gush about you all day long!
And finally, thank YOU!
Thank you for reading and thank you for your support! Every e-list subscription, Facebook like, Twitter and Instagram follow and touch tank visit makes a difference in this journey.
You've made it clear that you want to see a catch-and-release aquarium in Nova Scotia, and together, we will make that happen!
By Magali Grégoire
If you're following us on Facebook or have browsed this site even a little, you'll know that we plan to launch an event series called Touch Tank Days in the near future. And if you haven't done either of those things, do it now! (Or at least, right after you read this post.)
We're almost ready to launch the Touch Tank Days, but we're still missing one important element - the animals! The little critters we'll be showcasing are still chilling in the ocean for the time being. Why is that? Because we want to do things right, and that includes collecting our animals in a safe and ethical way.
Desta Frey, 2014 Curator of the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium collecting
animals prior to the start of the season.
We've applied for a collection permit that we're hoping will also allow us to release the animals back to the ocean where they were collected from.
This allows for a close to zero environmental impact, the fondation of the catch-and-release philosophy.
In terms of the Touch Tank Days, this means we would like to release the animals at the end of the event series in early October.
A sea star returning to its home! Photo curtesy of the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium.
But what does catch-and-release mean for the proposed Back to the Sea Aquarium and the other "mini aquariums" in Canada?
Due to our East Coast weather, the Back to the Sea Aquarium will have a short season similar to the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium. At this aquarium, all the animals are collected in May so they can be in the exhibits when the doors open in early June. After their summer-long vacation away from predators, they are released in mid-October with the help of local children and families. This is called the Release Party and it's BYOB - Bring Your Own Bucket!
Children handing off an urchin at the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium's 2015 Release Party
Things are a little different on the West Coast. For example, the Ucluelet Aquarium is open from March to December, making for a much longer season. Although this aquarium still hosts a release party at the end of the year, animals are also periodically released and caught throughout the season.
Some of Ucluelet Aquarium's animals being released back to their permanent home.
As soon as we receive our required permits, we'll be hitting the water to collect some animal friends. Can you guess what animals we'll be collecting? Leave your answers in the comments!
By Magali Grégoire
On Saturday June 11th, Back to the Sea Society will be leading a workshop as part of the Ocean Literacy Conference 2016: Ocean Optimism being held in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This second annual conference is lead by the Canadian Network for Ocean Education (CaNOE). Our workshop, titled A Seasonal Aquarium for Halifax Metro: Come be Part of the Creation!, will engage participants with hands-on and interactive activities that will get them to think creatively, reconnect with their inner child and unleash their imagination.
This workshop will allow participants to contribute to the making of the Back to the Sea Aquarium. We will be inviting participants to think big in terms of how we can all approach ocean conservation. The group will be invited to think outside the box, beyond the containment of an exhibit tank. Our exercises are sure to generate surprising ideas that will be valuable contributions to the Back to the Sea Society as well as bring insight to other ocean-related work that the conference participants are involved with.
The deadline to register for this year's conference is June 1st, so be sure to register today if you are interested in attending and participating in our workshop.
I attended last year's conference held in Vancouver and was blown away by all the top notch presentations! I am positive that this year's conference is sure to please all educators, researchers and other ocean enthusiasts.
If we don't see you there, be sure to check back here for an update on how it went!