by Xinya Calhoun
This past September marked my first time volunteering for the Back to the Sea Society. It also marked the first ever public Animal Release Party - and what a turnout! So many families and friends came out to the beach at Point Pleasant Park to give our sea creatures some love and say goodbye to them one last time. It was an amazing experience that I’m sure will live on in everyone’s memories for years to come!
Tons of families and friends came to Point Pleasant Park for the first Animal Release Party!
All Photo Credits: Julie Balasalle
As the Touch Tank Hut season ends each year, the animals have to say farewell to their summer home and return to the ocean. In 2021, we decided to give them an event that everyone could celebrate! Magali (Back to the Sea's Executive Director) and I spent almost an hour carefully packing up all the animals from the 4 tanks - crabs, sea stars, snails, anemones, you name it! We moved them from the tanks into bags of water and then into coolers so they stayed cool and comfy during the trip from the Touch Tank Hut to Point Pleasant Park.
Our awesome staff and volunteers getting ready for the party!
At the beach, we met with other Back to the Sea staff and volunteers. We had lots to do to set up, so it was great to have so many helping hands. Everyone pitched in to unpack, prepare the shell painting station, and get the animals ready to be handed out. Once people began to arrive, the party officially started!
Each participant filled their reusable container with some water from the beach, and then lined up to get some animals! When an animal was chosen to be released, we made a note of it - it was important to keep track of each animal to make sure they all safely got to the ocean. Participants got to touch and hold the animals, and often got to learn some fun facts about them! Then the animals were put in their container and carried to the ocean for the participant to say a final goodbye and release them into the water. Though most of our species were intertidal and were content to be set free in the shallows directly by our participants, there were some animals (our moon snail Otis, for example) who needed to go a bit deeper to be happy. We had two brave snorkelers and an amazing diver swimming in the chilly waters to help make sure those species got far enough away from shore.
A family getting their first animal - a sea star!
We had so many animals to go around that many participants came back after letting their first one go so they could help release even more! Many kids also enjoyed the oyster shell painting station.
Releasing animals back into the water!
This animal release party is unlike anything I’d ever done before. It was hours of learning, sharing, and experiencing new things about marine animals while having lots of fun at the beach. I loved every second of it, and I hope that every visitor had as much fun as I did!
As we settle into winter here in Nova Scotia, I often find it hard to believe that our grey, frozen province can be the same place it was during the sunny summer months. It’s on these chilly November days that I like to look back to the time of sunshine – so what better time than now to reminisce about the Back to the Sea Society’s Touch Tank Hut season!
This summer was a big one for the Touch Tank Hut building. After being closed for the entirety of the previous season due to COVID-19 and being moved across the parking lot of Alderney Landing, the Back to the Sea staff had a whale of a time giving the building some much needed TLC. Watching the Touch Tank Hut come together was truly an incredible sight! Once the building was in back in order and our animals collected, we knew we were officially ready to welcome our visitors.
We had to make sure that the outside was looking as good as the inside!
It’s amazing how much stuff can fit into a one-room building! Thankfully we were able to sort it all.
Just your average day at the Touch Tank Hut!
Speaking of visitors, we were so happy to welcome every single one of the 1,681 people who came through our doors this summer! People young and old were able to experience not only the Touch Tank Hut’s animals, but also the outdoor programming we developed this summer season. We loved being able to take visitors outside to paint shells, learn about coastal geology, make mini scuba divers, and clean up oil spills! Outdoor programming was a new adventure for us, and one we’re very happy to have done.
The Touch Tank Hut is for everybody, no matter how small!
Shell we Paint?! was definitely our most popular program! We loved seeing everybody’s creative sides as they painted their oyster shells.
Our work didn’t just stay at the Touch Tank Hut, however. Our interpreters not only visited summer camps throughout the season, but we also ran Tidal Trekkers, the intertidal exploration program that we started as a COVID-19 pivot but proved so popular we had to bring it back! I had some of the best moments of my summer splashing through the shallow waters of the North West Arm and McCormacks Beach alongside curious visitors, finding the intertidal species I cared for every day at the Touch Tank Hut in the wild.
It was awesome to be able to take our critters to summer camps!
We’re so happy that you all enjoyed Tidal Trekkers enough to have us bring it back!
Another reason the Touch Tank Hut had such a great season is due to our amazing staff! Back to the Sea was able to hire 5 staff this summer, including our Executive Director Magali Grégoire, Animal Care Lead Sarah Holleran, Volunteer Coordinator Maka Ngulube, Interpreter Lindsay Wamboldt, and myself, the Communications Coordinator. This amazing group of staff truly made the summer, and I’m so happy I got to work with all of them. Ladies, if you’re reading this: cheers to an awesome season!
The dream team! From left to right: Lindsey, Maka, Magali, Sarah, and Sarah.
Even though it’s cold and grey outside right now, the memories of this summer at the Touch Tank Hut serve to remind me that someday, in however many months, the sun will be shining and the Touch Tank Hut will be open once more. Until then, however, memories will have to do!
by Sarah Holleran
It was a successful and sunny opening day on June 8th (World’s Oceans Day) at our miniature marine interpretive centre - the Touch Tank Hut! We were happy and proud to once again be a part of Oceans Weak HFX, which ran from June 1st to 9th. We were thrilled to welcome returning friendly faces, as well as meet new individuals who were experiencing the Touch Tank Hut for the first time. It was a day full of education, engagement, crafts and smiles. With a total of 300 visitors, it was a special day to kick off our season.
Two claw-some volunteers manning our crafting and face painting station!
Touch Tank Hut Grand Opening
We are pleased and excited to offer another season at the Touch Tank Hut, educating people of all ages and audiences from locations within and outside our province of Nova Scotia. With a brand-new species this year, the toad crab, we cannot wait to educate our visitors about the animals we showcase.
We were also pleased to have special guests MLA Claudia Chender, MP Darren Fisher and Councillor Sam Austin come by throughout the day.
From left: Executive Director Magali Grégoire, Touch Tank Hut Coordinator Sarah Holleran and Member of Parliament for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour Darren Fisher on opening day.
MLA for Dartmouth South Claudia Chender, pictured here with one of her daughters, has been very supportive of the Touch Tank Hut over the last two years!
This summer season, we will be open Wednesdays 3pm-7pm, Saturdays 9am-5pm and Sundays 10am-6pm. While we have introduced new admission prices to ensure we can continue to run all summer long, every last Wednesday of the month will be by donation/pay-what-you-can. We look forward to continuing on our journey of sparking curiosity for local marine life, and working towards our goal of a permeant community aquarium in the HRM.
Oceans Week HFX
Oceans Week HFX is a growing community that is dedicated to creating awareness and engagement about the importance of the ocean in our lives, and the lives of future generations. This community strives to recognize how crucial it is to protect the ocean, as it is a valuable yet vulnerable resource we as humans have access to.
Thanks to local volunteers and an array of organizations, Oceans Week HFX includes a wide range of both recreational and educational activities that attracts a vast audience. Activities included beach clean-ups, trivia nights, guest speakers, outdoor recreational activities and also our grand opening. We were so thankful to be a part of this amazing week for the third year in a row!
As part of Oceans Week HFX, Vandal Doughnuts dedicated a charity doughnut to the cause, with a portion of the sales being donated all week long. The team of Oceans Week HFX selected the Terranaut Club and Back to the Sea Society to be recipients of this donation! I hope some of you got to enjoy this yummy donut decorated with marine organisms. Our sincere thanks to Oceans Week HFX and Vandal Doughnuts for this support.
Our first volunteer training of the season held on June 6th!
The Back to the Sea Society would not be able to function the way to does without the help of our amazing and dedicated volunteers. If you have a passion for the ocean and would love to express that passion to others, consider volunteering with us. We are always looking for new volunteer interpreters for the TTH. We are having our second volunteer training and orientation of the year on Tuesday June 25th from 6pm-8pm in Downtown Dartmouth. If you want to educate others on local marine life, consider filling out a volunteer form here
We invite you all to come and see what the Touch Tank Hut is all about this summer - it will be a fin-tastic time!