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Texas State Aquarium seeks volunteers

Volunteer Carroll Pate holds an owl in the animal rehabilitation program. Photo courtesy of the Texas State Aquarium

The Texas State Aquarium runs on volunteer power.

Since the aquarium’s inception in 1990, volunteers have logged more than 500,000 hours — the equivalent of 57 years around the clock! Today, the aquarium boasts more than 200 active volunteers, greeting visitors, answering questions and caring for animals.

“We have the best volunteers: excited, passionate, cool,” said Annie Vlach, volunteer coordinator at the aquarium. “They run the gamut: doctors, professors, students, veterans, stay-at-home moms.”

When interviewing potential volunteers, Vlach looks for a willingness to learn and a general understanding of how important each one considers the work they will be doing.

A lack of enthusiasm is a sure deal breaker.

“We don’t do negative attitudes,” Vlach said.

It’s true. At the aquarium, it’s very rare to find a grumpy volunteer.

The smiles come easily, they say. Volunteering at the aquarium is fulfilling and a delight. In fact, some volunteers have been with the aquarium since it opened in 1990, working more than 3,000 hours (four months around the clock).

One of those senior volunteers, Carroll Pate, has been working at the aquarium for 15 years, starting in animal rehab. Before retiring from full-time employment in 1998, he was a developmental chemist in the petroleum industry. Since retirement, he has become a man of many hobbies, including photography and beer brewing.

“Animal rehab is the most personal job at the aquarium,” he said. “All of the animals, even the fish, have such distinct personalities. And it’s really nice to see the (rehabilitated) birds released.”

Pate recently switched to volunteer diving, getting in the water to help clean the tanks. The difference, he said with a grin, is “scrubbin’ fish poop instead of bird poop.”

Pate also volunteers as an interpreter, guiding visitors and fielding questions.

All volunteers start out in guest services, opening doors and handing out maps. From there, they can move on to a variety of opportunities, including preparing food in animal care, maintaining the Weston’s Library and doing routine office work.

There’s also an AquaTeen program available for young people who want to pursue a career in marine biology.


To volunteer at the Texas State Aquarium, visit and navigate to the “Volunteer Opportunities” link. Fill out an online application. From there, visit the aquarium for an information session and go through a formal interview. Voila! You just began an adventure in animal and environmental conservation guaranteed to inspire.

For more information on volunteering, reach out to or call (361) 881-1381.

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