Sunday, April 11, 2010

Homecrew Excellence

If you spend any time at all around PTMSC you will no doubt hear mention of our fabulous “homecrews”. This refers to the saintly group of volunteers that clean all of our tanks in the marine exhibit. These lovely folks cheerfully donate 3 hours a week to duties that are frequently smelly or tedious. Whether they are vacuuming up animal waste with siphons or twisting like contortionists to scrub algae off the plexiglass walls; they are indefatigable and we are inexpressibly grateful for all of their hard work.
Louise Walzack, scrubber extraordinaire, cleans the round tank

Recently, during a Thursday homecrew (during the winter we have three separate crews), we had the collective realization that doing Homecrew leads to the acquisition of a rather remarkable suite of skills not used in every-day life. Sometimes I take a mental step back during a Homecrew task, realize what I’m doing and have to chuckle. Picture this; a group of three adults, all bent over a plastic siphon tube, banging it with great force against the wooden floor while muttering under their breath “Out cursed blockage, OUT!!” This may or may not be followed by a vigorous stomping on said “blockage”.

The following list is an attempt to share the “Homecrew” world; a magical mystical place where your happiness is dramatically affected by the bowel movements of invertebrates. I’m thinking of this blog post as a work in progress so if you are a current or past homecrew member and can think of anything to add, PLEASE TELL ME and I’ll write it in! ( or leave a comment on the blog)

You know you’re a seasoned PTMSC Homecrew Volunteer when:
• You brim over with self-satisfied pride when you make it through 3 hours of cleaning without a single siphon-clog.
• You use a turkey baster…. to dust rocks….

Mary Jo Nichols demonstrates the acclaimed "turkey-baster" technique

• Your motto for the day is “Only suck once”
• You heart sinks a bit when a storm brings high winds and rough waves… because you know how this is going to affect the cleanliness of the tanks.
• It’s immensely cathartic when your entire siphon goes black with dirt… and you immediately scrounge around for more pockets of filth

Nathan Trimble using the gravel tube attachment to siphon a jewel tank

• You’re able to distinguish between normal and abnormal quantities of California sea-cucumber poop.
• You’ve considering offering kaopectate or Immodium to a California sea cucumber.
• After you realize you have fish juice in your hair you have the subsequent realization that this doesn’t really faze you.
Joe Ryan, famed caretaker of Touch Tank 4

• You’re willing to withstand freezing cold water and ice-cold hands because those animals just gotta get fed!!
• Your heart gets all fluttery when a new, gorgeous animal shows its face for the first time when you’re cleaning its tanks (even if this new animal doesn’t have a face).

Thank you to all of our wonderful homecrew volunteers! You all are fabulous!
And for all those out there who have yet to join up, we can always use more help! You too can dust rocks with kitchen implements!!
-Jess Swihart
Natural History Exhibit Education Coordinator & Homecrew Mega-Fan


  1. I LOVE this post!!! Great job, Jess! It actually made me miss the days of HC... I used to love cleaning the urchin tank because the bottom would go from brown-black to white(ish) in color. Ahhh, the satisfaction of cleaning up animal excrement!

  2. hahaha! Oh man...this brings back the old days. I liked cleaning TT2 and TT4. :)

  3. hello... hapi blogging... have a nice day! just visiting here....

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