Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Joyfully caring for the animals in the exhibits

Volunteer Spotlight on Lori VanDeMark


 Lori VanDeMark grew up in the Olympia area and has always loved the Puget Sound. She said that even though she spent a lot of time there when she was growing up, “I didn’t feel like I knew a lot about the plants and animals that lived there.”

Lori and her husband bought a home in Cape George in 2019 upon her retirement from a career as a dental hygienist, and she began volunteering at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center that same year.


“Once we moved to the Port Townsend area and I was close to the water again, I really wanted to learn more,” she said. “I was looking for a way to volunteer and do something in the community where I could get to meet people and learn something along the way and this really fit the bill.


“And once I started looking into it shortly after we moved, everybody was so friendly and kind and positive, and I liked the mission!”


When she was asked about one of her favorite aspects about volunteering at the aquarium, Lori said, “You know, probably the proximity to Sylvia,” a giant Pacific octopus. “I know that’s not surprising, as he’s so fascinating.” 


She has since expanded on her octopus knowledge through research, as well as watching the oft-mentioned documentary, “My Octopus Teacher.” 


One notable experience as a young woman helped inform Lori’s fascination with the natural world and conservation issues in general.


“I remember noticing a beach that we went to a lot in the South Sound. All of a sudden, the sea stars were gone. I had the feeling like I was witnessing an extinction, it was so noticeable. I even noticed they were gone before I heard about sea star wasting disease, and that really kind of hit close to home and made me more focused on conservation,” she said.


Lori and her husband are the parents to two young men. The eldest is a build engineer at SpaceX in Southern California. He’s worked on the Falcon rockets and then on the Falcon Heavy and the Starship.


“He is on the development end of things and works with the theoretical designers and the actual builders to make prototypes and tests. It’s a very exciting job with a ton of hours,” she said.


Lori’s youngest son is a student of the Japanese language, whose studies in Japan were interrupted due to the pandemic. He now lives in the area, hoping to return to his studies in the near future.

Hobbies for Lori include gardening, home improvement, kayaking and knitting. She confidently assured me that she could teach me to cable stitch, a technique I’ve found too daunting to attempt!


It was so wonderful to meet this delightful volunteer and it is so gratifying to know that she is assisting with the operations of our aquarium.


Written by PTMSC Volunteer Coordinator Tracy Thompson.


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