PacSci Perspectives

Volunteer Spotlight: Shalini Sahni

by | Dec 12, 2016

Volunteers create exciting and unique guest experiences when they share their own. Meet Shalini Sahni, a zoologist who is passionate about sharing her knowledge of the animal kingdom here at Pacific Science Center.

How did you become a volunteer at Pacific Science Center?

I came to Seattle after I got married, and I didn’t want to stop doing what I loved—being involved in science. I earned Masters in Zoology in India, my home country, and volunteering at Pacific Science Center was a way for me to continue my education and keep up with new science studies and trends. I feel very fortunate—I love my life here.

What do you typically do when you come to volunteer?

I typically work a half-hour shift. My favorite job is working the tide pool, because it’s very hands-on. I can engage with the animals inside and see how they react to my touch; seeing the tentacles of one of those creatrues pop out at you is fascinating, and it’s wonderful to see guests interact with them as well. I also get to share some of my own knowledge. For example, a lot of people think seastars don’t move, I show them how far they move across their tanks in a single day.

I also love the butterfly house and insect exhibits with the roaches. Everytime I want to do something new (which is often), I just say so and Pepper lets me.

What do you find most fulfilling when you volunteer?

Two things: First of all, I’m helping science to move forward in some way. Back in India, I was an editor for a science magazine, and the most important thing for me was to be able to present science in a way that everyone can understand. At Pacific Science Center, science education is created for all age groups and backgrounds, and I love being involved in that. Second, I love being able to learn new things and stay up to speed on new scientific discoveries.

What’s a “hidden gem” many guests don’t know about?

Many guests don’t spend much time in the Reptile-Amphibian-Mammal (RAM) Zone, with the reptiles and the naked mole rats. Some guests don’t like snakes, but I think if people take the time to get to know these creatures, they would find them surprisingly interesting (and not so scary). I once saw a snake eat an entire rat—fascinating!

How do you use your background during time here?

Well, as mentioned above, I encourage people to check out the tide pools and the RAM Zone. I also studied entomology (the study of instects), so I’ve interacted with and learned about all sorts of bugs. I love educating guests about the roaches; I discuss their anatomy and behavoir in more depth than other educators. I also like doing this with the tide pools.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I am currently a homemaker, waiting for my VISA so I can work in the United States. I volunteer at Seward Park Audobon Center, where I take kids on field trips and talk about birds their surrounding habitat. Each trip, we choose a specific concept, like the forest’s food chain, and talk about it in a way that kids could understand and appreciate. I also write for an animal care education network, where I create content for their website. I love to read and write—I’m always looking to learn something new!