Academy volunteer at work“A few years ago I was working 40 hours a week for good pay: now I’m working longer hours for no pay, and life has never been better.”

— Henri Lese, Chair of the Docent Admin Committee and retired chemical engineer

This dedication and passion about volunteering is not an anomaly. In a round robin of QUEST partners, almost every partner emphasized how important volunteers are in the running of a successful organization. This is doubly true for museums. If the Executive Director is the brains of a museum, then the docents and volunteers are the heart that keeps a museum happy and humming. Here at the Academy, they are a treasure. Among our hundreds of volunteers and docents, we have a Dominican Sister, a sprightly docent in his 80s living by the motto “he who rests, rusts.” Ray Bandar, a collector of skulls that exhibits his fascinating collection each year during Halloween, was the main contributor of specimens to our past Skulls exhibit. One volunteer was even proposed to by a five year old on the public floor because the child was so taken with what she was teaching.

Most of the docents and volunteers at the California Academy of Sciences begin their tenure because of simple curiosity. Interests range from specimen preparation to diving in the Coral Reef tank. There is something to leave anyone wide eyed because of the scope of our collections. We house eight research departments, our own research and rare book library, 20 million specimens, aquatic animals and life support systems as well as a carpentry workshop to create museum exhibits.

Without volunteers and docents, the Academy would not function. Its interior would not ring with laughter, spirited banter & debate, and a passion for a range of interests from dung beetle poop to sustainable components that compose the New Academy. So the next time you are at the Academy, look for a volunteer or docent as they are the heart of this institution.

Or for more information about the docent program and other volunteer opportunities on the public floor, in the Aquarium, in research & labs, or with animal handling at the California Academy of Sciences, please contact Rosalind Henning at (415) 321-8111 or

Cat Aboudara is the Special Projects Manager at California Academy of Sciences and works in the public programs division. The Academy is a wonderful fit for her because of her curiosity about the natural world and her experience in working with native California wildlife.

The Heart of the Academy 6 July,2011Cat



Cathleen (Cat) is the former Special Projects Manager at California Academy of Sciences and worked in the public programs division.
Before working at the Academy, Cat got her start as an intern at Lindsay Wildlife Museum for four years and worked with animals ranging from snakes and hawks to foxes and bobcats. She has a deep curiosity about the natural world and native California wildlife.

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