You walk up to a large building, dancing with the promise of live animal experiences, and rather than going in as a guest… you follow the staff.
You enter a generally “off limits” door with signs telling you that you shouldn’t enter them unless permitted, you walk down stairs that aren’t usually visited, and you enter an environment of hidden wonders. As you walk down a hidden hall you hear the tinkling of many gently running tank filters, you smell wood chips and fish, you see the educational staff setting up for elementary school students. Though this might not seem like a particularly glamourous hall to just anyone, you are an animal care volunteer at the Virginia Living Museum (VLM), so you see its beauty.
Troy Bonavita, a loyal volunteer of VLM, has worked diligently since November of 2016 and experienced this same scenario. Troy attended Radford University, and completed his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a concentration in environmental science. Though he did not intend to volunteer at first, he was encouraged to by other volunteers he had met through Master Naturalist classes. Through volunteering, he has built significant relationships with the staff, gained a greater understanding of native Virginia species, and developed memories and passions that will serve him in his future endeavors.
Volunteering has been a broad experience for Troy that was not always easy, but was definitely rewarding. He began his work inside during 9am- 1pm animal care shifts. Every day that he came in he cleaned animal holding areas, moved animals, and prepared diets. It was his love of helping the educational program animals, such as screech owl #1409 and crow, which inspired him to persist. Through many painstaking hours of chopping fish, Troy gained a pride in his contributions to the museum, and was inspired to explore other areas. He accumulated hour after hour making himself qualified to train in more settings, before volunteering in Herpetology where he found greater appreciation for amphibians and reptiles.
Currently Troy volunteers to help open the trail with the animal care staff from 7:30-11:30am regularly, along with volunteering in herpetology and his original animal care area from time to time. Although he works two separate jobs, Troy still manages to allot time to help his local non-profit. He strongly believes in living an environmentally aware life, and may one day apply himself in ways beyond volunteering, to promote conservation. VLM is proud of the work that exceptional volunteers, such as Troy perform every day, and grateful to have the opportunity to provide them with the environmental know-how that may one day help them.
Guest Writer: Shelbi Pullen