When California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) closed its doors to non-essential personnel in March 2020 in response to COVID-19, many students were forced to miss out on fun campus activities and trips to explore the local area with all their friends. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one local institution loved by many CSUMB students and staff.
All CSUMB students are given one ticket a year to visit the aquarium for free. Fourth-year communication design transfer Nicole Freeman was lucky enough to use her ticket before she was sent home and the aquarium closed.
“Getting to experience the aquarium as a CSUMB student was so much fun,” Freeman said. “All the exhibits are so captivating and I especially love the jellies.”
The aquarium has been closed for the entirety of the pandemic, although administrators briefly considered reopening when COVID-19 cases were lower.
Aquarium volunteer and CSUMB student conduct administrator Idonas Hughes said he would go back the instant the aquarium opened. Hughes added that the aquarium has implemented safety measures to protect volunteers and guests when they do return in person.
These safety measures included six weekends of one to two hour mandatory training on how COVID-19 spreads, how to wear masks, how to use hand signals to direct patrons and how to encourage mask wearing by complimenting people on their masks.
To maintain positive visible social cues – as masks cover most of the face – the aquarium also brought a little bit of “America’s Next Top Model” to aquarium volunteers by teaching them how to “smize,” or smile with their eyes, which is a trick Tyra Banks teaches her fledgling models on the show.
While the aquarium website states they will not open its doors until at least April 26, the CSUMB community can get their jellyfish fix through their webcams streaming jellyfish footage on YouTube and the aquarium website.
Hughes said he misses “interacting with people at the kelp forest” the most. While he cannot be there in person, he sports a video of his favorite exhibit as his Zoom background.
When last visiting the outside of the aquarium, Hughes stopped by the open outside decks near the aquarium and spotted a raft of about 30 otters taking refuge in the shadow of the aquarium during January storms.