Peter and Ruthie Griffith are a father and daughter pair who are part of the National Aquarium’s incredible volunteer team! Peter began volunteering in 2006, and eight years later, Ruthie joined her dad at the Aquarium.
Their volunteer positions correlate with their individual passions—Ruthie volunteers in Animal Programs, and Peter is a volunteer diver. They volunteer on the same day, and enjoy running into each other in the Aquarium during their shifts. Both Peter and Ruthie cherish the opportunity to spend more time with each other in their otherwise busy schedules.
Volunteering at the Aquarium isn’t the only interest this father and daughter duo share! They swap recommendations for TV shows, movies and podcasts, and enjoy cooking dinner together. According to Peter, they also have a shared passion for bad puns and cats.
Learn more about Peter and Ruthie, and their experiences volunteering at the National Aquarium!
How did you get started volunteering at the National Aquarium?
Peter: “I’ve been a diver since my early teens. It’s part of my identity. I’d wanted to dive at the Aquarium since seeing a friend in the ACR in 1988. As I approached my 50th birthday, my son was away at college, and Ruthie was a boarding student … so I had enough time to devote to the dive program.”
Ruthie: “I grew up coming to the Aquarium, and it’s always been one of my favorite Baltimore places. I had done some animal care at a previous job, and was interested in continuing to do so. Dad’s enthusiasm about volunteering definitely helped as well.”
What’s your favorite memory of volunteering at the Aquarium?
Peter: “I never imagined that turtles were demanding of affection. But it turns out that Calypso, our green sea turtle, loves to have her shell scratched. She comes right up to divers and wiggles back and forth as we scratch the plates of her shell.”
Ruthie: “I always love seeing kids get excited about the program animals, whether it’s Margaret the hyacinth macaw, one of our many reptiles or a Madagascar hissing cockroach.”
What’s your favorite exhibit, event or place at the Aquarium?
Peter: “I’m one of the communications divers at Blacktip Reef. I enjoy putting on the full-face mask that lets me talk to the kids at the underwater viewing area.”
Ruthie: “I get to walk past the poison dart frogs every shift on my way to collect food for the animals ... I’ve loved them since I was a kid, so it’s great to be able to go on a scavenger hunt to find them in their enclosures.”
Would your volunteer experience be different if you didn’t have your daughter to volunteer with?
Peter: “The wonderful but sad thing about adult children is that they move out of your house. The wonderful thing about Ruthie volunteering is that I get another chance to see her during our busy weeks.”
Would your volunteer experience be different if you didn’t have your dad to volunteer with?
Ruthie: “Dad and I are very close, but have busy work schedules. Volunteering on the same day means we get to see each other more often.”
What keeps you coming back to volunteer at the National Aquarium?
Ruthie: “I really like the people I get to work with in Animal Programs. I’ve always had a love for all animals, even the ones that some people find gross or intimidating, like snakes and insects. I like being able to share some of the misunderstood animals with the Aquarium guests and help give them a new perspective.”
Peter: “My day job at NASA is tremendously rewarding but also very intense, mentally and often physically as well. Coming to the Aquarium is a relief: doing the food prep, feeding the animals in Atlantic Coral Reef, doing underwater maintenance and of course SCUBA diving are all very therapeutic. My dive day provides immediate satisfaction and a feeling of making a difference to the visitor experience.”
To learn more about volunteer opportunities with the National Aquarium, visit aqua.org/volunteer!