Newport Harbor High School student Kevin Veitch said he never
envisioned that schooling would mean he'd be feeding 30 massive
bluefin and yellowfin tuna circling below him.
We're talking shrimp -- the good stuff -- and not served in brown
bag lunches, either.
The incoming senior jumped on the opportunity, however, to
volunteer as a tour guide at Monterey Bay Aquarium in the Bay Area.
Kevin, 17, spent a month showing groups around the facilities and
teaching people about many of the aquarium's 550 species of marine
The aquarium hired around 60 student guides ages 13 to 17 and had them shadow some of its experienced volunteer guides. Kevin said he
was able to work alongside his aunt, Julie Veitch, a seasonal
volunteer at the aquarium who helped get him the job.
Kevin, whose favorite classes include psychology, physiology,
anatomy and chemistry, said he quickly grew accustomed to the marine
biology environment during a pre-work training program.
"A lot of biology and anatomy and stuff helped the information
sink in," he said. "Otherwise, there were a whole lot of facts
they're throwing at you. It's easier to have a science background."
He studied marine mammals, invertebrates, sharks and other species
of fish. He also learned about several Monterey Bay conservation
efforts, including the Aquarium Research Institute, Tuna Research and
Conservation Center and the Sea Otter Research and Conservation
Center. After one week, he was told by staff to palatably and
interestingly present what he'd learned to the public.
"One thing I learned, especially with kids, is that you need to
grab their attention right away," he said. "Parents will typically
stick around and be polite. You need to build up conversation and
really nurture their interest. That's something they really pressed
in training, and that whole aspect was really interesting."
Kevin said he enjoyed feeding the large tuna, which was actually
easier than it sounded. He said he stood on a platform atop a giant
tank and tossed in thawed squid, but the fish would literally jump
out of the water to snag their morsels.
"They'd eat 200 pounds of squid within five minutes and jump a
foot above the water," he said. "They'd get pretty ferocious.
Sometimes you'd just see a swirling mass of tuna, and that was a lot
Kevin said he also found time to kayak in Monterey Bay and to earn
his scuba certification from the Monterey Bay Dive Center, diving in
a natural, cold-water kelp habitat.
Kevin said the experience working with animals and children was so
beneficial that he's weighing possible careers in marine biology and