One of the first aquariums Ricky Belanger visited as a child was in Ucluelet, and now, 10-15 years later he will be managing the same aquarium in Campbell River.
“I remember my time there quite vividly,” he said. “I was jealous of the interpreters, of how much they knew. It was always in the back of my mind that I might be doing that one day.”
Belanger grew up in Pentincton, swimming in lakes and streams but visiting the ocean during family holidays.
Though he had many interests in high school from nanochemistry to particle physics he just kept getting drawn back into biology, despite the tough job market.
“I had no choice, I had to do it,” he said with a laugh.
Belanger went straight to the University of Victoria after highschool to study marine biology. He finished his degree in April of 2016 and has been dabbling with research and waiting for the perfect job to come along, since then.
And now he has a chance to share his love for the ocean with others, as he said he has come to realize that it is with the public where change happens, so public education is the way to go.
“What better way to teach people about the ocean than through an aquarium,” he said.
Belanger has been in Campbell River for almost a month now, going diving all the time and preparing for the aquarium opening, which is scheduled for May 19.
“It’s been an absolute blast working with all of them (the board),” Belanger said. “I have so much to learn from everyone on the board.”
When he isn’t planning for summer camps and learning about the species that will fill the aquarium tanks, Belanger is out in the water.
Though he has a scuba certification, his true love is free diving. Even as a child, when he put on his snorkel he wanted to spend time under the water diving down.
He completed his scuba certification in winter in Okanagan lake, which turned out to be good practice for the cold water around here, but he still spends more time free diving than anything else.
“I would encourage everyone to grab a snorkel, even if you can only spend five minutes in the water it is worth it to see what’s out there,” he said.