Posted On November 30, 2018 By In Top Stories With 532 Views

The Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea: Strong Women Lead the Way

by Susan Simosko – 

The Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea is unique. There is nothing quite like it in the region, or maybe the province. It’s been around for almost 10 years and serves as an educational, scientific facility as well as a lively, fun place for young and old alike to let down their hair and thoroughly enjoy. Considering its place in our community, how much do you really know about it? See how you do on this pop quiz. True or false, the Centre:

1. Is home to more than 3,000 live critters.

2. Welcomes 70,000 visitors a year.

3. Houses three octopi.

4. Relies on more than 100 volunteers. 

5. Is currently managed by an all-women team.

Only #3 is false. The Centre typically has only one octopus, a fascinating wriggly creature who often steals the show! 

Beneath the beautiful habitats and exhibitions, the Centre is a highly complex, intricate facility that requires the skills, knowledge and dedication of many. Numerous university degrees, decades of expertise, international experience – representing more than six countries – and immeasurable passion for a healthy and vibrant Salish Sea are a few highlights of the team. “We are so lucky,” says Graham Debling, president and chair of the Board. “We have an incredibly strong team. With so many visitors each year, the Centre, including all the critters, needs to be in tip-top shape each and every day. It’s not a job for the faint of heart!”

Pauline Finn, the Executive Director, agrees that running the Centre is sometimes challenging but her passion and skill seem well suited to meeting the unexpected. Pauline joined the Centre in August 2018, after serving as Vice President for Community Engagement and Visitor Experience at Science World in Vancouver, a post she held for 17 years. “I love everything about the Centre,” says Pauline, “the facilities, the animals, our incredible staff and volunteers and, of course, our many enthusiastic visitors!”

Leah Thorpe, Director of Operations, has been with the Centre for three years and like Pauline is dedicated to the Centre in ways that go beyond the everyday. She is adamant about the need for collaboration and eagerly fosters it whenever possible.

Deanna Mathewson, Director of Volunteer and Business Development, says the Centre reflects many of her passions – education, volunteerism and community efforts to conserve and protect habitat and the environment. She, like Pauline and Leah, is always on the go.

Tina Kelly, Director of Learning, enjoys nurturing curiosity and a sense of wonder that so often arises from a visit to the Centre. Through school programs, summer camps, daily programming and special events she and her team strive to ensure every visitor has a meaningful experience.

The other talented and highly specialized women who keep the Centre ticking include Kit Thornton, Chief Aquarist and Nicole Doe, Retail and Visitor Experience Manager.

This strong and able team keeps the Centre humming for all of us to enjoy and learn from. So next time you are in Sidney, pop in to meet the critters of the Salish Sea and the outstanding women who make it possible! 

The Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea’s winter hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (last entry at 4 p.m.) seven days a week.



Your West Coast Culture. A magazine about the people and places that make the Saanich Peninsula the little piece of paradise we call home.

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