Volunteer Opportunities


Volunteer Opportunities
Learn something new, share what you know, and do what you love!

Are you interested in making a difference? Our dedicated team of volunteers helps the Ocean Institute inspire children to learn every day. With over 400 volunteers contributing their time in ten different departments, we are sure to have an area of interest and schedule just right for you.

Volunteer Roles

There are various opportunities to get involved, ranging from joining our Tallship Crew to engaging our visitors in our Ocean Education Center. Please review the full list of opportunities below.  Please take note of the minimum age requirements; they are different for each volunteer opportunity. 


Work alongside staff instructors in various programs with students from pre-K to 3rd grade. Fingerprinting is required for this position. Volunteers must be age 21 and older.

Chambers Gallery Book & Gift Store

 Volunteers assist with the usual functions of a retail operation including visual merchandising, ticketing, stocking, assisting customers and finalizing sales at the register. Volunteers must be age 15 and older.


Husbandry volunteers work with staff to maintain the animal facilities, gardens and aquariums. Volunteers must be age 16 and older.*waitlist only; must be an active volunteer at the Ocean Institute to be added to the waitlist. 

Research Vessel Sea Explorer

The Ocean Institute’s research vessel is a 65 foot floating laboratory with five distinct teaching areas, fully equipped with video microscopes and state-of-the-art electronics. This vessel is used for school and public programs to conduct research and provide educational whale watching cruises. Volunteers assist staff with program logistics such as managing passengers during boarding/disembarking, collecting required forms, preparing the vessel for programs, and serving as program facilitators. Volunteers must be age 16 and older.*Waitlist only; must be an active volunteer at the Ocean Institute to be added to the waitlist. 

Tallship Volunteers

Tallship volunteers maintain and repair the Pilgrim and Spirit of Dana Point. From woodworking and sail mending to rigging and sailing skills, these volunteers work to ensure the continuation of maritime heritage. Volunteers may have the opportunity to participate in a variety of both educational and public sailing programs primarily aboard the Spirit of Dana Point. Sailing opportunities are limited and the majority of needed work is dockside maintenance.  The few sailing opportunities available are primarily during tall ship festivals and good-will sails. Volunteers must be age 16 and older.

Tall Ships Maintenance

Add your own skills to the maintenance of the tall ships Spirit of Dana Point, an active historical sailing vessel, and Pilgrim, the historic reproduction of the ship that Richard Henry Dana sailed in the 1700’s.  These wooden ships will allow you to demonstrate your wood working, painting, plumbing, electrical and other skills as you maintain the vessels for the educational programs conducted on board.  A complete and modern wood shop provides the necessary tools for you to be successful.  All we need is you!

Pilgrim Docents

Docents are those rare and special individuals who honor the history and romance of the tallship era. They dress in period attire, demonstrate crafts and skills of tallship sailors, lead tours of the Pilgrim, and occasionally sing chanteys and weave tall tales. Volunteers must be age 16 and older.

Public Program Docents

Public Program docents are the heart and soul of our visitor experience. Public program volunteers serve as docents, guides, and exhibit facilitators throughout our facility 7 days a week. These volunteers help inspire visitors about the ocean and maritime history through  memorable and hands-on experiences! Volunteers must be age 14 and older.

Tidepool Interpretive Program (TIP)

The Tidepool Interpretive Program’s (TIP) objective is to educate tidepool visitors about the wonderful natural resources present along our coastline in a way that promotes environmental stewardship. This program occurs outdoors, with its home base behind the Ocean Institute at the entryway to the beautiful Marine Conservation Area. The TIP operates approximately 12 times per month during daytime low tides when the marine resources are most vulnerable (but also most visible). This program runs on weekdays and weekends and varies with season and tides. Volunteers must be age 14 and older.*Waitlist only; must be an active volunteer at the Ocean Institute to be added to the waitlist. 

Information Booth

Information Booth volunteers assist in greeting students and their teachers as buses arrive. Volunteers direct and manage flow of multiple groups to ensure a timely and safe welcome. Information Booth volunteers serve as Ocean Institute ambassadors by providing information and directions about programs and facilities available, as well as information about the Dana Point harbor. Volunteers must be age 18 and older.

Special Events

Are you interested in learning more about event planning at nonprofits? The events team is looking for volunteers to assist with booked events such as weddings, parties, and corporate events. You will be helping with the logistics and organization of the event including set up preparations and support during the event. 

Volunteer Process

Volunteers are accepted on an as-needed basis. In order to volunteer, please submit an online application. Once we have received your application, we will be in contact to setup an in-person interview. All volunteers must submit a successful background check and attend all required trainings to be considered as an Ocean Institute Volunteer. 


Volunteer Application

Interested in joining the Ocean Institute volunteer team? Please fill out the following application. If you are interested in multiple departments, please fill out an application for each. 


Beach Clean-ups
Help keep our beaches clean

Looking to give back to the ocean? Join us for a two-hour beach clean-up. Meet outside Ocean Institute at 10 am. We’ll provide pickers and trash bags, please wear closed toed shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat.

To sign-up, select “book now” below. 


Summer Camp Volunteers

Applications are now closed. Please check back in May 2019 for your next opportunity. 

Summer camp volunteers are an important part of running fun and successful summer camps at Ocean Institute. As a summer camp volunteer you would be assisting our staff in set up, clean up and facilitation of educational camp activities.