We are pleased to welcome a fantastic group of interns to help in our sea turtle hospital this summer! Coming from colleges as close as UNC Wilmington to as far away as Cal Poly University, these men and women are bringing lots of energy and enthusiasm to every aspect of their work! Here's a little bit about each, in their own words.
ALEX: Hi, my name is Alex and I’m 19 years old. I just finished my junior year at the University of North Carolina Wilmington studying marine biology. I have been interested in anything to do with marine life since before I can remember. Two summers ago I was a junior intern here, and last summer I was a full summer intern. Unfortunately last year we were not doing tours, so this summer I am especially excited to educate visitors about these magnificent animals!
BEN: Hey, I’m Ben! I just finished up my junior year at Virginia Tech and am studying wildlife conservation. My program at school doesn’t have a marine based side to it so this internship has been something that is completely new but I’m loving it. In my future I’d like to do something pertaining to managing habitat conservation projects and further learning about how animals interact within their environment.
BRITTNEY: My name is Brittney. I am currently attending UNC - Wilmington, majoring in Marine Biology with a minor in Environmental Science. I was a junior intern the past two summers at KBSTRRC and I am very excited to be back this summer as a college intern. I’ve had a pure fascination with marine life before I could walk. My wobbly two-year-old self was being held up by my mom studying fish my dad caught and put into clear buckets before releasing them. I believe if you are doing something you love, you will never work a day in your life. This is why my career goal is to work in marine rehabilitation.
CHRIS: My name is Chris. I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio, and I just graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in Natural Resource Management. I’ve always loved animals since my childhood when I attended zoo camp at my local zoo. In college, I decided to pursue a career in the environmental field, animals in particular. I’ve worked at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden as well as the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. This is my first time working with marine life, but I enjoy it a lot. It’s also my first time in the wildlife rehabilitation sector. Hopefully I can continue working in rehabilitation after this internship!
CIERRA: My name is Cierra and I am from Springfield, Ohio. I recently graduated spring 2020 with my B.S. in Animal, Poultry, and Veterinary Sciences from Tuskegee University. I just completed my first year of vet school at Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine this past year. I started off into the medical field early. I entered the Emergency Medical Tech Program which helped cultivate my clinical skill set and helped develop my communication and leadership skills. During my junior and senior year, I had the opportunity to participate in an internship working with veterinarians in a mixed animal practice with a strong focus in exotic animal medicine. I was able to watch drug administration, parasitology, routine diagnostics, surgery (abdominal and orthopedic), radiology, small animal dentistry, and anesthesia. Shadowing has encouraged me to want to learn more about the modern procedures, equipment, and medicines in veterinary practice. Seeing both perspectives of animal practice within a clinic and outside of one, conservation medicine drew my attention the most. I want to become an Exotic veterinarian who specializes in wildlife to find preventative measures for conservation medicine. I am excited for this internship and working with the sea turtles this summer and educating others while learning new things about each species.
COLTON: My name is Colton and I am from Wilmington Ohio. I currently attend the University of Findlay, majoring in animal science. My experiences working with animals include equestrian and farm animals such as goats, pigs, sheep, cows, llamas, etc. I plan on pursuing a career in working with exotic animals and possibly something in wildlife conservation. This summer is my first time working with marine animals but I am very eager to learn as much as I can about sea turtle conservation and rehabilitation.
JADAH: Hello everyone! My name is Jadah. I am from Jamaica but I migrated to Fayetteville, NC three years ago. I just finished my junior year at Fayetteville State University majoring in Organismal Biology. My goal is to earn my DVM and become an exotic animal or wildlife veterinarian. I have always had a passion and enthusiasm within me for animals. I am super thrilled to be spending my summer helping sea turtles as I have never worked with these ethereal marine creatures before.
JEFF: Hi Everybody! My name is Jeffrey, and I am the head intern this summer at the sea turtle hospital. I am originally from Fayetteville, North Carolina. In 2020 I graduated from UNC-Charlotte. At charlotte I majored in exercise science, where I was also a member of the men’s soccer team. When I first came to Topsail island years ago, I instantly fell in love with the sea turtle hospital. At the time I had no plans of becoming a veterinarian, but I was instantly inspired by the work done here. Fast-forward a few years, I have now served as a college intern and am now serving as the head intern. In addition, thanks to inspiration I gained from the turtles, I am pursing a doctorate in veterinarian medicine at NC State University CVM where I am concentrating in zoological medicine. Topsail island and the sea turtle hospital will always have a special place in my heart, and I am thrilled to work with all the amazing college interns this simmer.
KATELYNN: My name is Katelynn. I am from Janesville, Iowa and am finishing my degree at Iowa State University. I will graduate in December 2021 with a B.S in Animal Ecology and two minors in Animal Science and Leadership Studies. I am currently working on my vet school applications and hope to attend NC State College of Veterinary Medicine. My end goal is to specialize in Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation and also teach in some capacity. I am excited to be an intern this summer at KBSTRRC because I am eager to learn more about Sea Turtle Medicine and be able to make a difference in the lives of the turtles.
RACHEL: My name is Rachel and I’m from Erie, Pennsylvania. I just recently graduated from St. Bonaventure University with a major in Environmental Studies and an English minor. I’ve trained and raised service dogs for 8 years and have previously worked in 2 different vet clinics. Last summer I interned at Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center in Grants Pass, OR where I primarily worked with raptors, songbirds, and small mammals. I’ve always wanted to work with marine animals, so this is a dream come true! I’m so honored to have the opportunity to work with these magnificent creatures all most everyday, and I’m really hoping to continue a career in marine life.
TAYLOR: Hi! My name is Taylor and I am originally from Los Angeles, California. I graduated in 2020 from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a B.S. in Marine Sciences. I recently just spent time down in Naples, Florida working with various reptiles, fish, invertebrates, and birds of prey while simultaneously giving virtual encounters about wildlife and conservation. I have always wanted to work with sea turtles since I was 11 years old and stepped foot in my first sea turtle hospital, so this opportunity at the KBSTRRC is a dream come true! In the future, I hope to work in the field of sea turtle conservation and create opportunities for students to get involved in the marine biology world.
This Earth Day, Yelp Wilmington brought sea turtles and the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center to a worldwide audience! The Yelp Virtual Event: Spend Earth Day with Turtles! featured the Center's aquatic residents, their nurturing staff, and the procedures needed to help rehabilitate and release these majestic creatures back into their natural habitat. Joshua M. (Yelp) and Erik S. (Yelp NC Triad) hosted the event, and nearly 200 participants from around the world joined the event. All showed their love to the Heroes at Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, raising over $1,100 to help the turtles through adoptions, donations, and gift shop sales during and immediately after the event. Thank you!
To see information about this and other Yelp virtual events, follow Joshua M. at Yelp Wilmington on Facebook and Instagram, or email him at email@example.com.
Going Local Art Gallery held their first annual For the Love of Turtles Art Show and Art Contest to benefit the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center and to support local artists!
A VIP Event opened the show on March 12. Guests had the opportunity to preview and buy the art and learn more about Going Local and the Karen Beasley Center!
The Art Exhibition & Sale - was March 13 through 21 at the Going Local Art Gallery in Mayfaire, 6818 Main Street, Wilmington, NC. Free and open to the public, it was well attended and people enjoyed seeing the amazing turtle art!
THANK YOU SPONSORS:
Thank you to the following sponsors who are making this event possible!
Premier Sponsor & Host:
Loggerhead Level ($250+):
Kemp's Ridley Level ($100+):
WELCOME KATHY ZAGZEBSKI
The KBSTRRC Board of Directors and Staff are pleased to welcome our new Executive Director, Kathy Zagzebski. Clearly, no one person will ever be able to fill the very large footprint of our Founder and current Executive Director, Jean Beasley. But after more than four decades in the “turtle business” Jean is retiring this spring to spend much of each year with her family in Tennessee.
Kathy has over twenty-six years of experience working with stranded marine animals not only on our NC coast but also on the beaches of Georgia, California, Hawaii and Massachusetts, where she was the Executive Director and President of the National Marine Life Center in Buzzards Bay. This winter she had the monumental task of admitting, caring for and relocating over two-hundred cold stun turtles, several of which are now receiving further treatment in our hospital.
Kathy: “I'm excited to join the fabulous team at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center.
I feel honored to carry forward Karen Beasley's dream and Jean Beasley's wonderful legacy. It's such a privilege to help sick and injured sea turtles recover so they can be released back to their ocean home!”
Sea Turtle Hospital News
Although our turtle mamas are still technically “on the clock” with the official nesting season continuing through this month it’s their babies that have taken over the spotlight. We’re hoping that our nest count keeps climbing to that hundred mark, but for now hatchlings rule. With the patter of thousands of tiny flippers on Topsail it’s time for a quick review of some of the FAQ’s from our island visitors.
When will a nest hatch? By far it’s the question we’re asked the most, and no matter how many times we get it our answer is still the same: we don’t know. We’re not being maliciously obtuse, it’s the truth. We don’t know when these turtle babies will be “born” any better than you know exactly the date and time of your granddaughter’s birth. They come out whenever they’re ready.
How long do the eggs stay in the sand? The average incubation period is sixty days, but that’s only an average. Air and sand temperature can affect the actual incubation period with hotter sand sometimes speeding up the process. And we’ve had a ridiculously hot summer, so a lot of our nests look like they might go a bit earlier. As we move into the cooler fall temperatures (we hope they’re cooler, anyway) their time in the sand will probably be closer to the average.
Is there any way to guess when a nest is ready? Sort of. Obviously the first thing to look at is when the nest was laid and when those sixty days might be getting close. But it’s not like mom leaves a calendar with the date circled with her clutch. Like people, you have early risers. And once they break out of their shell, using a special adaptation referred to as their “egg tooth” (technical name caruncle) they start jostling their neighbors out of their slumber. Pretty soon everybody is up and kicking. All of that activity underneath causes the sand on the surface to begin to sink.
If it looks like a nest may hatch what else can I look for? Turtle Project volunteers will create a ramp, a smoothed area with sand “guardrails” that will hopefully guide the little critters safely in the direction of the surf. Hatchlings are so tiny that even a small footprint in the sand can trap them or delay their trip. And since they’ve been living in the dark for months any bright light can disorient them, sending them quickly off-course. They head toward the brightest object around which ideally is the moon and its reflection on the water and waves. A sure sign that a nest is close, at least according to our decades of experience, is the sight of our “nest sitters” huddled around a nest from dusk until the wee hours of the morning – hoping.
What happens during a hatch? It’s a group effort, a real family affair, at least for the turtles. They work together to battle through the broken shells and the constant flipper-in-the-face to make their way towards the surface. It’s dig and rest, dig and rest. As they near the top the group comes to a stop and waits just below the surface. Millions of years of existence as a species have told them that predatory attack is less likely at night, so they’re waiting for the sun to set and the sand temperature at the surface to cool down. At that point they emerge in mass in what we call a “boil.” If all goes well they locate the horizon and make a mad dash for the surf.
Why are the Turtle Project volunteers there? From the 1970’s Karen Beasley and her mother (our hospital Director, Jean) recognized the increasing stressors of coastal development and the natural affinity we all have for the sea and the impact on sea turtles. Our volunteers are there to minimize any adverse effects we humans may have on this critical step in the continuation of the species. These are federally protected and critically endangered animals, and when our “nest sitters” are on-the-job they are the final word on protocol. They are there for crowd control and for education and there are specific rules to follow if you are fortunate enough to see a nest hatch.
Sit quietly, away from the nest and ramp area. It may or may not boil, and if it does it may be hours before you see the first flipper. If you become impatient please step away.
Do not use flash photography or use your phone as a “flashlight.” Do not use any flashlight unless you have a special red filter. Ideally you should turn your phone off and pay attention to the miracle you’re about to see.
Keep children and yourself away from the nesting area. Do not wander near or in front of the ramp. Do not bring your pets with you.
Do not chase after or touch the hatchlings. Our volunteers are on-hand to redirect any hatchlings who stray off course.
You may ask any questions of our volunteers but please do so respectfully. They operate under federal regulations and what they say goes. This is not a venue for a political or philosophical debate.
I missed the hatch – am I out of luck? Not necessarily. If you’re going to be around for a while you can come to the nest analysis which is done during daylight hours, three days after the hatch. Volunteers will carefully excavate the nest and document their findings. And the “findings” will often include a few late risers who didn’t hear the alarm go off. Data collected will include the total number of eggs (including unhatched,) the number of live hatches and any other things of note. If you missed the boil this is the next best thing and worth your time. Our volunteers are a bit more relaxed you can still ask them any questions you may have.
What do I do if I find a hatchling on the beach? Carefully pick it up and put it in a small container with only a small amount of water - barely cover the flippers. With this extreme heat it’s important that the little critter not bake in the sun for hours. Then call our Director of Beach Operations, Terry Meyer at: 910-470-2880. If she is not available you may call the hospital during operating hours: 910-329-0222. We will take the information and one of our area coordinators will meet you to retrieve the hatchling and refer it to us for follow-up.
Anything else? Some obvious things: turn off any bright outdoor lights that would send hatchlings in the wrong direction; pick up all beach paraphernalia (chairs, toys, towels) and take it with you when you leave and fill in any holes you dig. Please do not call the hospital to ask about any specific nest – we don’t have the data in front of us and are unable to answer that question. Even with all the coverage by our Topsail Turtle Project volunteers it’s possible to miss nesting or hatching signs for a variety of reasons. That’s why we ask you to be our extra eyes and to report any turtle activity to our Director of Beach Operations, Terry Meyer at: 910-470-2880. And we continue to admit many turtles with various injuries or illnesses. Please be on the lookout for any turtle in distress, injured (or dead) and call Terry, Hospital Director, Jean Beasley at: 910-470-2800 or the State of NC hotline for stranded, sick and injured turtles at: 252-241-7367. The state number picks up 24/7. Remember that interfering or harassing federally protected sea turtles in any way makes you subject to steep fines and possible imprisonment
Hospital still on Covid shutdown
When will be open to the public? With the continuing uptick in Covid activity and the extension of phased reopening for the state it’s looking even more questionable. We’re not any happier than you are but we will not open if we feel that it cannot be done legally, or that it jeopardizes the health and safety of our staff or visitors. If our volunteers start dropping there is nobody to take care of the over fifty patients we still have in house. It’s been stressful for Jean and our Board who are diligent in managing our resources to ensure that we can continue our high level of turtle care without our main source of income from tours and gift shop sales. We have limited gift shop options available for locals and visitors. You can window shop at the hospital where we have our most popular items on display and then order by phone @ 910-329-0222 Monday through Thursday from 9 AM to Noon. Ask for Peggy, your “personal shopper,” and arrange a pick-up time. Our on-line ordering is now up and running. Please visit our Facebook page or website for details.