We have once again welcomed 10 interns from UNC-Wilmington. They will spend their Saturdays learning about turtle care and husbandry as well as practicing their communication skills by teaching the public about sea turtles.
Let's meet our interns:
Angelica: St. Peterburg, FL Marine Biology Major (Senior) I have spent 16 years in the military and decided it was time to go back to school and get a degree in something I am passionate about. The ocean and animals have always been that for me so a degree in Marine Biology was perfect. I became a volunteer at the KBSTRRC over a year ago and fell in love with caring for the Sea Turtles. I realized it's something I wanted to pursue in my future so doing an internship working hands on with the turtles just made sense.
Bryce: I’m currently a senior at UNCW studying biology with minors in chemistry and environmental sciences. I’m from Poolesville Maryland and I’m grateful for this experience working with the KBSTRRC. Sea turtles are my favorite animal and since I was a little kid, I knew that I was going to be involved one day. This internship has allowed me to work hands on with the turtles along with an awesome team that I sincerely cherish.
Ben: My hometown is Calabash, NC. and I am a junior at UNC Wilmington, majoring in Biology and minoring in Neuroscience. Every summer my family would visit Sunset Beach, NC, and that first sparked my interest in turtles as they nested on the island. I am very excited to be interning at KBSTRRC this spring and assisting in the sea turtle conservation effort!
Lauren: I am from Ellicott City, Maryland! I am currently a junior at UNCW and I am a marine biology major. I'm so excited to be an intern here this semester and expand my knowledge of marine animal care. I hope my experience with this internship helps guide me in my decision of post-grad plans and my future career aspirations!
Eric: Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, I was fortunate enough to have a family boat in the Chesapeake Bay where we spent as many weekends as possible cruising around and enjoying the water and all the wonderful forms of marine life found in the world’s largest estuary. It was during that time that I developed a deep affection for the ocean and aquatic life of all kinds, which ultimately led to me coming to UNC Wilmington to study marine biology. In my time here I was fortunate enough to watch a sea turtle nest hatch, as well as getting a tour of the turtle hospital. Something in me stirred after these events… I knew that I wanted to give back to the ocean in some way, and the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center seemed like the perfect way to give back to such beautiful animals in their times of need.
Ian: I'm from Charlotte, NC and currently majoring in Biology at UNCW. I enjoy spending my time outside rock climbing, slack lining, or scuba diving. I grew up in a house filled with a variety of animals which sparked my scientific curiosity. After watching KBSTRRC releases I fell in love and decided to become an intern to be a part of their conservation efforts!
Emma: I am from Cary, NC. I'm currently a junior at UNCW majoring in oceanography and minoring in marine biology and dance. I hope to work with sea turtles in my career and so this internship offers exciting, hands-on experience. I have absolutely loved the internship thus far and am excited for the rest of the semester!
Hai: I am from Tay Ninh, Viet Nam. I'm currently a junior at UNCW for Marine Biology major and thinking of minor in digital photography. I plan to further study specifically about turtles and the deep sea after graduation since they are the reason why I am here in a different country, in this major and in this hospital. My dream job would be working on a crew that explore the Antarctic. I am happy to be here this semester. It is like a big check mark on my journey!
Jenessa: I am from Hickory, North Carolina, and I’m currently a senior at UNCW. I am a marine biology major and a French minor. I would love to go to vet school in the future, but plan to work for at least a year before I apply to gain more diverse experience! I hope to continue working as a kennel tech and hopefully do more work as a vet assistant this coming year. I’m so grateful to be an intern with KBSTRRC this semester to add to my experience and work with wildlife!
Raful: I am from Clayton, North Carolina, and I am currently a junior at UNCW. I am a marine biology major with a concentration in conservation. I plan on continuing to find and gain experience in this scientific field after I graduate, and hopefully work at a conservation and rehabilitation facility just like this one! I absolutely love sea turtles and am super grateful to be an intern here this semester to help spread awareness for these endangered and beautiful animals!
There’s a famous Pete Seeger 1955 song titled “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” that was covered by many folk groups in the 60’s. Today a re-write of that song might be “Where Does All the Plastic Go?” At our hospital we see first-hand where some of it ends up.
Right before Thanksgiving we got a call that a turtle had stranded in North Topsail Beach. This little green was admitted with a body temperature of 63 degrees, so we suspected cold-stunning was the most likely the reason she ended up on the beach. She wasn’t loaded with barnacles or algae like most of the cold-stuns but she looked like she was wearing a necklace. It’s not the kind of accessory we like to see on any turtle because it usually means there was some interaction with fishing line or a net. We named this little cutie “Fuzzy Wuzzy” and she was given the standard course of meds, including treatment for anemia, and settled into a tank.
Since she was in relatively good condition upon admittance we thought she might be a short timer. But she seemed to be having a buoyancy issue, especially in deeper water. Very often this is a temporary condition and will resolve as we keep the turtle in lower water levels so they remain horizontal, not listing or head or butt up. But Fuzzy Wuzzy had a surprise in store for us. Along with her normal digestive waste we were netting numerous pieces of plastic – for weeks!
These were probably what most of us would consider “micro plastics” but if they were moving thorough your gut they probably wouldn’t feel so micro. All kinds of colors, sizes and shapes, and all with sharp edges. In the end this little six pound critter managed to pass a total of 14.5 grams of plastic, the equivalent of three typical credit cards. Ouch. The good news is that on January 3rd she caught a boat ride with a bunch of her friends to warmer waters, with a stern reminder from us to look for a different restaurant.
Patients that have eaten plastic (and all kinds of trash) is not a one-off occurrence for us. It’s out there everywhere, and if the ocean is your home and that’s the only place you can get your food you’re in trouble. Years ago, comedian George Carlin, noting that plastic is not fully degradable, said that the planet would eventually shake us off like fleas and create a new paradigm “Earth Plus Plastic.” He was not trying to be funny.
We’re hoping that the cold weather is coming to an end and we’ll probably be seeing fewer cold-stuns. We continue to rely on our locals and visitors to keep any eye out for victims of cold snaps. If you see a turtle that has washed up on the beach or in our marshy areas or is in the water floating motionlessly don’t assume it is dead. They literally can’t move, maybe not even blink. Whether the turtle is big or small immediately call our Director of Beach Operations, Terry Meyer at: 910-470-2880. If she is not available, call the hospital during operating hours: 910-329-0222. If the turtle is below the high tide line and in danger of washing out move it above the high tide line if you can do so safely. Ideally you should remain with the turtle until our trained volunteers arrive to retrieve it. If that is not possible find a way to indicate the location of the turtle on the beach by drawing large arrows in the sand or placing beach debris nearby. The State of NC hotline for stranded, sick and injured turtles is 252-241-7367. The state number picks up 24/7. All conservation work for endangered sea turtles at KBSTRRC and on Topsail Island is authorized by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, ES Permit 23ST05.
We’re getting ready to open on a limited tour schedule beginning in March. Tours will be on Friday and Saturday from 11AM – 2 PM. You will still need to purchase tickets in advance through our website www.seaturtlehospital.org. Our gift shop is loaded with tons of new turtle merchandise and you’ll be able to adopt one of our patients for those hard to buy for relatives and friends. Fan favorites Snooki and Lennie are looking forward to having visitors again after months seeing only our faces so be sure to check us out before the seasonal crowds.