Friday, March 20, 2015

Day 7: Kids, kids, and more kids

Today was a great day a the turtle hospital. We had the wonderful opportunity to teach local elementary school children about the turtles and introduce them to all of the wonderful turtles we have been spending our week with.  I (Mitch) started at the turtle nesting station. Boots and I taught the children about the nests, the hatchlings, and the Topsail Turtle Project. After a short lunch break, I got to teach the students about October. October is the biggest turtle at the hospital. She had extensive surgery and is missing a portion of one flipper. The kids had great questions and some showed a lot of concern for October. Some of my favorite moments were when one student guessed October weighed 10 thousand million pounds, following by her classmate guessing she weighed 10 pounds. Also, one student told me she felt really bad for October and that truly warmed my heart. 

I (Jess) had the privilege and blessing and teaching the local elementary aged children about plastic pollution and how it affects sea turtles and the environment as a whole.  Finding ways to engage the children was a challenge, but it was very rewarding when I was able to see them get super interested and passionate about pollution! For example, below I am showing the kids how sea turtles could mistake a plastic bag as a jellyfish and eat it.  I was happy to hear that a lot of the kids already knew the importance of picking up trash and recycling, and happy to see them eager to learn even more.  They also had some very interesting questions that at one point had my laughing to the point of tears (Why are there coyotes in the ocean? Why is your name Zach? Why are you sad?) After lunch I went to sea turtle bay where I talked to the groups of children about River and Alpha and showed them the two gorgeous turtles swimming in their tanks.   A lot of the kids were already super passionate about sea turtles and could not get enough of seeing them in person, and interacting as the turtles came up for breath or seemed to wave at them.

We were able to speak to about 350 students and 100 parents and teachers from local elementary schools who sacrificed a school date to introduce their children to the nearby sea turtle hospital. We are enthused that we were able to reach out to such a large section of the local population, and we hope that we not only informed the children about sea turtles, but sparked a lifelong interest in environmental conservation. Jean was very impressed with our presentations, no small feat from a woman with high expectations who has seen it all. Getting her approval truly allowed us to feel that we had succeeded in our mission this week! After the presentations to the children, Jean spoke to us about the larger goals of our trip. She encouraged us to always be true to ourselves and follow our passions. Her wise words included telling us that she believes every species, and every member of our own species, deserves the utmost respect from everyone. Below we are pictured with the legend herself, Jean the turtle queen!

After our long day, we unwound by walking out on the large fishing pier that is just a few blocks from our house.  We watched surfers, fisherman, and just basically laughed about all the crazy things that kids sad all day! Then we got all fancied up and went out to a cute seafood restaurant right on a nearby sound.  We were all very adventurous, munching on wahoo, soft shell crab, fried oysters, shrimp, tuna, and SPINACH SALAD (we have a proud vegetarian among us). We then took a walk to see the sun set over a different part of the sound (pictured below).  It was very peaceful and serene, until we got there. Afterwards, we spent the rest of the night reflecting on our day and the experience as a whole.  I think we are all realizing that this is our last night in Topsail, and tomorrow we have to say our last good byes to the turtles, our amazing house, and the gorgeous weather here in North Carolina.  We all talked about how much we learned about ourselves, and how we hope to continue to be stewards to our earth even back in College Park.  All in all, we are so grateful for this experience and the knowledge and insight we have gained from it.

-Signing off, Mitch and Jess (nerdy boy and sad girl)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Day 6: A fishy start

Today 6 of us (Boots, Anna Wooten, Nicole Scott, Shannon, Jess and Anna Duh) woke up early to get to the hospital by 7:00 am to help Judy and her team cut up the fish and squid for the turtles breakfast. Then we all jumped in to feed the turtles. 
Jess, Anna W. and Michelle
Turtle Breakfast

Ben, Mitch, Nicole Scott and Anna Day worked in sea turtle sick bay while the rest of us fed the turtles in sea turtle bay and cleaned their tanks.  All in all a typical great day at the turtle hospital.  As always, the volunteers were AWESOME.  Michelle really liked my “fear the turtles” shirt and so I (Boots) literally gave her the shirt off my back (it was a freebee I had received, so no biggy).  When we were mostly done—except for isolation—the early crew headed home for lunch, followed by the late crew approximately 20 minutes later.  Then everyone went back to the hospital for the all coveted time to take pictures with the turtles.  Lots and lots of pictures, all approved by Jean.  
Mercer (Zach's favorite)

Jess and Jean

Boots having a pow-wow with mama turtle October

We went to the classroom to learn about the beach watch program run by the Topsail Turtle Project and hear more wonderful stories from Jean.

Can’t wait until she writes and publishes her book.

I (Anna Day) always like working in sea turtle sick bay- I never get tired of watching the turtles nibbling their food or helping the volunteers bathe turtles. It was interesting to listen to Jean’s description of the tracks that turtles leave in the sand when they go to lay their eggs. According to Jean, green sea turtles use both front flippers simultaneously to move forward on the sand, while loggerheads alternate between using their left and their right flipper to move forward on the sand. Jean also told us about the amount of care involved in the beach watch program, including how volunteers need to wear clothing that blends in with the environment and is not bright in order to prevent hatchlings from moving towards them instead of the sea.

After we learned about the beach watch program, we practiced our presentations about different turtle-related topics in front of Jean. Although some of us had been nervous about whether our presentations would meet Jean’s high standards, we were happy to hear that Jean was impressed by our presentations. After practicing today, presenting to the kids should not be a problem!

When we got back to the house, we enjoyed an excellent dinner of burgers with tomatoes, lettuce, beans, fries prepared by Zach and Ben, as well as kale prepared by Anna W. Everyone, including Zach, ate some kale. Shannon K. and Nicole M. cleaned up, which was not an easy task.

After clean-up triple chocolate cake with cream cheese icing from a local bakery was enjoyed by all. Reflection was a lively affair with lots of laughter, sharing and thoughtful reflection on becoming and active citizen—something to aspire to.
 Tomorrow we are going to present to the kids and go out for dinner at Sears Landing with Jean Can’t wait!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Day 5: Shirts and Shamans

We started our day, and headed to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Center at 7:45 in the morning. It was a little colder than the past couple of days but we braced ourselves and headed out.

Once at the Sea Turtle Hospital, we divided into groups. Jess, Dahlia, and I (Zach) got to work in the Sea turtle sickbay while Anna W. and Mitch worked in the Isolation room. The rest of the group( the Annas, Nicoles, Shannon, Boots, and Ben) worked in Sea Turtle Bay. It was interesting to work in sick bay for the second time. The volunteers allowed us to clean the tanks and feed the turtles one by one. It was cool to be in the sick bay again because Dorothy, one of the volunteers, told us more about each turtle this time. We were also able to watch the volunteers put honey on flip-flop, one of the Green Sea turtles with a puncture wound through the carapace and  plastron (the shell and the underside of the turtle). 

After an adventure filled morning, Jean opened up the gift shop for us to buy t-shirts and sweatshirts from the hospital. They had so many cool things that we were allowed to buy at the gift shop. Prepare for the rainbow shirts on Friday! After perusing the gift shop, we were allowed to attend the Team leader meeting. It was really cool to see the administrative side of the turtle hospital.

Photocredit to Shannon Kirby
Then we had our normal lunch of PB&J and turkey sandwiches. Boots suggested that we go to serenity point, the most southern part of the island. We walked about a mile on the beach around serenity point looking for shark teeth and sea glass. As expected we weren't able to find any, but we did wander through the tide pools and find fish and crabs. After we realized it was later than expected, we had to run back across the sand to make it to the turtle hospital in time.

In our afternoon visit to the hospital we all were able to experience something new. Jean invited a shaman named David Key to come to the turtle hospital and play music for the turtles. The idea behind this was to clear the negative energy from the hospital and to get a sense for what the turtles were feeling. With the backdrop of running water we listened to David play several traditional Native American instruments including drums and three different flutes. Now I (Ben) have never been one to believe in the supernatural and I would go so far as to say I still don’t, but that music definitely had an effect on both the turtles and us. The sound flowed across the room, lulling us into a relaxed state. The turtles stirred in their tanks almost as if they were dancing to the music, providing a spectacular sight to those of us who still had our eyes open. When we left the room, I felt a distinct sense of calm and I feel as though many of the others in our group felt it as well. 

Photocredit to Nicole Moy
Returning back to our house Nicole S. and Dahlia prepared a delicious meal of spinach salad with walnuts dried fruit and chicken followed by what I would argue was our most fun reflection yet.  After we went though roses, buds and thorns we had each group practice presenting the information that we would be giving to the school children.  Everyone definitely knew their information but the real fun came in when we had to ask each other questions that the may have to answer on Friday. 
Would a second grader really ask why partisan gridlock in the local government impedes environmental conservation efforts? Probably not. Do the daddy turtles not help with the eggs because the mommy turtles are strong independent women? Its certainly a possibility. 

Peace, love and turtles,

Zach and Ben

Clearly the most attractive AB team (Photocredit to Boots)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Day 4: Petting the Papillae

Cue the third day at the wonderful Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center! As usual, we students arrived at the turtle hospital at around 7:45 AM, split into three groups, and got started with the day’s assignments.

Today, I (Anna Duh) was assigned to work in the sea turtle bay and our group first took care of the daily chores: feeding, cleaning, and administering treatments. Though not all of the turtles require specific treatments, each is fed a specific amount and mixture of food. Loggerheads and Ridley turtles are fed a variety of seafood, mainly squid and fish. On the other hand, the green sea turtles at the hospital are vegetarian and eat a mixture of cucumbers, lettuce, and green peppers. Each turtle also had his/her tank cleaned with a scoop and brush. Even tanks that are not currently in use were cleaned to get rid of salt residue and ensure the cleanest environment for the turtles. As for treatments, the green sea turtles were taken one after another for a swim in the water therapy pool in the sick turtle bay, where they could swim about more freely. Our UMD group also watched the more experienced hospital volunteers apply eye drops to a green sea turtle named Mercer, who had a cyst on her eyelid removed. We also observed the treatment of a delicate Kemps Ridley named Geo, who suffered a compromised spine from cold shock and is now under treatment for prolapse.

Conversely, I (Anna Wooten) worked in the Sick Bay today, cleaning tanks and bathing turtles.  Typical protocol for cleaning a turtle and its tank is to remove the turtle for its bath and then hose off, disinfect, and refill its tank by the time the turtle has had its bath.  Naturally, I enjoyed my turn bathing the turtles more than anything else, because they really liked getting their plastrons scrubbed, and I would get a little bit of time to massage the turtles and help them relax before they were carried back to their tanks.  It was well noted (by Mitch) that different turtles are calmed down in different ways- Green sea turtles like for pressure to be applied to the area between their shells and their necks, and Kemps Ridleys like for their carapaces to be patted.  I really feel like, as a group, we’re getting to know the turtles better and are more attuned to their moods and feelings.  

This afternoon, instead of returning to the turtle hospital, we piled into the vans and drove to the campus of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington to observe a turtle necropsy.  Our leader in this great educational experience was Sarah Finn, the Stranding Coordinator for the North Carolina Sea Turtle Project.  The subject of the necropsy was a green sea turtle who had been about 3-4 years old. She (and we only found out that “she” was a “her” during the necropsy) had succumbed to the effects cold stunning shortly after being rescued.  The necropsy allowed us to comprehensively understand the physiology of the turtle, including bone and muscle structure, internal organs, and gender determination.  The most surprising aspect of the turtle's anatomy was the arrangement of spiny papillae within the turtle's esophagus. I (Anna Wooten) can pretty much speak for the group when I say that it’s terrible to see a dead turtle, but it’s an unparalleled educational experience to witness its necropsy.  

After the drive back from UNC, Jess and Mitch started preparing dinner. And what better way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than by coupling it with Taco Tuesday? They did an amazing job of cooking up beans and beef and baking taco shells. With the lettuce and guacamole they also served, it was delicious! Reflection started with the general discussion on how the morning chores and the necropsy went, but also included a short documentary, “Drop in the Ocean?” on climate change and how Ireland specifically fit into the global picture of carbon emissions. While many of us shared thoughts on the ignorance and greed of many in regards to global warming and agreed that actual action -- rather than simple discussion -- must be implemented in order to make a change, we also raised some positive points, such as the spreading awareness in current and future generations.

We can’t wait to return to the turtle center again! There’s always something new and exciting going on, and we just can’t get enough. Maybe we’ll even be able to witness a Native American shaman playing music for the turtles!

Thanks for the support (and the blog hits), Anna, Anna and Terps Helping Turtles 2015

Exploring the UNCW campus and its giant pinecones

And yes, today's sunrise was amazing.  (Photo credit to Dahlia Kronfli)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Day 3: Baes in the Bays

Day 3 was an eventful and fun day! Us (Nicole and Dahlia), Jess, and Anna Duh got up early this morning to start their day with a sunrise over the beach. It was so pretty the pictures, barely capture the beauty of it. Next, it was onto the turtle hospital to put us volunteers to work. Volunteers were divided into three groups, with one in the sick turtle bay,one in turtle bay, and one in isolation bay. I (Nicole) got to work in sick turtle bay today, and it was probably my favorite part of the week so far. I spent the morning cleaning the tanks and the turtles with two other students, Zach and Anna D. Before each turtle’s tank was cleaned and bathed the volunteers would inform myself and the other students where the turtle came from, and how they got to be in sick bay. It was really interesting to learn each turtle’s story, and what the volunteers were doing at the hospital to help the turtle’s heal. It was a privilege to be able to bathe the turtles and to be able to rub their back to calm them down. Also, we got to see firsthand the different treatments the turtles were undergoing. Some were put in the rehab pool, and others were treated with honey to heal their wounds. The tip of the iceberg was getting the opportunity to prepare vegetables and feed them to the green sea turtles. One of the turtles, Simon, was so happy that when the volunteer was scratching his back he would wiggle, and do a little dance.

Jess and I (Dahlia) had a really special experience working in Isolation Bay with two turtles named Masonboro and Lore. Unfortunately, these turtles are quarantined due to a condition they have called fibropapilloma. Fibropapillomatosis (FP) is a disease specific to sea turtles (Zach has affectionately named this condition ‘Terpes’). The condition is characterized by benign epithelial tumours on the surface of their skin, and is contagious to other turtles, which is why they have to be isolated. Masonboro had one on his flipper and Lore had one on the back of his neck; while we were cleaning their tank we got to apply medicine called benzidine to the affected areas. Although it was a little challenging trying not to cross contaminate the turtle equipment, the volunteer Dorothy that we worked with was really sweet, and she let us do a hot of hands on work by cleaning the turtles shells and their tanks.

Later on in the day we took a walk on the beach to do a trash pickup. We multitasked as we enjoyed the wonderful weather while picking up any leftover trash on the beach. To our pleasant surprise, we hardly found any! Some of the things we did find were peculiar and not expected. For example, we found bricks, balloons, and a shotgun shell.  Maybe it’s just the off-season, but the citizens of Topsail Beach are really good about not littering. We split up into two groups and each walked a mile on different directions and picked up trash along the way. All of us having been trying to find sea glass (especially Mitch), but only Boots and Anna W. have been successful so far.

After failing to find an open place to eat ice cream, Anna W. and Anna D. cooked a wonderful dinner full of beans, rice, and chicken (basically homemade chipotle- YUM). Reflection had everyone laughing as we put on skits illustrating the importance of the components of an alternative spring break. Pre-trip prepares the students for what they are going to encounter and learn during the week. The service entails the core of the trip to ensure that our trip is worthwhile and with purpose. Reflection may not appeal to a lot of people but it is essential as part of this experience. Reflection puts all the thoughts together and clarifies what happened during the day, and really allows us to get some fulfillment by thinking about the events that occurred that day. It allows us to look back and take all of the information we learned for the day, and apply it in the future. The goal of this trip is not just to volunteer for a week, but to take this knowledge we are learning through service, and spread it for the rest of our lives.

We’re so excited for the necropsy tomorrow, and for more work with the turtles!

Nicole Scott and Dahlia Kronfli (see below for some ballin pics Dahlia took)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Day 2: Magical Honey

We had a great first day at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. Everyone was very involved with interacting directly with the turtles and the volunteers. We are excited to learn tons about both the environment and the turtles, and what we learn will be used to teach around 400 school children on Friday. We can’t wait to spread awareness and give back to the community that has welcomed us so warmly!

Boots and Anna Day cooked a really delicious soup for dinner, which was a great hit, especially after some of the girls ran into the freezing water!

Here are some of our thoughts about today:

“The new hospital is so beautiful and serves the turtles so well. I went with the group that worked with the turtles in sick bay along with the wonderful, and as always, interesting volunteers. The most interesting part was how they are now using honey to treat wounds on the turtles.” ~Boots

“I was again incredibly impressed by the dedication of both Jean and all the volunteers. They really devote 110% to the turtles and their passion and positive energy creates such a loving environment. Jean was talking to our team about how people often wonder why it’s important to protect certain animals and ask ‘What do they do?’ She brought up the point that humans really cause the most harm to the ecosystem and are considered the sea turtles greatest predators. All life should be respected and valued just for existing.” ~Nicole Moy

“I think that it’s just so surreal that we’re working with these endangered creatures at such a personal level. Today, I got to wash a Kemps Ridley with a washcloth, which is something I never thought I would get to do. We’re really experiencing conservation of a species at a hands-on level, which is so much more real than donating to the World Wildlife Foundation or something similar.” ~Anna Wooten

“It was really amazing to see how passionate all the volunteers are. Each one of them is more passionate about these sea turtles then I have ever been about anything in my entire life. I hope that one day I can find my sea turtle. Also, I now plan on bathing in honey to embrace its curative powers.” ~Ben Akman

“It’s amazing that we get the opportunity to work in this hospital with such dedicated and inspiring people. We even get to feed and even touch some of these endangered species. The sea turtles are such beautiful creatures and actually seeing them and hearing their stories really puts their plight into perspective.” ~ Anna Duh

“Today, I learned that humans are the apex predators for turtles, so in order to save them from becoming endangered or even extinct, it is up to us to make the necessary changes.” ~Nicole Scott

“Today was an incredible experience starting to work with our participants, the amazing volunteers at the center, and the beautiful turtles that are all healing and recovering so well. The volunteers all shared their experiences that led them to the hospital, which was truly inspiring, in addition to Jean’s talk with us. We heard about the history of the hospital and “plastivores”- how we all are exposed to microplastic in everyday life. I am excited to continue learning as a group. One thing that really stuck out to me was how dedicated all of the volunteers are, and we discussed in reflection how we hope to find our own ‘sea turtles’ one day – something we can get so motivated and inspired about.” ~Shannon Kirby

“Today we learned about the founding of the sea turtle rehabilitation center. I found the story about how Jean was thrusted into the world of sea turtles to honor her daughter inspiring. Her journey to become a self-taught citizen scientist proves that we can do whatever we want in life, and everyone can make a difference.” ~ Mitch Rock

“I was amazed at the attention to detail the volunteers give the turtles, continuously cleaning them and helping to heal them. I also thought it was amazing how knowledgeable Jean is and how she is an expert after teaching herself everything. I also thought it was really interesting to hear about her views of plastivores and how plastic has begun to pollute everything.” ~Zach Bolten
“Today I learned how pervasive plastic is in the lives of sea turtles and people after hearing how sea turtles can mistake plastic bags for jellyfish.” ~Anna Day

“It's crazy how much of a difference the passion of a group of people can make. Meeting Jean and the volunteers and seeing how much they cared about the turtles was heart-warming and inspiring. The volunteers give up hours and hours each week, rubbing honey on turtle wounds, bathing them, sterilizing and cleaning their tanks. And the difference these volunteers make is huge. Jean told us that the Turtle Hospital has about a 90% success rate at returning turtles to the wild. That can apply to basically any environmental group in general. It can be hard to see how one person's efforts make a difference, but they truly can!” ~Jess MacGregor

“I saw so much today that makes me so excited for the rest of the week. Jean was especially inspiring with her dedication to the environment and helping all creatures – turtles and humans. It really puts things in perspective and makes us think about out own purposes in life – like Jean said, ‘What good am I doing?’” ~Dahlia Kronfli

Some Additional Pictures from our day:

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Day 1: Through Rain or Shine

Our team has successfully travelled through the pouring rain to make it to beautiful Topsail, North Carolina! We stopped for lunch right over the Virginia-North Carolina border for some sandwiches and much needed leg-room. Parts of the way we could barely see through the rain, but Shannon, Anna W., and Boots did an amazing job getting us all here safely!

We cooked pizza for dinner (shout out to ILS for providing the pizza crust and sauce) and had a really great time eating together and getting to know each other better. Also, we had a wonderful, belated surprise for Shannon’s birthday; the singing was beautiful and the baby cupcakes were delicious.

The sun began shining just in time for our participants to walk down to the beach. 
We had a fun reflection tonight involving setting ground rules, reviewing the schedule for the week, and sharing stories of our lives and writing down our first impressions of each other.

Everyone is super excited to get to work with the sea turtles starting at 8 am tomorrow morning! It makes us so happy to hear our participants laughing and getting to know each other already. Life and The Princess Diaries have already begun as well.

We are all settling in well and are so excited for a week of service learning!

~Shannon and Nicole Moy

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hi I'm Zach!

Hello! My name is Zach Bolten and I am a sophomore at the University of Maryland and a Bioengineering major. I am very excited to be going on the Terps Helping Turtles alternative break to Topsail North Carolina at the Karen Beasley Turtle Rehabilitation center. My hobbies include swimming, listening to music, and gaming. I am excited to spend time with my fellow students and learn more about how our actions can help and harm the environment.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Aren't You Glad I Didn't Say Anna?

Hi guys I'm Ben Akman and I am so excited for this trip! I am a second year cell biology and molecular genetics major with hobbies ranging from singing to just experiencing nature. I worked at the aquarium for four years but it been a while so I can't wait to be back among the marine life! I'm so ready to help some turtles and I'm super excited to get to know you all better. 

Our Staff Advisor

I forgot to include a picture. So here is one of me with Jean when I went down to talk to her about setting up the first THT trip.

I can't believe our trip is just around the corner.  Topsail is my favorite place on Earth and spending spring break working with the turtles with an amazing group of student's is truly a blessing.  Plus, it looks like we are going to have great weather.  See you all bright and early Saturday morning!!!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

And I am the 3rd!

Hello, my name is Anna Duh! I'm a freshman majoring in Animal Science and aiming to minor in Creative Writing. Other hobbies include reading, listening to music, and shopping. I love meeting new people and hope to get to know all the other students on the Terps Helping Turtles crew! In the future, I hope to work closely with all sorts of animals and wildlife to help preserve the beauty and diversity of our planet, so I can hardly wait for our week at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center to start! It's sure to be an awesome trip; I hope people follow along on our blog to see all the cool stuff we're doing!

The Other Nicole

Hello! My name is Nicole Scott. I am a sophomore at the University of Maryland and I am a General Biology major. I am ecstatic about spending my spring break in Topsail North Carolina at the Karen Beasley Turtle Rehabilitation center. I am obsessed with any type of animal and can’t wait to get to see the turtles. In my spare time I enjoy playing soccer, going to the beach, and traveling. I am excited to get to know more ILS students, and to learn more about protecting our environment! 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Who's that's Jess

Hi everybody!!! My name is Jessica MacGregor, I am a freshman at the University of Maryland, and I couldn't be more excited to be spending my Spring Break in Topsail North Carolina! My hobbies include singing (I am in an a capella group), traveling, and eating. I have always found happiness in nature, and believe strongly in doing what I can to preserve the beauty of our natural environment. As an Environmental Science and Policy Major with a concentration in Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, this trip is a dream come true for me!  I can't wait to actually be a part of the hard work that goes into species conservation, while spending time getting to know my fellow ILS peers.