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)

1 comment:

  1. Conversely, I (Anna Wooten) worked in the Sick Bay today, cleaning tanks and bathing turtles. Typical protocol for cleaning a turtle and its tank ... turtlestanks.blogspot.com