Saturday, May 18, 2013

My Visit to the National Marine Life Center!

After I attended my first International Sea Turtle Symposium in Baltimore, I took a flight up to Boston and a bus down to Cape Cod to visit my friends at the National Marine Life Center. I was a 2011 summer intern at the NMLC, assisting with brackish and freshwater turtle rehabilitation, environmental education to people of all ages, seal rescue and response,fund-raising, among a plethora of other responsibilities.

The NMLC has been building a brand new, state-of-the-art marine animal hospital for several years, after the roof of the old building collapsed. During my internship, I assisted with preparing the hospital for our patients, but at the time there was still some logistics that had to be worked out before it was ready for seals and sea turtles. I was very proud and excited to hear that the NMLC had been cleared for patients, and this fall had accepted its first 8 sea turtle patients, and later, 3 seal patients! Naturally, it was time for a visit to see all the progress the NMLC staff and volunteers made since my last visit!

My dear friend, Wendy Horsman Wyman and I at the NMLC.

The timing of this visit was less than ideal, if you recall, that very same week Boston experienced record snowfall during "Winter Storm Nemo." This means I was stranded in Baltimore for two additional nights, then spent all day waiting for a bus that was willing to drive from Boston to Buzzards Bay, MA. The long, arduous journey was well worth it to reconnect with my mentors and fellow volunteers, and get a little sea turtle time in. After having an intensive internship at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital working with sea turtles daily for three months, it was hard on my heart to have to return to Nebraska to finish my schooling and work at a retail store because I had to quit my sea turtle habit cold turkey.

The first few days in Massachusetts were an unexpected adventure while my host and I learned to live without power. It was a strong reminder of all we have to be grateful for, and how much of a pansy I really am.

I really enjoyed seeing a totally new way of doing things at the NMLC's hospital compared my sea turtle hospital experience, they follow a similar protocol, but because the two facilities are set up so differently, they handle tank cleaning and turtle care very differently. During my week long visit, I was also able to give my first sea turtle injection; antibiotics for Papi!
Photo by Kathy Zagzebski, President and CEO of the NMLC

Photo by Kathy Zagzebski, President and CEO of the NMLC

I also enjoyed assisting and observing feeding and treatments of Townsend, the only seal patient during my visit. This was my first time working with seal patients. One particularly strong memory is our experimenting with enrichment items - we gave Townsend a barrel of snow! He's less than a year old, so it was his first time experiencing snow, and the pictures I captured from that were priceless. The video below is by my friend, Wendy Horsman Wyman.

Photo by Wendy Horsman Wyman

The 8 sea turtles are all juvenile Kemp's Ridleys, the smallest and most endangered sea turtle in the world. They were all cold-stunned, a form of hypothermia caused by getting caught in water that gets too cold for reptilian bodies. For more information on cold-stunning, and its significance to the NMLC check out my previous blog: Sea Turtles! Part 2: Disease, Predators and Conservation.

It meant so much to me to see the hospital up and running after all the work I know the wonderful staff and volunteers have put in. I'm proud to say that I was an intern with them, and that they were the rehabilitation center that started my career in marine conservation.

While I was in Massachusetts, I was excited to meet up with my fellow 2011 intern, Brittany Wolfe. It meant to much to get to catch up with her and reconnect. While we were volunteering together on my last afternoon in Massachusetts, I got the exciting news that I had been accepted to Southeastern Louisiana University with full tuition waiver and stipend. It was almost too perfect that I was able to celebrate this next step with my dear friends from the NMLC. I am lucky and honored to know such passionate people doing such meaningful work, and to say that I have been able to learn from them.

Myself restraining Carolyn, a cold-stunned Kemp's Ridley while Dr. Williams takes her heartbeat with an ultrasound machine.

Dr. Williams checks the inside of Carolyn's mouth.

Photos by Kathy Zagzebski, President and CEO of the NMLC

We can't forget the little guys! This is Pickle, an NMLC patient that  was part of the Red Bellied-Cooter headstart program at another facility.

Don't let his looks fool you, this guy is feisty!
The last thing I want to mention is that while I was in Buzzards Bay, I was graciously offered the opportunity to order an "Animal Care Team" sweatshirt along with the rest of the current volunteers, and it came to me in the mail last week. I am so proud to wear it!
To learn more about the NMLC's current patients, the recent turtle release, and all the great things they're doing for their community, please visit their website at They are a completely nonprofit organization and rely on donations from the public to do what they do. The hospital is still under construction and needs funding! Right now, the turtles and seals share a ward, but eventually they will have separate wards, and wards for dolphins and pilot whales. Please consider being a part of their progress! You can also donate specific items that they need for their patients through their Amazon wishlist, which you can visit here.

Thanks so much to the wonderful staff and volunteers for welcoming me back and for all they've done to help me get to this point in my career. I appreciate all you've taught me, the contacts you've suggested, and the advice you've given over the years, you are my heroes!

1 comment:

  1. Hello Brie. I'm a former student of Dr. Eric Keopfler and wondering if you had made any progress toward your goal of working with him? I've recently sent him an email to reconnect and talk about the possibilty of returning to Coastal Carolina University to persue my Masters and possible a PhD in Marine Science. Stumbled upon your blog (very interesting!) while looking him up. Hope all is going well in your pursuits!
    Scott A Evans, Biological Scientist, US Forest Service