Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Does your family serve Jell-O or Jell-O molds for Thanksgiving Dinner? Then you have something in common with the sea turtles at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. When Jell-O was first introduced in the 1800s there were only four flavors: Strawberry, Raspberry, Orange and Lemon. Since then Jell-O has introduced many new flavors including Chocolate, Cola, Apple and Strawberry Punch. At the aquarium, we have a special flavor of gelatin: Sea Turtle Gel. It probably won’t be found on grocery shelves any time soon as the recipe includes broccoli, carrots and fish. Today we are going to meet Madeline, one of the aquarists who makes gel food at the Aquarium.
Madeline began as a volunteer at the Aquarium while she was a student at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington studying Marine Biology and Studio Art. After graduation, Madeline interned with the Husbandry Department. She enjoyed it so much, she applied for a job. Madeline has many responsibilities. She cares for the Coquina Outcrop Touch Tank, Sharktooth Ledge, Box Turtles, Maverick the Eagle and Saltwater Quarantine. If that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Madeline also helps make gel food. There are several different gel food recipes that are fed to different animals at the Aquarium. Madeline gets to make them all. You can watch in this video as Monica and Madeline show us how to make gel food.
We asked Madeline about learning to make gel food. She said “The first time I helped make gel food I messed up every step that I was tasked with but my co-worker was feeling under the weather that day and had lost her voice, so she wasn’t able to scold me too badly”. Now Madeline is an expert in making gel food. When asked about funny stories involving gel food, we learned long hair in the food prep room can be a bit tricky. “Gel food is really sticky and tends to get everywhere. Someone once found it in their hair two days after making it at work. So it lasted through two showers.” The gelatin used in our gel food, is the same product used in Jell-O. So if you are having Jell-O during Thanksgiving dinner, you have something in common with our turtles.
“Making gel food can be time consuming and has to be planned in advanced as we have many other daily responsibilities. It has taught me to be good with time management and to work quickly and efficiently.” Next time you are at the aquarium, if you are lucky enough to see the animals being fed, think of Madeline and all the work she put into that gel food.
Thanks, in part, to the gel food we have been feeding the sea turtles, Turtle A is now 9.9 cm long and weighs 160.5 grams which Turtle B is 10.5 cm long and 215.1 grams. Not sure what to do with this weight and length? Learn more in our Hatchling to Yearling lesson plan. They grow so fast and seem to love the gel food. What’s your favorite flavor of Jell-O? Share your favorite way to eat Jell-O in the comments section!
Now that you’ve met Carol, Julie and Madeline, it might be a good time to try writing about your day as a turtle keeper. Teachers, you can learn more about that in our My Day as a Turtle Keeper lesson. Next week is Thanksgiving and the turtles will be celebrating with gel food. Join us in two weeks for our next post when we get to meet Shelldon, the green sea turtle.