This week we have a guest post from our Outreach Coordinator, Andy!
Have you ever been working on a project and thought, “When will I ever use this?” My middle school science project turned into my dream career! In the 7th grade, I created a project about Turtle Excluder Devices, which are used to help sea turtles escape when they are accidentally caught in fishing nets. I even created a small model of the device to show my classmates. By the end of that project, I was committed to doing whatever I could to protect turtles in the wild.
Combine that with a general drive to protect the environment, and it’s no wonder that after high school, I chose to seek a degree in Environmental Studies. While in school, I was fortunate enough to be offered an internship at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Throughout that summer, my favorite task was to staff the Sea Turtle exhibit and talk with visitors about the lives of loggerhead sea turtles, including the threats they face. During my internship experience, I discovered my love for teaching others about aquatic life and the steps we all can take to protect our environment.
Luckily, I am able to continue this work in my role as the Outreach Coordinator at the Aquarium. I bring educational programs and live animals out into the community, sharing them with audiences including schools, preschools, assisted living facilities, summer camps and other community groups. Many of our most popular programs are focused on the variety of turtles that call North Carolina home.
One program, called “Turtle Tales,” focuses on the different habitats where turtles can be found. Using stories, costumes and artifacts, we explore turtle habitats such as forests, freshwater ponds and the ocean. We observe live turtles to determine which habitat they are best suited for, and talk about what strategies each turtle would use to survive in their home. I love sharing this program because of the reactions I get from people as they meet each turtle.
We also offer an outreach turtle program called “Sea Turtle 911.” During this program, we meet several sick or injured sea turtles who have been treated at the North Carolina Aquariums and at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. Using models of each turtle, we take turns diagnosing their needs, and brainstorm how best to treat them and bring them back to full health. Participants get firsthand experience into challenging but rewarding work of rehabilitating sea turtles and have a lot of fun along the way.
I love working at the Aquarium, and particularly doing outreach. Every day I go to work and get to have adventures, traveling all around North Carolina and meeting new and interesting people. In a way, my adventure started many years ago with a school project on sea turtles. My advice to anyone in school or working on a new project is to dive in and work hard. You never know what exciting path it might lead you to.
The sea turtles are still growing. This week Turtle A is 7.5 cm long and weighs 84 grams. Turtle B is 7.4 cm and weighs 90.2 grams. Not sure what to do with this weight and length? Learn more in our Hatchling to Yearling lesson plan. Did you miss last week’s data? Check out our post “Welcome to the Aquarium, Baby Turtles!” Have you had an experience in school that led you to a new hobby or wanting to learn more? Share your experience in the comments below.
Side note: If your class adopted a turtle through our Adoption page, please send us another request. We had a bit of a glitch and your request went off into cyberspace. We can’t wait to get your class signed up. Thank you for your understanding!