1. Some of the most unique and passionate people in the world work with sea turtles. 2. Talking to animals doesn’t make you crazy, it makes you involved. 3. You can never be too old or too cool to feed a sea turtle, or to stick your head in our turtle cutout. 4. Each sea turtle has a very distinct personality, which means that sometimes they like someone else more than you. 5. Living in a trailer is totally worth it when you live on the beach. 6. If you wear a sea turtle patrol shirt in public someone will, without a doubt, stop you and ask when the next hatchling release is. 7. Most people will never understand that we can’t make the babies hatch any faster just because their vacation ends tomorrow. 8. The beach look (unkempt hair, no make up, slight tan) suits me very well. 9. Watching a hatchling release makes all of the beach patrols worth it. 10. There will probably never be attractive people on the SPI nude beach. 11. As Jill said before, cows also enjoy gazing into the ocean to ponder the meaning of life. 12. Mosquitoes will inevitably bite you if you are out after dark. 13. Downpours on SPI happen unexpectedly and then end just as quickly. 14. When five interns work together in the morning we can finish all the morning chores by 9:15, which lets us sit down and enjoy our coffee. It’s nice. 15. Speaking of coffee, people always think it’s funny that I walk around releases with a baby in one hand and coffee in the other. Apparently they still haven’t grasped that college students never see 6:00 am. 16. Really cooking in a trailer in nearly impossible and it’s almost always necessary to disconnect the smoke alarm first. 17. On tours people are always shocked when they’re told that poaching nearly wiped out sea turtle populations. What they have a harder time understanding it that just like any doctor, biologist or surf instructor all they were trying to do was support their family. 18. One of the most important aspects of sea turtle conservation is education. 19. The SPI experience is much more enjoyable if you visit the unique shops and restaurants run by local entrepreneurs (i.e. Badabing Bagels, Naturally’s, The Museum, Seagull Imports, Paradise Gems, K’s Beads) instead of the big souvenir places. 20. No visitors to STI can ever ask too many questions or too silly of a question. Education is education and if they learn to love sea turtles I did my job. 21. Sea turtles are high maintenance animals. 22. Without the help of volunteers our work would probably be impossible. 23. Giving a tour isn’t so bad, even when I have to sing the Sponge Bob song. 24. Watching the joy on a kiddo’s face when they see Gerry swim over to the window is enough to make me an optimistic about marine conservation and generally speaking a more happy person. 25. There is nothing wrong with waiting in line at midnight to buy the final Harry Potter book, as a matter of fact I was surprised at who else I found in line with me. 26. If you spend enough time living here you really ought to have your own snorkeling gear. 27. Around here everyone has heard of STI and the Turtle Lady. Even the PI library has a statue of Ila inside. 28. David Letterman thought that sea turtles were mammals when Ila visited his show years ago. 29. Sea turtles are beautiful animals. But they are much more beautiful live and swimming than stuffed and lacquered. 30. Lucy might unexpectedly throw water balloons. Watch out. 31. The interns have so much fun participating in Lucy’s puppet show that we occasionally act it out for other groups of people we know, with a bit more enthusiasm and a bit less embarrassment. 32. There is a turtle conditioner product on the market, but I have no idea what it’s supposed to do. 33. How to make a real sand castle. 34. My favorite piece of local art, the helmet tree, is way out on the beach where few people see it. On my last patrol I added a helmet too. 35. When patrolling at 5:30 in Mexico it is possible to watch the stars and the sunrise at the same time. 36. Hand feeding a 200-pound turtle is terrifying. 37. People sometimes act maliciously towards animals and it can be heartbreaking. 38. Often times patience with a little visitor can turn their fear into wonder, 39. Ila was an amazing public educator. We have visitors come in all the time and share their memories of her with us. 40. Dirty Al’s has the best fried shrimp po-boys. 41. Selling dried starfish and sea horses in stores is cruel, go out to the beach and pick up a few shells instead. 42. Every Friday night Louie’s puts on a fireworks show at 9:15 and you can never see too many or live here long enough to not enjoy the fireworks. 43. Sometimes checking the corral at 3 in the morning is very scary. 44. It’s mean and hard to kill crabs with a little stick, but then I think of them eating turtle eggs and I get over it. 45. My favorite part of a Sunday is our Sunday night barbecue at Lucy’s. 46. Surfing is difficult and exhausting, but so much fun. 47. The Kemp’s Ridley project is a success story. Conservation efforts for such an animal with such a long life span are really slow, but we’ve gone from less that 300 in ’85 to over 11,000 now, so apparently we’re something right. 48. Seagulls are really annoying. 49. If you look between the rocks towards the end of the jetties you can see lots of sea urchins and little hermit crabs. 50. Taking part is releases of both hatchlings and rehabilitated turtles make me very proud of myself and of our work. 51. Biologists work really strange hours. 52. A sea turtles ribs are fused together to form their top shell, which explains why the love to have their backs scratched. The scutes that give their shells all the color are made of keratin. 53. Some turtles are really picky eaters and then there are some that will eat anything. 54. Watching drunk people sing karaoke is not nearly as fun for everyone else as it is for them. 55. Spike will inevitably be more cheerful than I am in the morning. 56. The sand is inescapable. I’ve learned to live with it. 57. Merry Christmas will probably be every visitor’s favorite turtle because she comes right up and looks you in the eye. 58. Listening to music on patrol can make the eight hours bearable and occasionally fun. 59. The traffic during 4th of July is unbelievable, especially on the beach. 60. Sea turtles nest on beautiful beaches all over the world. So if I keep working with turtles I could travel to Greece, Costa Rica and Australia. 61. Packing is really hard when you love a place so much that you don’t want to leave. 62. Handmade tortillas will always be better than store bought ones. 63. Great people skills can only take you so far when you meet someone with no background in biology who wants to debate the reason for the existence of fire ants. 64. More people read my blog than I could have ever imagined, but in the end the best way to reach my target demographic was with our STI myspace page, though I still haven’t figured out what makes myspace so appealing. Stinking kids, go read a book. 65. I have a very well documented summer thanks to Seth, a good friend and professional photographer. 66. We estimate that 0.3% of the hatchlings we release survive to adulthood. But if you think about that during a release it can really bring you down. 67. Homemade salsa is good, even if the homemade part is a bit tricky (I think that adventure was when I learned to take the battery out of the smoke alarm first). 68. Not having regular internet access or a tv is a fabulous thing. 69. Working with animals means that unexpected and amazing things happen every day. 70. I’m convinced MJ is a girl. 71. Being nose to nose with a sea turtle can make you forget everything else in the world. 72. Because sea turtles live in water that means they go to the bathroom in the water, apparently people don’t actually think that through before they put their hands in a turtle’s tank. 73. The Brew Pub has the best pizza on the island. 74. Not to walk in the grass barefoot, there are stickers everywhere. 75. Puzzles are not just for old ladies (despite what Adrienne thinks). 76. Being alone on the beach can create an unequaled sense of freedom. 77. Working hard and getting really emotionally involved makes losing a turtle is devastating. 78. Allison will get a prosthetic flipper one day, even if I have no part in making it. 79. Sea turtles have brains about the size of half of my index finger, but I’m convinced that they smarter than we give them credit for. 80. Sharing a sea turtle moment with someone is an experience no language barrier could ever take away from. 81. There will never be enough hours in the day to allow me to do everything I want to do. 82. I love grocery shopping for myself. 83. It’s hard to be away from people I love for so long. 84. A turtle can go for a long time without eating, like Scooter who seems to snub every squid we’ve put in his tank for the past few weeks. 85. Visitors expect us to know everything about fresh water turtles as well, but all I’ve learned is how to identify a red-eared slider. 86. Waking up to watch babies will always be worth more than the extra hour of sleep. 87. How to properly hold, tag, feed, identify, scratch, force feed, give pills too, vacuum a tank for, draw blood from, give shots to and remove barnacles from a sea turtle all while only getting a little dirty. 88. I have a lot to say once I get started talking about turtles, so much so that I occasionally give with 30+ minute tours without intending to. 89. Almost all the words to Dave Cromwell’s 8-minute audio that we play between each tour throughout the day. 90. Being a helpful person and remembering names can earn you friendships with all sorts of interesting people (like Mary Anne, Madeline, Anne, Wendy, Guy, all the Daves and Patty, all of whom I will miss very much). 91. Having Jeff remove a big splinter with a sterile needle for injections is slightly funny situationally, but hurts really badly. 92. My work this summer has actually made a difference in the world. 93. Being addicted to caffeine, although very common, is a bad thing. 94. I love being asked hard questions, especially when I can’t answer them. I usually get so curious that I look the answer up on my own, or go ask Jeff. 95. Being around turtles make people happy. And I’m convinced that even though lots of teenage boys act too cool to visit STI with their families they love our turtles too. 96. Even though we tell the story about Fred’s sunglasses on every tour people still drop their sunglasses into his tank. 97. Part of the reason my work experience has been so incredible is because I’ve been able to develop such close relationships with the other interns as well as with Jeff and Lucy. 98. I have never worked for such a patient boss, who was so interested and involved in my own life-long education. 99. I will always consider the turtles in our facility my babies, despite their massive size. 100. My life has been changed in so many ways by the experience I’ve had working with sea turtles this summer.
I have met and worked with some of the most amazing people and I learned so much more than I ever thought possible. I have an incredible year to look forward to, but at the same time I can’t imagine what it will be like to not work with turtles everyday. I’ve been involved with so many different aspects of marine conservation, public education and medicine that returning to the life of college student somehow seems less exciting. But I have incredible stories, pictures and knowledge and I know that will be able to continue talking and teaching about my babies whenever I am.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog and follow my day-to-day adventures with sea turtles. I realize I can occasionally be long-winded (or perhaps fast fingered would be more appropriate…), but I hope that each of you has gained something from my stories and your own interest in turtles has grown. As always I love your comments, emails and pictures and I hope to keep in touch with some of you. I know I will love to hear your stories as the tables turn and you continue to work with our sea turtles. I hope that next summer I will be at a turtle camp in some other part of the world doing similar conservation work, but if I do return to Sea Turtle, Inc. I will absolutely keep on blogging. Once again thank you for your support of me and of STI, documenting my escapades and sharing them has helped make this an unforgettable summer.
Word of the day: Leatherback sea turtle - It is the largest living turtle, generally attaining weights of 650 to 1,200 pounds and lengths of 6 to 8 feet. 2,000 pound specimens have been reported. It is the only species in its family Dermochelyidae. "Derma" is Greek for skin or leather, and "khelus" is Greek, meaning tortoise. These turtles lack the typical bony shell covered with horn-like scutes. Instead, they have a leathery shell with a matrix of hexagonal bones imbedded in it. The leatherback's habitat is typically tropical or subtropical seas, but it has been found as far north as Nova Scotia. Major nesting beaches in the western hemisphere are on the Pacific Coast of Mexico at Barra de la Cruz, Chacahua, Oaxaca, Mexiquillo, Michoacan, and at Tierra Colorado, Guerrero, Playa Grande and Playa Langosta, Coasta Rica.
I can't believe that today is my last day working at STI and there are two people in the entire facility right now so I have nothing to do but write. This morning I gave the first presentation, mostly because I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But, I realized, a bit late now, that it's fun to speak to such a large group and actually enjoyed it. And they clapped for me at the end, which always helps.
It ended up being a pretty busy day, till now, so we gave some big tours that again resulted in yelling and raw throats. Since Mary was here today working inside I was able to enjoy the weather outside, while chastising overly zealous visitors. To celebrate our last day at work I stopped for coffee for Amanda and I on the way here and she stopped at Badabing Bagels. I had a blueberry bagel with plain cream cheese that was really good, but so big that I wasn't hungry for lunch. So, instead I went to the store and got snacks for the interns because we plan on going out to the beach after we take a couple of our ladies to be initiated into the International Idiot's Club. It's nice to have this time off now and I know that I will really enjoy the sunrise, sunset and the beach for the next few days before I leave. Unfortunately I'll be heading out Wednesday morning so I really value this last bit of time. Last night as I was waiting for my laundry I watched the most beautiful sunset over the bay. I can't watch the sun set over the water like that in Houston or in Georgetown.
Tomorrow is Jeff's birthday so we plan on having a barbecue here at STI and afterwards all the interns will get to swim with Gerry and Spunky. Between that, my last few days with the interns, and packing I know I'll be really busy. But, expect at least one last entry, thank you to everyone who has stuck out the summer with me. AML
Word of the day: Ferromagnetic crystals - It is based on a unique biochemistry that incorporates ferromagnetic material (magnetite) within them and utilizes their orientation to govern its spatial movement (horizontal and vertical). Outside of migration behavior, other examples of orientation behavior due to magnetite, occur across the animal kingdom: honey bees, homing pigeons, sharks, dolphins, newt, rainbow trout, salmon. **So, in my words -- scientists believe that ferromagnetic crystals found in a sea turtle's brain (they are also found in our brains) help a turtle orient itself in the ocean. As far as we know these crystals help the turtle follow the magnetic field of the earth back to the nesting ground where they hatched. If anyone has any corrections let me know, I'm only 80 pages into this book.**
Yesterday after work I went out to the beach and read for over an hour. The ocean was like a huge bathtub and the weather was incredible so I really enjoyed sitting out on the beach. Right now I'm reading a book called "The Search for the Great Turtle Mother" that chronicles a scientist and his attempts to find out more about the ferromagnetic crystals in a turtle's brain. I have so little time left on the island that I've been trying to be out on the beach as much as possible even though I'm sacrificing some of my sleep.
After my rendezvous in the sun a few of the interns got together for dinner at Dorado's where I had fish tacos and fried zucchini. I have to say that I'm a bit disappointed that I only now discovered Dorado's, but I'm sure I'll be back. And then after that we went to Schlitterbaun to watch a group of kids do really amazing tricks on boogie boards. We did a lot of clapping because after attempting to surf we can better appreciate such a skill. And then after that we went out to the bay and watched our last fireworks show. It was a fun night.
This morning I woke up at around 6:00, even though I wasn't out of bed till 6:27, to go to what might be my last hatchling release. We released 138 more babies, which brings our total to over 1600 now. The two nests this morning were particularly important because these were the two nests that Jessica found on the same day. I, as always, was armed with coffee, but 6:45 will always be very early for me.
Today started out slow, but we stayed busy enough all day long. I gave two tours and both of them grew to be so big that by the last tank I was nearly yelling so that everyone could hear me. My throat already hurts, but at most I only have a couple more tours since tomorrow is my last work day. I prepared diets this morning so I listened to my iPod and worked for over an hour. It never took me so long before, but with all of the little turtles that have now been moved outside I ended up hand feeding six out of the 13 turtles I fed, which really slows down the process. I really enjoy doing the diets in the morning, but lately whenever we feed the hawksbills (we have two tanks, each with three hawksbill sea turtles) they steal food from each other. At one point I was actually holding Killeen away from Buddy so he could eat in hurried peace.
When work was slow I spent some time looking in on Spunky, Gerry and MJ through their viewing windows. Sea turtles really are beautiful animals and being nose to nose with Gerry only made me want to stay on the island longer. It's amazing how attached you can get to an animal like a sea turtle. AML
Word of the day: in situ - situated in the original, natural, or existing place or position. Occasionally sea turtles nests are left in situ, or on the beach, if they are found too long after they've been laid to be transported. After about the 6th hours the eggs begin to calcify and moving the eggs can damage the hatchling.
Wednesday night we had our intern/volunteer appreciation-going away party here at STI. It was really nice to be able to socialize with the whole group without worrying about finishing the vacuuming or look for turtle tracks. We have a very nice dinner catered by Palmetto Inn and we spent a good part of our evening watching the intern dvd Lucy put together with a bunch of the pictures we have from this summer. Of course we've had so much fun that there were lots of pictures that made us laugh and we all really enjoyed watching the Andres Herrera film that Lucy spliced and put music to. As silly as the "Arribada" song is it's a very educational song and she paired it very well with his video. Afterwards each of the interns and volunteers received a certificate and the interns each received a a group picture.
Adrienne left the next morning so we hung out for a little while and then we all went to bed early. The next morning we were supposed to meet for the CBS news, but after a series of events the taping was called off so I was able to sleep a bit longer.
I have such little time left that I'm trying to soak the last bit of everything up. So, last night after going out to eat with two of my visiting friends I watched the sun set between the palm trees from outside my trailer and walked on the beach. Amanda and I watched a few episodes of FRIENDS and then we had another early night.
I slept for nearly nine hours, which was amazing, and managed to wake up at about 8:20. When I got to work I prepared diets and we did all of the normal chores. Since today was a fairly slow day I also helped out one of our volunteers trace the word "Center" on the outside wall, since he had painted over it earlier.
As we're finishing up today we found out that there's a project called Letterboxing North America that has left a "letterbox" here at STI. In the box there is a stamp so when people come in and say the secret phrase we pull out the letterbox and stamp their notepad. You can read more about it at www.letterboxing.org.
After work I plan to go to the beach to enjoy a bit more of the fabulous and very hot weather and after we all shower we plan to go to Dorodo's for dinner. Every night Schlitterbaun has a surf show at 8:30 and after they Louie's has it's 9:15 fireworks show, so I have a full evening to look forward to. Until I think of another turtle word... AML
Word of the day: Loggerhead sea turtle - This animal is named for its proportionally large head and powerful jaws and the carapace, which is brown and reddish-brown. The scales on the top of the head are often a deep rusty brown color. Adults of this species weigh from 170-500 pounds and are nearly four feet in total length. Known nesting grounds for this species are located in the wider Caribbean, Southeastern United States, the Yucatan in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama and Columbia, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Cuba, Brazil, Laganas and Kalimaki in Greece and in Dalyan beach in Turkey. **In my opinion loggerhead hatchlings might be some of the most beautiful. Well, I've only seen two species, but they are fabulous.**
I'm leaving in exactly one week. This has been such an amazing summer, but at the same time there are still things I had intended on doing while I was here. So I'm trying to relax and enjoy the rest of my time here on the beach with the palm trees, the beautiful sunsets and the turtles. I still haven't figured out how I'm supposed to return to a normal life with studying and classes after spending my summer working to protect endangered species of sea turtles.
Yesterday was a pretty slow day at work, but now I feel that way everyday when we have less than 400 people coming through the facility. I think the highlight of my day was giving five of our recovering turtles medication. Even though I have no intention of going into medicine I've really enjoyed drawing and administering meds to these guys. And they take them kind of like little kids, with a huge fuss. Imagine trying to give two different shots to a hundred pound loggerhead in the muscle at the base of her front flipper very close to her head (see word of the day - up to a 1000 lb. crushing pressure in their jaws), while she's trying to smack you with her powerful flippers and bite you at the same time. It keeps things exciting. The rest of the day was routine: 3:00 chow feeding, tours, unpacking merchandise, etc. At least until 4:00 when a former pastor from my home church and his wife walked in to STI. It's so funny who I've seen here on the island. They are taking me out for dinner on Thursday and I can't wait to catch up with them.
After work Adrienne and I went to get root beer floats from A&W and after showering and getting ready Adrienne, Amanda, BJ and I went out for sushi at the only sushi place on the island. It's been such a long time since I've had sushi and we all really enjoyed it. I've been eating really well, sushi last night, Badabing Bagel this morning and then Palmetto Inn is catering our intern party tonight. Tonight is actually the last night all of our interns will be together because Adrienne is going home for a week and she's leaving tomorrow morning. By the time she gets back a couple of us will already be on our way home. I know we are really looking forward to spending time with all the interns and all of the STI volunteers, but I'm afraid it will be a pretty bittersweet evening.
Tomorrow morning at 5:30 I'll be up at the KOA campground to film a live 30-second spot with the CBS weatherman. It will air at 7:30 our time on some CBS morning show in New York. I feel like I should know more details, but that's the best I've got, so if you're up at 7:30 turn on your tv and hopefully you'll see me and some of the other interns with a couple of our turtles. AML
Word of the day: Olive ridley sea turtle - As both it's common and species names imply, the overall color of this turtle is olive green. Like its sister species, the Kemp's ridley, it is a small sea turtle, usually less than 100 pounds. The most obvious difference between this turtle and the Kemp's ridley is the number of costal scutes of the upper shell. The olive ridley has from 5 to 9 costals and 7 vertebral scutes. Kemp's ridley has 5 costals, and 5 vertebrals. Large nesting aggregations called "arribadas" still occur in Pacific Costa Rica, primarily at Nancite and Ostionales and Pacific Mexico at La Escobilla, Oaxaca.
Oh my gosh Ginger is chasing something around the shop and Buddy just flipped himself over and needed assistance. And now Gracie is swimming in wild circles around her tank. Apparently 6:30 isn't too early for them.
I really enjoyed my "day off" yesterday. After waking up late I went out to the Beachcomber's Art Show at the convention center. I enjoy art so much and it's been very strange to not visit museums on a regular basis this summer, so it was such a joy to see so many beautiful and sometimes inspiring pieces. I spoke with some of the artists who express an interest in designing and donating a sea turtle piece for STI. One of the artists from Houston welds metal from old cars into large fish and he seemed really intrigued by our work so hopefully our new facility will have a big car-turtle. Afterwards I went to the Museum on the island, which is a small shop with an even smaller historical museum. The woman who works there makes sea bean jewelry and I had seen her work at the Sea Life Day and really wanted to stop by her little shop. One of the things I love about the locals here is that they are all so kind and helpful so I spent awhile with her learning about sea beans.
I just finished with corral duty and last night when I came in for the keys to the Jeep I saw a new little turtle inside. He's a little Atlantic Green and he has a ton of barnacles on his back so he must be very sick. This makes the third juvenile green stranding we've had within the last two weeks and they are all nearly the same size. I walked down to the corral when I checked at 9:00 last night because it was nice out, other than the mosquitoes, and the moon was huge. It's been five days since the last time someone had corral duty so I pulled 11 dead crabs and two dead lizards out of the buckets. Other than that I had no problems all night, our next nest isn't supposed to hatch for the next few days so there wasn't too much for me to look for other than crabs.
Today we are supposed to go surfing with Gene and Rachel and they have generously agreed to give us lessons and rent us boards if we take them out to dinner afterwards, which of course we are thrilled to do. Gene is giving us what he calls the "turtle slave discount". Ha. But it was raining pretty hard awhile ago so hopefully it will clear up enough by 11:30. I'm headed back to bed and hopefully it's not too early to stop for a bagel on my way. AML
Word of the day: Black sea turtle - This turtle's common name is derived from the almost black coloration of it's shell. The carapace is dramatically tear-drop shaped and steep sided. Adult black turtles weigh as much as 220 pounds. This turtle is found primarily in the eastern Pacific Ocean from southern California to Chile, west to the Galapagos Islands, Hawaii and Papua New Guinea.
Our morning was very slow and at 11:00 our regular schedule was put on hold for a small camera crew that came from CBS. Since South Padre Island is ranked one of the top vacation spots in the states one of the CBS morning shows is spotlighting SPI and some of the interesting places here on the island. The guys got footage of us feeding Merry Christmas, Gerry and Spunky and I think of someone scratching Fred's back. We always like the opportunity to show off our turtles so all of the interns had a good time. We have also been invited to the KOA campground at 5:30 Thursday morning where they will be shooting live for the show. I'm weighing the pros and cons, being on national tv, staying in bed for two more hours before work. I'll probably wake up.
Today was the Sea Life Day on the beach in front of the Radisson. Since it was only scheduled till 4:00 today's interns split up and took a long lunch break so we could each stop by and visit Lucy and Ben who were behind the STI table. When Jessica and I got there at 1:30 Lucy wasn't feeling well so she asked us to man the table for the rest of the afternoon so she could go home. So, not only did we get to sit out on the beach in the shade, but they had pizza and drinks there for us. Both of us also enjoyed hearing the speakers, including Ben, Scarlet, who planned the day, and the city manager as well as representatives from some of the different visiting organizations. And of course it's always fun for us to answer questions about turtles. But what was most exciting for me was our conversation with the city's public relations guy. He was telling us what a great job we were doing and he told me how much people were enjoying reading my blog. Apparently my readership is expanding.
Today is Liana's birthday (Happy Birthday!) so we will all be spending our night celebrating together. She's rented a condo for the weekend and her parents and some of her friends are here and will be hosting a big barbecue. I'm really looking forward to anther meal that I won't be cooking and the joy of spending time with fun people. So, since I have one hour left to get ready I'm out. Tomorrow I'm on corral duty so I'll have a chance to stop by the Beachcomber's Art Show at the convention center and maybe if anything noteworthy happens I'll come in and write about it. Until my next adventure... AML
Word of the day: Flatback sea turtle - This species name "depressa" is from Latin and means flat, this name refers to the flatness of the carapace, which is a yellow-gray or green-gray color. It feeds primarily on sea cucumbers and crustaceans, and is found primarily in the northern coastal area of Australia and the Gulf of Papua, New Guinea. Adults of this turtle may weigh as much as 198 pounds.
I love doing a new word every day because I'm able to learn something new too. Because we only have five of the eight species here in the Gulf of Mexico I don't know a thing about the others, but now I do.
This morning was incredibly busy and big groups of people continued to walk in during Jeff's first presentation so that by the time he finished people were standing around the edges to hear him. Part of the group was a bunch of little kids from a local day care center and when they came down to feed Gerry and Spunky I nearly handed off the lettuce to one of their chaperons and walked away. They were good kids, but there were so many and they were so excited that they were really pushy. My favorite was one little boy who was seemed really sad for some reason. I gave him a piece of lettuce and made room for him at the window and he really perked up when he saw the turtles. Sea turtles make everyone happy.
By about 11:00 the weather turned and there was a sudden downpour that pushed everyone inside the gift shop. It was so crowded that most of the interns decided to brave the weather in a some what covered part of the deck rather than be inside with everyone else. We had bad storms moving over the island all afternoon so we never ended up giving any more tours and more or less stayed closed for the rest of the afternoon. So we passed the time by watching the rain, I had Jeff remove a piece of metal from my knuckle with a tiny needle and Amanda and I worked on version #3 of a flipper for Allison. Last night we wrote the beginning of an abstract, but without any sort of working product we have very little to write about so we really wanted to get something done today. And of course this attempt didn't quite work either, but I think it may have stayed on a little longer than the last one. Hopefully by the beginning of next week we will have sewn together our design that will ideally be held on by a strap reaching around her one front flipper. We're trying to be optimistic.
Tonight a bunch of the interns are going to the brewery for dinner, but it's raining and I just checked out a movie from the library so I think after I do some grocery shopping I'm going to lock myself in my trailer and enjoy the sound of the rain. Tomorrow is Liana's birthday and she has a whole day planned for us, after work of course, so I know I have a fun weekend to look forward to. AML
Pardon my lack of enthusiasm today, I hardly find laundry exciting and I smell a bit strange (I’ll get to that later). I have 24 minutes before I have to start folding.
I had a bit of trouble waking up this morning so I got ready in record time and made the (probably very poor) decision to skip my bowl-sized cup of coffee. I was a bit late for work, but five of us there again and all of us helping out outside we finished our normal routine by about 9:15. Then we just bummed around and did little things around the shop till opening. The only thing I remember doing before opening (other than cleaning Whittle’s tank, etc.) was trying, again, to open my carabineer that Spike superglued shut. Last time Jeff opened it without too much trouble so I guess Spike learned to use more glue this time around and this afternoon Jeff opened it with a pair of pliers. We did our morning presentation and I helped the kiddos feed Spunky and Gerry afterwards. I spent a good portion of the morning standing outside by the tanks watching out for little (and sometimes big) fingers in the water. It’s amazing to me that I still haven’t tired of watching the delight and total wonder on kids faces as they see Merry Christmas surface and look them right in the eye. And the comical part of it is that some kids are terrified, but at the same time are so mesmerized that even though they scream each time MC looks at them they can’t peal they’re wide eyes away from her. Oh the joy of people watching. If only everyone displayed so much emotion on their face.
The interns did most of the tours as, as we call them, “halfsies” where two of the interns split up a tour and do it together. Not only is it a bit less mind numbing (at this point we do chunks of our tours on autopilot and are thrown off by any questions at times that we don’t designate for questions), but each of us gets to talk more about whichever portion we enjoy talking about the most. For instance, I really like talking about Concha and Fred and this way I get to start on one and end on the other. After one of our halfsies Jessica and I went to Psychadeli and when we got back Amanda and I finished up painting one of the exterior walls. One of the volunteers had started painting outside and we went back and filled in around the letters in “Sea Turtle Rescue” (before it said “Sea Turtle Rescue Center”, but he painted over Center thinking we would be able to see through the paint enough to repaint the word…at least Sea Turtle Rescue makes sense). By the time we finished up it was nearly time to close. At about 4:05 Jessica, Liana and I started a water fight outside (I think Liana had squirted Jessica with a sea turtle squirt gun…), but in the end we were showering Liana with the hose and she walked away soaking wet. As we dragged the hose around the top deck we both got really dirty and the bizarre smell of the hose seemed to rub off on us. We were all laughing so hard, it was by far the funniest afternoon we’ve had.
So tonight we had planned to have a puzzle and photo-swap night, but hopefully we will also get started on an abstract to submit for the sea turtle symposium. I was counting yesterday and I realized I have only about 12 days left here on the island so we really need to get something written. Dave went to pick up pictures of Allison from Dr. Tom at the zoo and I have a cd of her x-rays that he burned for me the other day so at least we have some sort of starting point. I hope to have news on our progress tomorrow, but some nights we get really into our puzzles… AML
Monday morning I woke up for another public release. Well, I was woken up by Amanda and then I decided to go to the release. Anyway, we released 128 more babies from nests 15 and 16. Afterwards I went straight back to bed and woke up to my alarm at 11:45. I was up at STI by about 12:30 so I could take Amanda back to Gladys Porter for more x-rays and a bone biopsy. While I was driving out to Brownsville some of the other interns went out to the jetties to snorkel. The water was very calm and clear Monday afternoon so they had a great time and were able to see all sorts of fish and turtles in the water. At the zoo Dr. Tom and Dr. O'Neill took another x-ray and did an ultrasound on her shoulders to get one last look before taking the biopsy. Because a bone biopsy is such a painful process Amanda was anestatized before anything else was done. Once she was asleep Dr. Tom pushed a massive needle into her shoulder joint and was able to pull out some of the joint fluid and a good sample of the bone and some tissue. Because he was taking the biopsy and Dr. O'Neill was doing the ultrasound and the vet tech was holding Amanda Dr. Tom had me prepare vials for the samples, bring him swabs and even answer the phone since they were all sterile. It was interesting to watch the whole process and we ended up with four smeared slides, two great bone samples and swabs of joint fluid. Hopefully when the results come back all we will have a better idea of what’s going on. Until then Dr. Tom put her on a medicine usually used to fight bone disease in canines, which she now takes twice a day.
I got back to STI and dropped off Amanda and then went home to get ready for our sand castle day! Jeff won 2nd in a state sand castle building competition once and so he had offered to teach us some of the techniques. We all met out on the beach and Jeff showed us how to prepare the sand, build and shape a tower, make sand balls and carve our arch and tower with brick, rocks and stairs. The end result wasn't so bad for a group of beginners but after about an hour and a half we posed for a bunch of pictures and went swimming.
Monday was BJ's birthday so after sand castles we all went home to get ready before our birthday barbecue at Lucy's. We sang to BJ and Ben and had Lucy's famous German chocolate cake as well as Amanda and Adrienne's turtle cake made from donuts. Afterwards we headed to the Irish pub where the celebration continued. It was Andy's last night in Texas so it was nice to have so many people together.
Yesterday morning we had another release, which turned out to be a big surprise. When the babies hatched they found that they were actually Loggerhead babies, not Kemp's Ridley babies like we had thought. It was so much fun to see hatchlings of another species and to compare the two. Loggerhead babies have a mostly white belly, a longer shell and tail and brown coloring on their heads and shells. What was stranger was the huge range of color in the hatchlings. So much so that they actually thought that they were hybrid babies at first. Crazy.
And now we're opening for work. There are five interns today along with Jeff, Dave and our volunteer Spike so it'll be a slow day for us. Well, I say that now. AML