Caring for Stranded Marine Animals
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A Typical Day @ NMLC

Intern Courtney prepares to tube the seals!National Marine Life Center – Journal Entry 16

Today was a fairly typical day here at the National Marine Life Center. It is a Saturday, so I had the afternoon shift as well as the late feed – which changed from 11pm to 9pm; I am much less tired at this time! My fellow intern and roommate, Lisa, worked with me for the entirety of the day. When we first got into the hospital, it seemed like there was a very limited amount of things to do and that the work was very slow. We started by washing the floors in the hallways and the patient ward, as the kitchen floors had already been cleaned. I cleaned the floors in the hallway, and since they are smaller than those in the patient ward I was done first so I started cleaning all of the doors and door handles – which is a once weekly task – while I waited for the floor disinfectant to sit for ten minutes. It was perfect timing; by the time I was finished with the doors and handles it was time to rinse the disinfectant off of the floors. Then Lisa washed all behind the large tanks in the hospital, which is also a once weekly task, after she had finished cleaning the floors in there.

The disinfectant was switched from Nolvasan to Virkon today, as it is August 1st the start of a new month. I started filling the disinfectant footbaths throughout the hospital with the remaining Nolvasan before I made more Virkon. Then I put on a respiratory mask, work goggles, and gloves before touching the Virkon power. I filled a bucket with five gallons of water and then scooped in five scoops of the Virkon powder and shook the bucket so it would be mixed. I then poured some of the solution into a separate bucket to continue refilling the rest of the footbaths that had not been filled. Then Lisa dumped out the four large, fifteen gallon bins of water and disinfectant into the drains on the floor. She filled them all up to the line closest to the top of the bin with water, and I then filled two of them with fifteen scoops each of the Virkon power to make a diluted cleaning solution.

The daily chore board.For the larger part of the day, Lisa and I were mostly cleaning and disinfecting everything in the hospital. With the amount of cleaning I do here each day, it really makes me think about how much work and how many people it actually takes to keep a place like this up and running smoothly. There is a white board on the wall in the hallway of the hospital that lists all of the tasks we have to do during the morning shift, afternoon shift, as well as the weekly tasks. Whenever I have a day where I am mostly only cleaning, I remember back to the time we had a summer camp come in and look at this board. The counselor asked the kids how many of them wanted to work in rehabilitation at a place like this when they are older. Almost all of them raised their hands. Then she asked them to look closely at the board and to tell her what word appeared most often – the answer was “clean.” Clean, clean, clean is what we do most in the rehab world in the downtime when we are not working directly with the animals. The camp counselor told the children that if they really want to be involved in working in marine mammal rehabilitation they must be prepared and willing to do a lot of cleaning as it is a very important part of the job. In my future career, I am preparing myself now for all of the cleaning that I will constantly be doing to keep the animals and the humans working with them healthy and safe from any possible infectious germs that may circulate.

After all of the cleaning had been done, we started helping out Margot with a few tasks and projects that needed to be done. Lisa helped restrain Thistle for her IV while I crated Rue and Sage, who are now located in the pup room, and drained the pup room pool to clean and refill it. It is much more difficult now with these two crazy pups in this room because they are very alert and energetic and try to escape through the door the second it is opened! Nevertheless, I got them crated, drained the pool, took out all of the not-eaten fish, and refilled it. After they were taken out of the crate and put back in the room/pool it was time for Chamomile’s sub Q fluid treatment.

Chamomile didn’t seem very aggressive this time I as threw the towel on her and restrained her. As I waited for the 250ml SQ fluid to drip into her, I examined her face and mouth to observe the progress that she has made thus far. It is amazing to me to be able to watch these animals improve over the time that they are with us, because that is exactly what we are doing all of this work for. Her mouth, although still missing flesh, looks a lot less bloody and seems to be healing very nicely. The wounds on her neck don’t seem to be as prominent as when she was admitted. Once we finished Chamomile’s Sub Q it was time to feed Sea Salt.

Sea Salt has been moved to the big pool!Sea Salt has moved into the big pool! This is why Rue and Sage were moved into the pup room, because we are not quite sure how Sea Salt would react with the two smaller seals just yet. Again, this is the kind of progress that I am talking about when I say I love seeing the improvement in the seal’s health and behavior. Moving into the big tank is not only an upgrade but also a sign that he is getting stronger!

At 9pm when we came back in for the last feeding of the day, I had an insane time trying to clean up after Rue and Sage. I grabbed a towel so I could clean the urine all over the floor above the pool, but as I opened the door to try and get in and turn on the light both seals were right at the door. When I finally got in and turned on the light I went to the back of the room and put a towel on the ground to wipe up their mess but they both flopped over to me very quickly and were on top of my towel. Every time I moved with the towel to a different part of the room, they immediately followed me while making loud sounds to attract my attention. It was honestly the cutest and funniest thing to witness so there was no way that I could even be mad at them. Lisa and I fed these two pups, then the two pups in the other pool (Juniper and Basil), then Thistle, and then Chamomile; Sea Salt doesn’t get fed at the late feed.

After so many nights of going in at the late feeds, and so many long days of being hot, sweaty, and tired, I truly know that no matter what happens in a day I still love every second of it. It is moments like tonight with the crazy Rue and Sage situation that makes it all worthwhile and makes me love it that much more! I can’t wait until the day I make a living for doing what I love. I always think back to the time in middle school when we had someone come in to give an inspirational presentation. The one sentence that I will never forget is, “Someone once said that if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life.” I truly believe this.

Posted by Courtney G.
Courtney is a Summer, 2015 Intern at the National Marine Life Center. She is going into her sophomore year at the University of New England at Biddeford, ME, where she is majoring in Marine Biology.

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