My name is Kevin Richards and I am the new Americorps Volunteer here at the National Marine Life Center. I recently graduated from Central Connecticut State University and majored in Molecular Biology, and decided to take a gap year through Americorps Cape Cod. As a part of Americorps Cape Cod (ACC), we serve all 15 towns of Barnstable County Cape Cod; and encompassed into our program we have the opportunity to be placed at various organizations, such as NMLC. ACC is a residential service program committed to addressing the environmental and disaster related needs of Cape Cod’s community and fragile natural resources. The program engages the community through natural resource management, disaster preparedness and response, education, and volunteer engagement. I was fortunate enough to be placed at this wonderful non-profit establishment.
Coming into my first day at NMLC, it was safe to say I had some first day jitters but yet extremely excited to delve right in. As first days go, I thought I was going to be stuck with obligatory paperwork/orientation/training/other tedious first day necessities; and was I mistaken. I met with Kate and right away she brought me into the animal clinic where I met my very first seal, Scout. Side note: Scout, cute as they come, is a 5 month old harbor seal that was rescued on the October 10th from Sandy Neck Beach in the town of Barnstable by International Foundation of Animal Welfare (IFAW for short); and the poor guy had multiple lacerations located throughout his body. I came into the clinic where the Staff and Volunteers were assessing Scout and testing him for various things. I was so excited I could barely take it, couldn’t fathom I was actually in the same room with a wild seal! I then had the luxury of carrying the smelly mammal back into the hospital so he can get his morning feed. I thought the fun would stop there and back to the office for me, where again I was mistaken. I got to watch the Staff and Volunteers restrain Scout and tube him so he can get his ‘gruel’ (combination of herring, electrolytes, and other vitamins/minerals), and for newbies like me it was a sight to see. Once Scout got his feed, it was then time to clean and sanitize his surroundings and other parts of the hospital – part of the morning chores here at NMLC. I didn’t mind scrubbing/washing the floors since I couldn’t stop thinking about how awesome it was to witness what I just did and couldn’t stop thinking about how cool this service year will be. I was then pulled aside to help feed/clean the tanks of the diamond back terrapins we have down by the office. Turtles I have seen and have always been fascinated with but these sea turtles were extra fascinating. Just their colors, their shells, their adorable faces; I just couldn’t get enough. What happened next put me over the top with excitement, we got in another harbor seal! Where I got to witness the triage that takes place on a marine mammal when it first comes into the hospital. This new seal was named Kennedy, she was rescued on the 14th of October by the Sea Coast Science Center up in New Hampshire. I was trying to play it cool by not showing
my ear-to-ear smile since everyone triaging was acting like it was just second nature. Once the excitement of a new mammal coming to the hospital dwindled, it was back to the chores. By this time it was almost 4 PM, and thought it was just going to coast to closing time of 5 PM where I would then call everyone in my phone book and tell them how cool I am. But it was no coast. One of our freezers broke, and it had to be the freezer with all the herring. With all the highs of my first day obviously there had to be a low. The majority of the fish boxes had defrosted and leaked of all its fish juice, so the volunteers and I had to hold our breath and nose to transfer these boxes to another freezer location. We were doused with all the fish juice and smell, but I just didn’t care – I was still on cloud 9. As first days go, this will go down in the books as number 1.