When I started thinking about the kind of co-op I wanted I had no idea where I would end up. I knew I wanted to work with animals, but once I started typing what I was looking for into the co-op search portal the job listings disappeared with every added criteria until I was left with almost nothing. My advisor suggested I look into the National Marine Life Center’s job listing and it was exactly what I was looking for. I applied for a few other co-ops but I knew that the one I really wanted was at NMLC. I was thrilled when I got the interview and couldn’t believe it when I saw the email the next day that I had been offered the position of Marine Animal Rehabilitation and Education co-op.
My first day I had no idea what to expect. I knew there was a lot of training to get through, but I had no idea just how much information we needed to learn. Even though there was a lot to get through that first day we still had time to see the hospital and the current patients: 30 Kemp’s ridley Sea Turtles and one harbor seal. The next day, my first full day in the hospital, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I definitely didn’t think I would be holding a turtle during its treatments! The amount of hands on experience I have gotten during this co-op has been amazing. I never thought I would be able to restrain grey seals, tube feed little harbor seal pups, or open the crate door for a seal to be released but I got to do all that and more over the last six months.
Throughout co-op we had to write reflections and one of the most frequent questions was to explain a typical day at NMLC. I really struggled with that question because there is no such thing as a typical day. One day we might be getting four new harbor seals and doing intake exams on them. Another day you might spend two hours feeding the sea turtles because they’re being stubborn and don’t want to eat the herring and squid you prepared for them. Some days you might accidentally squirt fish gruel up the wall and have to spend some time standing on a table to scrub it off before it dries and starts to smell. Every day was different, but every day I got to learn more about the animals and everything that goes into taking care of them.
A lot has changed in the hospital in the short six months I have been here. Most of the 30 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles have been released leaving us with only 10 and the harbor seal I saw my first day, Seal Rogers Williams, was also released. We have gotten grey seals with pneumonia and one with a prolapse, a very dehydrated harp seal, and now the hospital is full of maternally dependent harbor seal pups. The pups have been my favorite to work with during co-op. My favorite pup is Jane Goodseal. Before she was brought to us she was being monitored on the beach to make sure her mom had really abandoned her and wasn’t coming back. I had the opportunity to sit and watch her. The day after I was monitoring her we were told she was coming to the hospital, and it is amazing to see how much she has grown in such a short amount of time. At first she still had white fluffy lanugo, and now all of that white fluff is gone and she is huge in comparison to the little peanut she was just under two months ago.
The last six months I have learned a lot and had opportunities to do so many new things I never thought I would have the chance to do. I’m sad that it is coming to an end, but I want to thank everyone at NMLC for making this co-op so amazing!
Posted by Ali C.
Ali is a Co-op student at the National Marine Life Center. She is going into her junior year at the University of New Hampshire where she is majoring in Biomedical Science.