When it came time to apply for my second and final co-op, my only qualification was that I wanted to work with animals. However, ending up at NMLC fulfilled all of my possible wishes and more! The Marine Animal Rehabilitation and Education Co-op was my first choice job during the co-op application process, so I was thrilled when I got an interview and eventually, a job offer. After my interview, where I was able to meet the center’s Kemp’s ridley sea turtles as well as grey, harbor, and harp seals, I knew that an internship at NMLC would be an incredible learning opportunity and allow me to build a foundation for a career in animal care.
Some of the highlights of my co-op have been: doing “fish school” with harbor seal pups to teach them how to eat on their own, seeing harbor seal weanlings like Emmy Rosseal and Bella Lugoseal recover from seemingly impossible to beat injuries, opening the crate for Rosealind Franklin to be released, making tons of great new friends, helping out at a dolphin release with IFAW, restraining seals during admit and pre-release exams, observing staff performing treatments and radiographs, the organized chaos of turtle intakes, and sitting in on rounds discussions with our awesome vets! The list could honestly go on forever, as each day at NMLC brings unique learning opportunities, and there is never a dull moment.
Another important part of my co-op was my involvement in the education and fundraising aspects of NMLC’s mission. NMLC’s Spectacle of Trees fundraiser this year allowed me the opportunity to cultivate relationships with local and national businesses on NMLC’s behalf. When it came time to raffle off our tree and the donated gifts underneath, the gifts were worth over $15,000 and NMLC made over $13,000 from the event! Throughout the semester, I also had the opportunity to interact with the public in our Discovery Center and at open houses, education programs, festivals, and releases. I think that community education is invaluable, especially in an area like Cape Cod, where our actions directly impact wildlife on a daily basis. (Just for good measure: if you see a marine mammal on the beach always stay at least 150 feet away, keep your dogs on a leash, and if it looks sick or injured, call your local stranding authority!)
I have been extremely grateful to the NMLC staff and volunteers for being so welcoming and entrusting me with the responsibility that comes along with caring for sick and injured animals. It has been the most rewarding experience of my life to see the seals transform from emaciated, sick, and injured to plump, bright- eyed, and feisty seals ready to return to their ocean home! I can’t wait to see how our 30 new Kemp’s ridley sea turtles will grow and improve during their time at NMLC. I have had the time of my life during this co-op and look forward to staying involved with NMLC and applying my experiences here in my future professional endeavors!
Joanna D. is a Co-op student at the National Marine Life Center. She is going into final semester at Northeastern University where she is majoring in Environmental Science.