Walking into the doors of NMLC, I had little idea of what to expect. As a marine biology major, I applied to the center wanting not only to garner a better understanding of some aspects of this vast field of science, but I was also keen to know more about sea turtles and other marine life that the center takes care of.
Turtles, at times, seem almost human-like in their characteristics. Catch 22 and Patty serve as patients from whom we have so much to learn about their medical mysteries. I admire Dr. Williams, or any veterinarian that matter, for being able to tell what is wrong with an animal just by observation. It’s much more difficult when a patient cannot explain their symptoms, and it is left up to guesswork to see what is going on internally. For instance Catch could not tell us “Jeez guys, I’m not feeling too well with this staple in my abdomen!” Learning to prepare x-rays and take proper observations was key to understanding this problem.
Shortly after I arrived here, I began contemplating why we do what we do. I mean, why do we spend so much time, use so much equipment on resources, testing water quality, taking x-rays, weight, charts, medicating when the chances of numerous turtles surviving in the wild become slimmer and slimmer with ever-present threats to their environment and ecosystem? But after I went to my first release, I knew. It is by no means a waste; what we do here at NMLC is important to the balance of marine life.
We become attached to these animals to a certain extent. Yes, it is unavoidable. Even though it is hard to resist, we talk to the turtles. They obviously have no idea what we are saying (or do they?) but is a comfort to see one of those tiny little heads looking at you with those beady little eyes and feel like they understand every word. My own philosophy is that that we want these beautiful creatures to thrive in their natural environment. In an ever-changing world, nature is more fragile than ever. It seems fewer and fewer people take the time to stop and realize just how beautiful and precious the wild is, and how wrong of us it is to be dismembering so much of it for our own human advantage. The simplicity of nature is humbling… how creatures have existed in balance to their surrounding for millions of years is remarkable, and it’s time we all work to try and keep this balance… nothing on earth is more important.
The Gulf oil spill is truly a tragedy. Yesterday, while watching the news and a portion of President Obama’s address about the crisis, I was truly alarmed to think that we will be feeling the effects of this disaster for a long, long time to come. There are thousands of species of marine animals that exist in the Gulf, but now so many are in peril, and the fragile web of their ecosystem is on the brink of disaster. It pains me to think about what Tampa Bay may look like in two months time when I return to school. Perhaps oil may have spread there as well…however, I am glad our government is taking the necessary action to clean up this monstrosity, and hopefully see to it that a disaster of this magnitude will never happen again.
The little things we do at NMLC are all for the bigger picture: educating the public so they are more aware of the vital need to protect marine species; proper care and rehabilitation of the in-residence patients; building a larger animal hospital so we can expand our care facilities… all these things make a huge difference in the long-run to protect all marine life.
It seems I’m thinking beyond the dry reading in my Bio 204 book, and am putting concepts into action in the real world. And this, I guess, is what internships are all about.
Until next time!
Posted by Dory E.
Dory is a Summer, 201o Intern at the National Marine Life Center. She is a sophomore at the University of Tampa majoring in Marine Science and Biology.