Seems like our college interns arrived just yesterday, but they’re actually into their third week. You’ll get to meet them all in this column over the next few months.

Seems like our college interns arrived just yesterday, but they’re actually into their third week. You’ll get to meet them all in this column over the next few months.

Spotlight on Drew Keenan

This Kitty Hawk native is certainly no stranger to sea turtles, having spent his summers volunteering at the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (NEST) on the Outer Banks. Nonetheless there was one very important (and surprising) thing that he learned on day-one of his internship: Sea turtles can actually survive boat and propeller impacts.

Drew’s initial work at NEST was with their beach program, which is similar to our Topsail Turtle Project. But frankly, there’s a lot of just hanging out and waiting for something to happen once you’ve found, verified and staked a nest. So Drew filled his days with another not quite as happy aspect of working with these critters — necropsies. Although certainly not for the squeamish this type of work is extremely important, and we have learned many lessons from the data over the years. Drew has a pretty good idea of what kind of internal damage some our patients have endured, and it magnifies his admiration and respect for them. It was also an excellent opportunity to apply the knowledge from his BA in biology from Wake Forest to a cause he is passionate about, the conservation of all species of sea turtles.

In addition to working at NEST he also volunteered at The Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, focusing his talks on sea turtles. That made for an easy transition to hospital tour guide. Drew is pleased that tours are part of the hospital and internship experience because almost all of our patients are here due to human interaction. It gives him the opportunity to stress that we, as humans have the power to make the necessary changes to ensure the survival of not only sea turtles but all ocean creatures.

There are certain things that all volunteers agree on, and it happens after only a day or so of being around these animals: they are smarter than they want you to know, and they are all individual personalities. Everyone has a favorite, you just can’t help it, and for Drew it’s our long-term green “I-Cie.” As he said: “There’s no logic to love.” I-Cie has struggled over the years and there were times when her prognosis looked dire. Drew spends a lot of time with her, scratching her back and encouraging her. He is determined to get her to the point where she can find a cushy home in a fancy aquarium and live a long and happy turtle life.

Drew highly recommends our program to anybody willing to work hard to further their experience and interest in sea turtle conservation. He’s “learned so much” in just a few short weeks and notes that it is a “powerful experience.” While he completes his time with us he is exploring job opportunities and possible graduate study. When he’s not hanging out with our other interns he surfs and sometimes plays his guitar. We’re sure that if I-Cie has a request he’d be happy to serenade her!

Greens for our greens

The new hospital means that we have more time to focus on ways to improve and enhance our rehabilitation processes. This year we have revised our diet plan for our small greens, who eat pretty much an all vegetarian diet beginning at a fairly young age in the wild. Once a patient is on the road to recovery we move them from a protein-based breakfast of fish and squid to a salad bar. Dumping mixed veggies into a tank of water is not optimal, as they soon become mushy and unappetizing. After a brainstorming session Jessie constructed a prototype serving tray of sorts, built from plastic lattice and PVC pipe that was loaded with sand and sealed. The openings in the lattice allow us to shove in a head of romaine lettuce (one of their favorite foods) and then let the whole thing sink to the bottom. We tested it on “Lil Louisiana” who gave it a good work-out, followed by a flippers-up approval. The picture is worth a thousand words.

Hospital visiting hours

We are open daily (except Wednesday and Sunday) from noon to 4 p.m. General admission is $5, adults; $4 seniors and military; and $3 for children. We are located at 302 Tortuga Lane, on the Surf City mainland. Take the turn from N.C. 50/210 onto Charlie Medlin Drive (Shipwreck Point Mini Golf is your landmark for this road.) Follow the road onto the gravel section and through the round-about. We are the only building on Tortuga.

Visit our website ( and/or our Facebook page (The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center) for updates on patients and other turtle happenings.

Nesting has started

Although we have many Topsail Turtle Project flip-flops on the sand every morning through the end of August, we still rely heavily on our locals and visitors to report any sighting of nesting turtles, as well as any turtles in any kind of distress. Please report all local sea turtle activity to Director of Beach Operations Terry Meyer at 910-470-2880. If unable to reach her you may also contact Director Jean Beasley at 910-470-2800. The state of N.C. also has a hotline for strandings (injured or sick turtles): 252-241-7367 and the call will be picked up 24/7.

Questions, comments, suggestions?

Please direct any questions, comments or suggestions re: this column to me at This column has resumed its weekly schedule. To be added to the newsletter list e-mail me at the same address: Next edition is is almost ready.


Karen Sota is the volunteer media coordinator for the Sea Turtle Hospital on the mainland in Surf City.