Don’t try to pin this little gal down in any way. The way she flits through the hospital reflects her life. Born in Malaysia, Karina Brocco-French has lived in Connecticut, Spain, El Salvador, Venezuela and lastly Arlington, Virginia. She’s somehow managed to grow a few roots in Virginia where she is majoring in biology (minor in marine science) at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg.
Karina has been working in a research lab on campus, studying invertebrates like sand dollars and starfish. Our internship appealed to her because she “wanted to work with an animal that had a backbone.” And she wanted hands-on experience. Our turtles have spines, and we certainly have our hands all over them, so even though Karina says she approaches life with no expectations she got exactly what she (may have) hoped for!
Karina talks to our patients all the time, especially her favorite, “Geo.” Talking to turtles (who are pretty good listeners and generally accepting) has made it easier for her to talk to our visitors, especially the kids. And it’s made her more confident in her role as an “educator” during our afternoon tours. She’s now comfortable relating to the variety of “cool” visitors and all the questions they throw at her after spending the last month immersed in sea turtle care and talk therapy as an intern.
Karina looks at every day as an opportunity to learn something new. One of the life lessons she’s learned is how to adapt to different management styles. Even though most of our volunteers are now on the afternoon shift the interns are not left to fend for themselves. At least one team leader is always available to answer questions and guide them through new procedures, and everybody has a different approach on how to manage, and how to pass along knowledge. Adaptability is a good thing, and she sees it as a chance to “keep learning.”
Karina recommends our internship to anyone with an interest in sea turtles, proclaiming it well-rounded and an opportunity to learn new skills. In the process she’s “learned a lot about myself, especially how to work well with people.” Now that she’s comfortable conversing with turtles and people when she completes her BS she can learn how to talk to a different kind of animal, dolphins. She fell in love with the critters years ago after seeing them at a show in Spain and hopes to be able to work with them (and whales) in either husbandry or research.
In her spare time Karina likes to listen to music and dance. She hates wearing shoes but you’ll find her adorned with lots of bling and big earrings. And if you see drawings on our hospital sidewalks you’ll know the culprit by the chalk on her hands and face!
‘Hole-y’ is not the same as ‘holy’
We’re still hearing a lot of concern from our visitors about the state of our beaches. Seems that everybody has an urge to dig these days, which is fine as long as the sand gets put back before you leave. Although they’re not black holes they can be just a treacherous for nesting sea turtles, sucking them in and trapping them as they come up to lay their eggs. Please fill in any hole you dig and pick up your trash before you leave for the day.
July is generally the month when the gals really get serious about their egg-laying, so visitors are more likely to have close encounters of the sea turtle kind. Although our Topsail Turtle Project volunteers are out with the sunrise through the end of August we also 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 also has a hotline for strandings (injured or sick turtles): 252-241-7367. The call will be picked up 24/7.
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. We moved from Topsail Beach last fall so please do not go to the old location looking for us: Many people have made that trek, most likely out of habit.
Visit our website (seaturtlehospital.org) and/or our Facebook page (The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center) for updates on patients and other turtle happenings.
Questions, comments, suggestions?
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Karen Sota is the volunteer media coordinator for the Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach.