‘Terps Helping Turtles’ returns for volunteer stint

March 27 turtle hospital

Eleven students and their staff advisor from The University of Maryland’s Integrated Life Sciences Honors Program have returned for a second year of volunteering at the sea turtle hospital.

Published: Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 11:59 AM.

We know sea turtles have charisma. When you meet one of our patients they have a way of getting under your carapace and staying with you long after you’ve left the building. That explains the long list of volunteer groups that return year after year to help us out.

Recently we welcomed 11 students and their staff advisor from The University of Maryland’s Integrated Life Sciences Honors Program. They are all honor students focused on biological sciences, and the application process and acceptance into this week-long program is quite competitive with a limited number chosen to make the trip.

We first met them in 2013 when they bubbled through our doors introducing themselves as “Terps Helping Turtles.” We had about 60 patients at that time (some things never change) and we were trying to get organized for the move to our new hospital. They pitched right in and did everything we asked, whether it was giving turtles baths, moving tanks or working on our landscaping at the new place. They really lived their name.

We immediately recognized two familiar faces from last year (Helen and Mike) and after we welcomed them with hugs we handed them the tools of our trade: bowls of fish and squid, “salad” for our little Greens and nets, buckets and mops. They split into informal groups; several were assigned to our ICU, another group to Sea Turtle Bay working with the large and feisty patients who are restlessly waiting for their release papers. A third group formed a general work party, cleaning and scrubbing our walls and trenches.

I spoke with Helen about why she gave up yet another spring break to spend time at our hospital. She had a whole list of reasons, beginning with being inspired by Jean’s story, and the way she grew her daughter’s work on our beaches into a legacy that became an internationally recognized sea turtle rehab facility. She was also moved by the passion of our all volunteer staff, and our commitment to doing whatever it takes to get these critters back home. It was a way for her and her fellow students to connect more closely with the environment and to understand how we, as “plastivores” (voracious consumers of anything that comes in plastic) are devastating not only our oceans but the food that we consume from those waters. Helen said working with our turtles leaves a lasting impression and “it’s a cause worthy of my time.” And, she added, “the new hospital is totally awesome!”

We couldn’t agree more with Helen. Big flipper hugs from our staff to the “Terps Helping Turtles” and we hope to see you all again next year.

Next tour in April

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