Internships underway at Turtle Hospital

Drew Keenan

Intern Drew Keenan already has a favorite turtle, ‘I-Cie.’

Submitted photo
Published: Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 01:30 PM.

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!



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