Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Day 4: #TurtleTuesday #TacoTuesday

Hi all! On our fourth day in Topsail, we awoke bright and early to a cloudy, yet peaceful sunrise over the beach horizon. After a simple breakfast of coffee and cereal, we made our way to the sea turtle hospital to volunteer for the third time. The theme of today’s trip was centered around trash, plastics, and human impacts on the environment.

Even though we volunteer in the sea turtle hospital every morning, every day is slightly different, which is one of the most exciting aspects of volunteering here! Today, some students got the chance to bathe recovering green turtles, treat them with antiseptic, and apply honey and ointment to treat calluses, hemorrhoids, and injured or damaged tissues. Others even got to hold the sea turtles! Peggy, one of the volunteers, has “the magic touch” with particularly rowdy turtles and gave us some special advice: “Take a deep breath before you hold the turtle. They can feel the calm go to your fingertips.” We watched as the rowdy, wildly-flapping sea turtles instantly relaxed in her hands. Our group truly feels humbled to volunteer here, making a difference in these sea turtles’ lives. Jean Beasley, the owner of the hospital, gave us an important reminder today: “I want you all to remember that making connections with the sea turtles is a privilege.” At the end of a long day of hard work, we finally got to visit the hospital’s gift shop, purchasing all sorts of turtle accessories to support the hospital, including our long-awaited Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center T-shirts!  

After finishing up our work, we drove home for a quick lunch of scrumptious sandwiches, before returning back to the hospital to hear a talk from Keith Rittmaster from the North Carolina Maritime Museum, which was an honor. Before Keith spoke, Ginger, a volunteer from the hospital, talked about the impact of plastics and trash on marine life by sharing personal stories of sea turtles harmed by it. Keith then discussed fishing lines and their catastrophic effects on marine life. While industries are developing technologies to make fishing lines and hooks stronger and longer-lasting, they often overlook what happens when the equipment gets lost in the ocean. As Keith put it, “Technology is jumping leaps and bounds ahead, but ethics is lagging behind.” His team had also found a dead sea turtle tangled up in a fisherman’s net. Though many people’s first reaction may be anger, his students gave him new perspective when they asked him if they could raise money to pay back the fisherman for the lost net. Keith taught us a valuable lesson about considering all sides of an issue.

After the talk, we took Jean’s advice and drove over to North Topsail Beach. Several years ago, the North Carolina Reclamation Project tried to pipe sand from further in the sea back onto the shore in order to stop the ocean from shifting the sands and eroding the North shoreline. This action, however, was devastating to the North shore and sea turtles because the sand was not filtered and large rocks were pumped all over the beach. These rocks prevent already endangered sea turtles from nesting on the beach. By visiting the North Point, we all became aware of the intimate link between our actions and the environment. As we also learned from Keith, before any decisions are made, social and environmental consequences must be considered and weighed heavily.

Upon returning home for the evening, everyone enjoyed a marvelous meal of tacos prepared by chefs Chloe and Janine! Not only is it #TurtleTuesday, but it’s also #TacoTuesday!

Finally, to finish off an amazing #TurtleTuesday, we all watched the documentary “Bag It” during reflection, which chronicles the devastating effects of the use of plastics on our own health, as well as that of the earth and future generations. The documentary stressed the importance of reducing and reusing, rather than just that of recycling. By cutting down our overall consumption of plastics, we will be able to prevent an irreversible future in which the weight of plastic pollution in the ocean is greater than that of all the fish in the ocean (as Ginger had also told us earlier in the day). We ended the night with a riveting discussion on how we could educate and inform our friends and family about these issues and how to convince them to make sustainable lifestyle changes.

Tonight, we rest up for another great day tomorrow! We can’t wait to meet the rest of the  volunteers and prepare to teach hundreds of kids about sea turtles tomorrow.

Signing off,

Ashley & Emma

Figure 1. Group picture at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center! 
Figure 2. Keith Rittmaster's presentation on monofilament fishing lines and their devastating effects on marine life.
Figure 3. The huge sandbags at North Topsail Beach that were implemented to prevent the ocean from eroding the island and damaging island residents' homes.
Figure 4. Jean, founder of the sea turtle hospital, teaching us how valuable our experiences with the sea turtles are.
Figure 5. Chefs Janine and Chloe making tacos for #TacoTuesday! They were delicious. :)

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