Caring for turtles

Julia LaBarge ’20 gains hands-on experience at New England Aquarium

Hometown: Weymouth, Mass.
New England Aquarium Animal Care Center (Quincy, Mass.)
Funding source: Porter Cleveland Fund

Under the sea: “I’m a biology major interested in marine science and veterinary science. This internship put those two fields hand-in-hand and helped me solidify the idea of entering a career in biology. My interests were supported greatly throughout the experience and, by communicating with the staff at the rescue and rehab facility, they were able to aid me in pursuing daily tasks that interested me the most.”

Turtle care: “My duties entailed following protocols of a sea animal hospital, which included feeding and recording food amounts for the turtles, holding/restraining the turtles in the clinic, maintaining a clean and happy work environment, assisting senior staff in data entry and doing building maintenance. Every day, I was involved in a clinical setting observing clinicians and veterinarians at work with the sea turtles, taking accurate notes on each turtle’s ability to swim on its own and maintaining a safe environment for each of them. I also was in charge of ensuring that the turtles received vitamins and oral medicine when necessary.”

Sink or swim: “The largest challenge I faced while an intern was the minimal amount of training. Typically, this internship starts out with no turtles in-house, which gives the interns one or two weeks to be drilled on training and get the basics of the facility down. This year, the turtle season started off early, which meant when my cohort of interns began, I was immediately ‘thrown in the fire,’ as some staff had said, and the knowledge of conducting everyday tasks for the internship came mostly from experience. Although this is unusual for the internship, I found that I succeed better while under pressure. I was capable of catching onto the important tasks of the facility very quickly and with great understanding, which aided in my success throughout the experience.”

Recognized leader: “Whenever I was recognized as a leader, it became my new favorite moment. At this facility, there are constantly several moving parts and a lot of stress. To ensure everyone is on the same page, leaders are assigned at the beginning of the day to different groups, who carry out specific daily tasks (e.g., food group, swim group and clinical group). The lead of each group is responsible for everyone in his or her group and ensuring that the group maintains a high quality of work performance and effort with all tasks.”

Julia LaBarge ’20 previously participated in a volunteer trip to Costa Rica that focused on sea turtle conservation. 

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