Terps Helping Turtles

In conjunction with the Alternative Breaks program, every March since 2012, ILS students have spent their spring break caring for very special patients at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center on Topsail Island, NC.  The brainchild of the first ILS Associate Director, Dr. Boots Quimby, this exclusive break trip is reserved for ILS students only.  The renown facility cares for multiple species of sea turtles as they recuperate from disease, environmental conditions, or injuries.  

Terps helping turtles at turtle rescue center.

Students prepare for Terps Helping Turtles (the trip was named by a witty parent) with pre-departure meetings that include discussions of the rehabilitation center's mission, information sessions on the three species of sea turtle commonly in the hospital, and the environmental and human causes that result in turtle patients.  Throughout the experience, students provide service to the center including:  bathing turtles, preparing turtle meals and medication, scrubbing tanks, observing staff as they administer medication and physical therapy, general upkeep of the facilities and grounds, and educating local school children on the environmental factors that impact turtles.  Each day students learn the uniquely named turtle's story of rescue and recovery plan. During their week of service students also spend their time living together, cooking meals, and reflecting upon their experiences. 

Students have also had the opportunity to explore the surrounding community and augment their turtle rehabilitation center experience with visits to the Fort Fisher Aquarium and the Cape Fear Raptor Center.  Additionally, ILS has partnered with staff at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington campus, to observe a turtle necropsy.  Due to the obvious animal science components of Terps Helping Turtles, priority for the experience is awarded to our pre-vet students.

ILS students on a beach on Topsail Island, NC.

Common sea turtle species treated at the facility include green, Kemps Ridley and loggerhead sea turtles. Many of the turtles come to the facilty due to injuries sustained by boat propellers, becoming cold stunned when they enter into cold water currents or are exposed to cold winter air temperatures, or suffering from the loss of a flipper. During the week ILS students begin to understand all of the hard work that this volunteer-run organization does to rehabilitate and protect sea turtles in North Carolina.  

Applications for this unique experience open in the fall semester. Students selected for the trip are required to attend regular pre-trip meetings, participant in fundraising and outreach activities, and attend a post-trip service day.

Learn more about the trip by watching our digital story for 2017!

For questions about this trip please contact us at ils-honors@umd.edu

Picture of an ILS student under a pier.
Picture of a sea turtle in water.
ILS student in front of a turtle recovery tank.
Picture of ILS students working with an injured sea turtle.
ILS students and Dr. Boots Quimby holding a juevenile sea turtle.
Picture of ILS students on a beach on Topsail Island, NC.