Senior Projects Focus on
Turtle Research and Rescue 24 May 2003
In a collaborative partnership between Mass Audubonís Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and Tabor Academy along with the New England Aquarium and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, students Maura Walsh and Christopher Wildman focused their senior projects on the research of threatened diamondback terrapins and the rescue and rehabilitation of endangered cold-stunned sea turtles from the beaches of Cape Cod. Friday represented the culmination of all their hard work, as Maura and Chris offered a series of oral presentations to fellow Tabor students and faculty and guests. Their project had included classroom presentations, on-site visits, hands-on field research and internship.
Maura led the morning with an overview of their interlaced turtle project and then focused on research and conservation activities associated with diamondback terrapins. She highlighted the on-going Outer Cape research program, but with emphasis on how this project might relate to the largely unknown population of terrapins in Sippican Harbor right along side the campus of Tabor Academy. Certainly, the recent oil spill in Buzzards Bay, which sent slick residue into the harbor and touched nesting beaches on Ram Island and nearby Aucoot Cove, adds urgency to this proposal to understand Taborís resident population of threatened turtles. With its Schaefer Oceanology Lab under the stewardship of director Sue Nourse, Tabor Academy has the right tools, a willing and able talent pool, and the perfect location to address these questions.
Maura then segued into the sea turtle rescue project, where a small army of Mass Audubon volunteers covers storm-tossed shorelines each fall to save tropical and sub-tropical sea turtles from certain death. The principal focus of this conservation effort is the Kempís ridley ó critically endangered and the rarest sea turtle in the world.
Chris took Mauraís hand off and explained the details of sea turtle rescues, including its three main phases: emergency recovery from the beach led by Mass Audubonís Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary, intensive medical care at Bostonís New England Aquarium, and then the long-term rehabilitative process before release back into the wild, as exemplified in this project by Woods Hole. The documentary book accompanying their presentations illustrates Chris and Mauraís specially designed rehab tanks, which could be included in Taborís new marine science center and provide rehabilitative space for several Kempís ridley sea turtles each year. These would not only offer rescue facilities to a critically endangered animal but also hands-on marine research experience for a new generation of oceanographers.
To augment presentations that were already exceptional and brimmed with passion for the project and its underlying mission, Maura and Chris brought along some research subjects into the lecture room. And, as is their way, the turtles electrified the audience. Students and teachers alike found them irresistible.
So, the Terrapin Diary gives a decided two-forelimbs-up review to Maura and Chris for an outstanding senior project, which has the potential for enhancing the educational experience of generations of Tabor students while improving the survival chances for threatened and endangered species in Tabor Academyís backyard. Not a bad impact to create in oneís senior year.