My externship with the Turtle Rescue Team at NC State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine taught me a lot about veterinary medicine in aquatic animals and about the process of veterinary school and the lifestyle of veterinary students. I was able to interact with veterinary students that are in their fourth year to students who will start their first year in the fall. I was also able to learn a lot from my host, Dr. Gregory Lewbart, even though I spent only a day with him. I was also even able to hear about sea turtle navigation research from a research scientist at UNC Chapel Hill.
Most of the time that I was in Raleigh and in the Turtle Rescue Team’s lab. Here, veterinary students, undergrads and even some high school students take care of multiple different species of turtles with various injuries and sicknesses. Most of the turtles are Box Turtles, Common Snappers, Cooters, Sliders and Painted Turtles. Some of the most common injuries are shell fractures and bone fractures as a result of getting hit by a car or bitten by a dog. Turtles also commonly develop ear abscesses, oral abscesses and respiratory infections. In the mornings I was able to do treatments on the turtles—cleaning and flushing wounds, giving injections of antibiotics and pain medications, and various other treatments. In the afternoons I watched surgeries or helped with new turtles that were brought in.
My favorite day of my externship was Wednesday. I was able to go to UNC with Dr. Lewbart, his technician, and some of his 4th year vet students to do physical exams on 15 1-year-old Loggerhead Sea Turtles prior to being released. Here, I learned a lot about the research that is being done on these sea turtles. Dr. Ken Lohmann at UNC is researching to see how sea turtles are able to navigate the world to be able to return to the same location they were hatched in, in order to lay eggs after traveling thousands of miles in the ocean. He discovered that sea turtles are able to detect Earth’s magnetic field in order to navigate the world. After hearing about the research, I was able to do a physical exam on one of the sea turtles and draw blood from it. It was really incredible being able to work with a sea turtle, given that it is not an opportunity I will likely get again.
Overall, this was a really incredible week in which I was able to learn a lot of new things in a field of veterinary medicine that I had previously had no experience in. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and all of the guidance I received from Dr. Lewbart and the vet students.
Amanda Loehr ’17