Every day at the OTCC is unique and eventful, especially being a part of the Education and Outreach Program. This summer I had the privilege of working as a summer student with the program and a typical day of mine would go a little something like this…
9am : The OTCC Education Building is open for business! Diana has been answering phones and responding to messages about injured turtles since 8am while organizing Turtle Taxis. Vet Technicians are doing their morning rounds, giving treatments to turtles in the Trauma Centre, checking hatchlings, and helping Sue prep turtles for surgery. Hopefully I have time to do some cleaning before our first visitors of the day pop in. I open up the Outdoor Education Centre and check the intake records to update the Injured Turtle Tally, the number of turtles that have been admitted into the Trauma Centre this year (802!) Volunteers start to flood in to feed hungry turtles and keep everyone’s tanks sparking clean while Donnell makes sure everything is organized and everyone has a job.
10am: I hear little voices! My first family of the day has come in to check out the Centre. Two kids run in with their parents behind, spotting two Eastern Musk (or stinkpot) turtles as soon as they come through the door. I show them around the centre introducing them to Andrea the Blanding’s Turtle and Picasso the Midland Painted Turtle (among others). They are fascinated to hear our Education Ambassadors stories and why they are unable to be released, whether it’s because of their injuries or because their home range is not known. I ask the kids if they want to see some hatchlings and with much excitement they run over to the viewing windows, where you can see newly hatch babies or hatchlings. I explain that many female turtles get hit on road before they have a chance to lay their eggs and we take those eggs, incubate them and wait for them to hatch. Once they do, we keep them for a little while then release them to the same location where their mother was found. I explain that that this is very important because that is they ecosystem they belong to. The kids and parents are fascinated by how small these little turtles are (some smaller than the size of a looney!). We chat and I answer questions about turtles eggs and hibernation while the kids watch an laugh at the hatchlings trying to stack up like pancakes to get warm. We then head outside to the Outdoor Education Centre where we see Paddy the Snapping Turtle basking beside his pond, and the family is shocked to learn that he is 35 years old and will probably live up-to or over 100 year old! We wander around outside looking for Shellbie the Midland Painted Turtles who loves to hide in her pond while counting all the frogs who have decided to call our Outdoor Centre their home for the season. All of this takes about an hour and the family thanks me for my time and the kids ask their parents if they can come back next time they are in Peterborough as they hop in the car.
11:30am : Time for a quick bite before Wendy and I start loading the car to head out to our presentation booked for the afternoon. We work through our checklist to make sure nothing is forgotten, and that we have all of our most precious cargo, the turtles! Once everyone is loaded in the car we head out. Today’s trip only takes us 30 minutes, but sometimes the drive is up to 3 hours. We arrive with lots of time to get out models and banners set up, make sure the turtles are comfortable and get organized. The presentation typically takes 90 minutes with the turtles always being the stars of the show. We talk about the importance of Ontario’s 8 native turtle species, what they do, why they are in trouble and what we can do to help them, while incorporating the live turtles as we go (we also throw in some cool facts about turtles and why they are so awesome). The crowd is always fascinated to hear the stories of our Education Ambassadors and what we do at the Centre. After the presentation is done, there are always kids running up to the table and tugging on our shirts, eager to tell us their turtle stories and ask more questions.
3:00pm: fast forward … we have packed up after the presentation and made it back to the Centre. It has been busy while we were gone! Five turtles have been admitted to the hospital, a few more families have come in to check out the Centre, and a bunch of turtles are being prepared for release later in the evening. We unload the car and get the Education turtles back to their enclosures, who are very happy to get back and relax. The next few hours at the Centre will consist of doing some cleaning (sweeping, mopping etc.), making sure the gift shop is organized and checking on the Education ambassadors outside. As I get started cleaning, a young boy and his family stop in with an envelope full of money. The boy tells us that he loves coming to the Centre and saw our presentation at his summer camp, so he decided to collect donations for the Centre at his birthday party. Instead of presents, he asked all his friend to bring a toonie to help out the turtles instead. We tell him that all of the money he donated will go directly towards helping the turtle by helping to pay for food and medical supplies. He has a huge smile on his face as he wanders around saying hell to the turtles before he leaves (with a few special treats from the OTCC to say thank you!) It is days like today and kids like this that makes this job so amazing.
5:00pm: The Education Building is now closing and many of us are getting ready to head home. We make our way around the Centre, doing one more check to make sure all the Education turtles are doing ok and lock up the outdoor education centre. After 5:00 there are only a few vet techs and someone running the hotline until 8:00pm. Once fall hits this will change, and the hospital will be open 9-5 as well, but turtles are still busy moving which means we are busy too. Tomorrow is a new day, with new faces and new places for the programs to meet and visit. There is never a dull moment at the OTCC.