Sea Turtle Hospital intern’s visual aid to types of turtles found on the North Carolina coast


Editor’s Note: The article has been updated to reflect the correct byline of the author of the Sea Turtle Hospital news.

By the time you read this, most of our senior interns will have passed away, each taking a different path into their future.

The good news for our regular staff is that two of them will be sticking around to help out over the next few months. Of course, no one, apart from our turtles, can get out of our house with a flick of the flipper.

When they were chosen for our program, they were told that their successful summer with us would involve a project that could be used to benefit the hospital.

One such project has stopped recent visitors in their tracks.

After more than forty-five hours, much of it spent on her hands and knees, Holly Hubing has put the finishing touches to her mural of the four species of sea turtles found along the North Carolina coast.

It was quite an ambitious project and Holly worked closely with Tina Sharpe (mentor for UNCW Saturday Interns for many years) and Lindsey Hull (senior intern mentor) to develop and flesh out the concept.

Accurately depicting sea turtles with all of their unique features is a challenge. For example, there is not a scale pattern for every sea turtle. They all have different numbers and locations on their shells and heads. And their heads are shaped differently to accommodate their particular diet. And they are markedly different in size, shape and body color.

Holly began by researching various sources for the dimensions of a typical adult of each species. Then she drew each turtle making sure the proportions and body features were correct.

She used our patients as her muse: Maddie for Kemp’s, Jazzberry Jam for Green, and Sahara Desert for Loggerhead. A little math and a lot of space planning went into determining size relationships and final placement on its limited wall area.

Starting with Kemp’s Tortoise, the smallest and most endangered sea turtle, she used a spotlight to place Maddie under a window. From there, she projected her other drawings onto the wall in order of size, ending at the door with the leatherback turtle.

Once they were drawn on the wall, she gathered her paintings and got to work. Holly found painting on a large vertical surface quite different from working on flat pieces of paper and it took her some getting used to.

His table was laden with cans of paint and very small brushes for all the detail work needed to make these turtles as representative as possible. It was fun for our staff to see them come to life over the past month.

Just when we thought she was done, she stood there or crawled on the floor with a brush in her hand to add more detail. Holly says she’s a perfectionist and it was “a lot of learning and backtracking to check the details”.

When I asked her if she was happy with it, she said, “Yes, but it won’t be done until I’m very, very happy with it.” We are very, very happy with it. Thanks Holly. It’s something that will be on our wall years from now when you bring your own children to visit.

Cross Season

We are well into cross-over season on the beach. The mothers always arrive to nest and our first nests hatch. We cannot tell you where or when this will happen. Honest. These little creatures come out when they are good and ready and we get no notice.

It’s a matter of luck to be there for a boil. If you miss hatching, you may be able to catch a nest scan which is done three days after hatching. Volunteers dig and analyze the contents which could include one or two late hatchlings who missed the alarm.

If you spot a nesting mother, see hatchlings emerge, or see anything unusual like an injured or stranded turtle, please call the hospital’s director of beach operations, Terry Meyer at 910-470-2880. If she is not available, you can call the hospital during business hours at 910-329-0222.

The hospital will take the information and send a trained volunteer to meet with you to assess the situation. The state hotline for stranded, sick, and injured turtles is 252-241-7367. The state number is open all day. Please note that all of our work with sea turtles, at the hospital and on the beach, is licensed by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

Public visits

The schedule for public visits until July is Monday to Friday, noon to 4 p.m.; Saturday 10am-2pm and Sunday 12pm-2pm Tickets must be purchased in advance on the website:

The number of guests is limited at each time to make the experience more enjoyable and safer. The hospital is unable to accommodate walk-ins once full for the day.

Please note that if surrounding counties experience an increase in COVID cases, guests may be required to wear masks for anyone over the age of three, no exceptions. Check the website for current masking requirements when purchasing your tickets.

Karen Sota is the media coordinator for the Karen Beasley Rescue and Rehabilitation Center.


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