We hope you’ll be as excited as we are about our latest partnership and house guest — we have partnered with the National Aquarium in Baltimore and today, we have Jennifer Dittmar, Stranding Coordinator for the National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program in our Guest House! (beach, animal & Lilly Lovers, rejoice!)
Through our partnership, we designed a signature Murfee scarf to celebrate the Aquarium’s 30th anniversary! Excuse the bragging while we tell you how BEA-U-TI-FUL this Murfee is – we think you’ll love that we featured several of the Aquarium’s residents—the intelligent octopus, the colorful sea stars and the endangered sea turtle (more on them later!) —as well as a secret message hidden in the print! (so secret we think only the print team knows!) Of course the folks from the National Aquarium are as excited as were are… We were so thrilled to partner with Lilly Pulitzer on the creation of this print – her design celebrating these magnificent sea creatures coupled with the vibrant and playful colors captures the fun of a visit to the National Aquarium! And so many of us here love that Lilly Pulitzer’s designs are inspired by the sea, we just knew our supporters would love this design too!
Proceeds from the sale of this limited-edition Murfee will be donated to the National Aquarium to support the Aquarium’s conservation and education programs, like the Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP). (they’re pretty thrilled about that too!) The launch of the scarf this week coincides with the release of several rescued Kemp’s ridley sea turtles MARP has been rehabilitating for the past six months. Fun fact: Kemp’s ridleys are the smallest of all sea turtle species, and the most endangered.
We thought “Stranding Coordinator” was quite intriguing so we invited Jennifer into our guest house and asked her a few questions…
How did these turtles come to be in rehab at the National Aquarium?
All of them stranded along Cape Cod, MA, between October and December of this year. The New England Aquarium, one of our stranding partners, was seeing an unusually high number of stranded sea turtles and reached out to us for help with transferring some turtles to Baltimore for long-term rehabilitation.
Why did these turtles need to be rescued?
They all suffered from cold stunning—the sea turtle equivalent of hypothermia. Their body systems begin to slowly shut down, and their immune system becomes suppressed, which can cause long-term health problems.
What does it take to rehabilitate these animals?
The turtles receive daily care including feeding, medical treatments, environmental enrichment, and foraging activities. MARP has a dedicated team of trained volunteers that provide daily care for the animals and a team of veterinarians to oversee the health of the animals while in rehabilitation.
How do you get them ready for release?
The animals undergo routine medical exams with the Aquarium’s veterinarians prior to being cleared for release. In addition, the animals are offered live food items to stimulate their natural instincts to ensure they’re ready for release back into the ocean.
What is the goal of the Marine Animal Rescue Program?
MARP responds to all live sea turtle and marine mammal strandings within Maryland waters. That’s nearly 7,000 miles of shoreline including the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coasts! Since its inception in 1991, MARP has responded to nearly 450 animals in distress and has rehabilitated and released 87 marine animals back to their natural environment. Many of these animals are endangered or threatened, so every individual introduced back into the breeding population has the opportunity to add to the genetic diversity of the species.
How did you end up working as a marine animal rescuer?
I began as an unpaid volunteer with MARP in August of 2004, and was volunteering up to 30 hours a week, while working several part-time jobs to pay my bills. I have always been passionate about protecting and conserving marine species, and all the time I spent volunteering paid off when I became a full-time employee of MARP in June of 2005. I encourage anyone interested in getting into the field of wildlife rehabilitation to volunteer your time at local wildlife rescue facilities or animal shelters. The more experience you can get, the better.
We have a turtle release scheduled for this Sunday, June 26, at 11 a.m. at Point Lookout Sate Park in Maryland. The event is free and open to the public, but park entrance fees do apply. Several turtles will be outfitted with a small satellite transmitter that will allow us to track the location and speed of the turtles following their release. These tags help researchers learn more about sea turtle migration and travel patterns. We invite you to follow the turtles’ progress at aqua.org/animaltracking.