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Lauren Coates, age 16 has travelled all the way from the UK to get some hands-on experience working amongst underwater wildlife creatures found throughout the Cayman Turtle Centre’s marine department exhibits. She has been working alongside Lead Aquarist, Adam Jackson, as well as Aquarists, Shona McGill for the past week. “I’ve come here to do work experience because I want to study Marine Biology,” she said.
Describing some of her duties, Lauren said, “I went into the Turtle Hatchery and worked with the people in there, counting the scutes (plates composing the turtle shell).” Lauren has also learned all CTC’s food preparation for turtles, and fish of both the predator reef exhibit and saltwater lagoon where guest are able to swim with an array of underwater sea life. All while also having the opportunity to participate in feeding the Centre’s Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles, which are the rarest species of turtle in the world.
Lauren explained why she wanted to come so far to work with marine animals: “My dad has a friend here and he told us that it’s really good for sea life. I really like working with animals, so if I can get up close with them, I really like that, and my favorite animal is a turtle. I can come here and pick them up, and you can’t do that anywhere else on the world. I want to work with conserving turtles so I came here to get a better idea of what it would be like if I were to do a job like this. I am hoping to go to university and study either zoology or marine biology.”
Aquarist Shona McGill, who has been working closely with Lauren, commented on the importance of some of the new skills that Lauren has been learning: “Preparing food is arguably the most important part of looking after every animal along with doing continuous welfare checks on them like we do during our daily feedings. This not only helps you know the nutritional aspects of the animal, you know more about the animal you are preparing food for. There is a saying: ‘we conserve what we love what we understand, and we understand what we’re taught,’ so getting hands-on experience is very important.”