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2015 Turtles: Tools of the Trade

To date, nearly 300 sea turtles that have washed up on the beaches of Cape Cod Bay have been admitted to the Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital since early November, making it our second-largest stranding season ever. 

On top of planning transports, doing laundry and arranging for volunteers, stranding season is a blur of sea turtle exams. For such an important part of every day, turtle exams can happen in a humble little work space. We have a clinic room with permanent exam carts. 

Two carts in the clinic are set up for turtle exams.
But when things get busy, we set up additional carts throughout the turtle hospital. But each station is equipped with an array of tools necessary for treating the turtles. Let's a moment to walk through the tools of the trade for all these sea turtle exams.

Here's an example of a work station ready for a new patient

OK, so what are all these items on the towel and what are they used for?

Flashlight: This helps the biologists examine a turtle's eyes and throats for scratches or foreign bodies.

Turtles often get injections of medicines and fluids as well as blood drawn for testing. Before the injections, the turtle's skin
is cleaned with alcohol and iodine—just like what you'd use on people! 

The marker: These are used to mark the turtle's shells with a number ID, this is important when looking for dozens of turtles swimming in a rehab tank. The tongue depressor: These simple tools can help spread ointments over the turtle's shell or skin or gently scrape a little algae off the shell. 

The towel donut! These are a staple at every sea turtle rescue station. A rolled up towel like this is a comfortable place for turtles to rest during their exam. It's soft, their flipper can hang over the sides and assistants can gently yet firmly grip the sides the turtle's shell so they don't flap themselves right off the table.

Each syringe used for a blood draw is prepared with a chemical coating that prevents the blood
from coagulating inside the tube. The biologists prepare many syringes at a time and
stash them at each exam station. 

A tool caddy contains all the extras. Extra antiseptic wipes, extra depressors,
extra syringes, extra tubing, scissors, pens, markers, etc. Also note that there's some
note-taking in this picture. Every shot and abrasion is noted along with temperatures and
energy level and lots more.

Turtle exams in action!

There are also some techy tools that are used during exams, more on those later. While the tools of the trade aren't the most exciting part of saving sea turtles, they're crucial. And so are all those hard-working individuals rehabilitating so many turtles!

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