NEAQ Day 2: The Myrtle Project, a Good Dive, and Vol Work

Scoot, one of the smaller turtles in the GOT, is a Kemps Ridley turtle.

The second day at the aquarium was just as fun as the first, if not better. I started off the day with food prep again, and then was invited to help out with the Myrtle Project. Myrtle is the GOT’s oldest inhabitant; she weighs about 650 pounds and is estimated to be between 65 and 70 years old.

The Myrtle Project is an experiment researching the effects of different sound frequencies on turtles, in hopes to create a sounding mechanism that will help deter turtles from large ships. Kathy Streeter conducts the experiment and she let me be in charge of the sound and light. With the help of mammal volunteers Allegra and Melissa, we ran a series of tests on Myrtle using operant conditioning, which involves training Myrtle to do something through positive reinforcement. Two types of trials are conducted: light trial or light and sound trial. When Myrtle hears a beep from one of two speakers underwater, she must touch the sounding speaker. When she is successful, she returns to the platform and gets a treat (fish or squid).

After the Myrtle project at feeding time I got to feed the barracudas who eat whole fish, and finish up some office work like de-rust a scale, laundry, copy intern manuals, and clean-up clean-up clean-up! The 1:15 dive was really fun today, I felt more comfortable using my own BC and less weight, and had a few fish hang out really close to me while I scrubbed the coral. Another neat part of the day was watching an purple mouthed moray eel be removed from the tank and anesthetized so that the medical services team could determine why it had been acting sluggish.