ZP Week Six: Extracurricular Activities

While the work in seal care is always interesting and every day remains different with these charismatic animals, as time goes on there are of course fewer new experiences. Now I feel really settled. Two waves of new volunteers have arrived since I did and lots of people are leaving, so I am no longer truly new myself (although of course I am to those who have been here for years).

Feeling comfortable with the work makes it much easier to involve myself in other things, so this week I have taken up some ‘extracurriculars’.

Vet round

All volunteers are welcome to tag along on the morning vet round when they are off work. I’m sure you could go as many times as you wanted but once is enough to get the feel of it! I kind of wish I’d done this sooner as now I am well acquainted with all the seals currently in the centre and have a pretty good idea of how to tell how they are. This could have been really educational if I’d been organised enough to do it in my first couple of weeks! All the same it was interesting to hear the specific signs the vets look for when they have to do this speedy assessment. Also, worryingly, we saw blood in the faeces of one of the grey seals in Vliehors, Cia. She has been strange since the arrived – very quiet and still with little to no resistance to being caught and fed. She’s now on some different medication and fingers crossed everything will work out.

Recordings

A lot of the research here is about seal vocalisations. While last week I went with Koen to record the grey seals, this week I got Andrea to teach me how to use the equipment so I can help them to record intakes. They do this to get the vocal signature of the seal before it is in contact with others in the centre. Yesterday I recorded my first intake and today yet another, so this may become a regular part of my life here! The one today was of a large (50kg) grey seal with a net wound around it’s neck and the net still in. The intake was done in the pool rather than the usual intake room and was an adventure for all involved! The animal was clearly tired but had a little bit of fight about it and they managed to remove the net and clean the wound.

Andrea has also said if I want to do a small project of my own he would be happy to supervise. Obviously an amazing opportunity but as usual when presented with it my well of inspiration is running dry. I am thinking it over. When I left uni I really wasn’t sure how interested I was in research as opposed to practical conservation work. That’s still a debate for me but I’ve found reading/analysing papers and discussing Andrea’s research with him really enjoyable. It feels like I’m flexing and stretching out some mental muscles I haven’t used in several months.

Tours

Today I had some training from the shop manager on how to give behind-the-scenes tours. These are a great source of fundraising and education for the centre and something I can maybe do some of now – bolstering the ‘public outreach and education’ section of my repertoire!

On a less professional note, a lot of us also went to Groningen last night and spent a few hours in a bar dancing to some Spanish music – a much needed unwind.

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