Babysitting Turtles

An Open Letter To Audubon Community Nature Center

Dear Audubon,

Before beginning my internship at Audubon, my experience with nature was purely subjective. No doubt, I was appreciative of nature and extremely passionate about protecting the environment and all of the wildlife who call planet earth home; however, I could only imagine the broad perspective that I would gain by the end of the summer.

Throughout various adventures such as rescuing a great blue heron from the terrifying death grip of a snapping turtle’s jaws, watching as a wasp carries a spider away to feed its young, floating around Big Pond hunting for invasive water chestnuts, and discovering just how complex the natural world can be, I gained a new appreciation for nature.

Every morning I would wake up, excited and ecstatic to be spending my day encompassed by nature, learning new facts and attributes of the natural world from Audubon’s experienced and intelligent staff. I have learned how to handle native wildlife (snakes, turtles, butterflies, and everything in between), which plants help with mosquito bites, and which plants can be extremely poisonous. What foods compost quickly and what foods take more time to break down, just how fast it takes a deer carcass versus a dead groundhog to decompose in the hot July sun, and how to calm down and recuperate birds when they have been hurt. I was able to help raise monarch butterflies and participate in the care and management of non-native or incapacitated animals in captivity.

One of the most gratifying parts of the internship was taking the turtles who stay at Audubon year-round outside for natural UVB light (a necessary component of shell growth). Watching the turtles switch between frolicking around the lawn and sprawling across the grass to sunbathe was such a tranquil and relaxing experience. I discovered that turtles could actually run a lot faster and farther than we think they can, and I got to experience a small part of an animal’s life that one would not initially contemplate.

I was also lucky enough to help children form a deep connection with nature through day camp. Acting as a camp counselor, I was able to facilitate nature play, teach children how to identify different plant and fungi species, and I was able to watch as the kids themselves slowly gained a greater appreciation and understanding for the natural world. Through this, I was able to see from a child-like perspective and was reminded of the sheer wonder of discovering new things as a youth. I watched as my campers worked through problems such as how to make a fort stable, how to collect and capture bugs with sticks and leaves, and how to create doors, couches, and even water slides with only materials found in nature. I was reminded of the considerable and incredible feats that creative imagination can accomplish.

Of course, there were some drawbacks: millions of mosquito bites, accidentally getting caught in a torrential downpour without a raincoat, or learning how to diffuse conflict between two strong-willed six-year-olds. But by the 600th mosquito bite, the annoying itch just became a part of the experience that I got used to. The overwhelming feeling of peace and a sense of purpose ultimately outweigh all of the bad, and I enjoyed every second spent at Audubon.

Through my experience, I was able to understand the natural world on a deeper level. Nature is so much more complicated than I initially thought, and I grew to realize that humans affect the environment in so many more ways that I had ever considered. I encourage you to get out, spend some time in nature, and observe wildlife in their natural habitat. I guarantee that you will gain a greater appreciation for the environment and all of the creatures that call this beautiful planet home.

Thank you to Audubon for being so welcoming and for giving me a new perspective and appreciation for nature. Thank you for opening my eyes to just how complex our environment can be. Thank you for allowing me to chase butterflies and babysit turtles this summer. It was an experience that I will never forget.


Hannah Gilmore

Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are open from dawn to dusk as is Liberty, the Bald Eagle. The Nature Center is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily except Sunday when it opens at 1 p.m. More information can be found online at auduboncnc.org or by calling 569-2345.