‘You don’t have to go to the Caribbean to see sea turtles, because they are right here in our backyard!’
Maxine Montello, Melville
“I am from Portland, Maine, originally, so I grew up by the water and always had a love for marine animals. I went to school for animal behavior for my undergraduate and then went to graduate school for wildlife ecology. During my master’s, I started working on a project in Barbuda, which is the sister island of Antigua, and studied the nesting ecology of sea turtles. I fell in love with field work and studying animals in the wild.
“I’m the rescue program director at the New York Marine Rescue Center, where we rescue and rehabilitate marine mammals and sea turtles. We are located at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead. We have a public-facing tank where patrons can see sea turtles through the glass, ask questions and may be encouraged to come to a future release.
Every day is different, and we can’t predict what’s going to happen.
“While working at an aquarium, I worked with marine mammals and sea turtles in a human care aspect. I worked closely with the vets and really enjoyed the clinical aspect of husbandry. This led me to pursue a position with marine mammal and sea turtle rehabilitation.
“At my current role, every day is different, and we can’t predict what’s going to happen. We depend on the public to call in strandings via our 24-hour hotline. We often deal with juvenile animals — young, smaller and more vulnerable. One of the most memorable rescues was of a female adult loggerhead turtle who got stranded on Fire Island. She was over 300 pounds and had evidence of boat strikes and entanglement. With diet and medicine, we were able to successfully rehab her and released her with a tracking device.
“I am currently focusing on gaining more information regarding New York sea turtle populations through satellite tags and cameras. I look forward to continuing to build a really strong team. I think it’s amazing to educate people about how cool New York and Long Island is with these animals that surround us. We live in a really special area. You don’t have to go to the Caribbean to see sea turtles, because they are right here in our backyard!”
Interviewed by Meagan Meehan