Navigating the Cape Cod Region’s Blue Economy

Aug 1, 2020 Profiles In Blue: Kathy Zagzebski

I live, work, and play the Blue Economy every day!

The organization where I work, the National Marine Life Center, exemplifies the three focus areas of Cape Cod’s Blue Economy Project. We contribute to a vibrant maritime and technology economy, we work toward a healthy environment, and we prepare and educate the next generation to participate in the workforce.

NMLC is an independent, nonprofit organization located along the Cape Cod Canal in Bourne. We rehabilitate and release stranded marine mammals and sea turtles in order to advance science and education in marine wildlife health and conservation. Our threefold mission – rehabilitation, science and education – uniquely meets Blue Economy goals.

Cape Cod is a stranding hotspot. Hundreds of marine animals strand here every year, alive and in need of medical care. Many of these animals are critically endangered and all are federally protected. NMLC provides a wildlife rehabilitation hospital for sick and injured marine animals, including sea turtles and seals. Through NMLC’s Rehabilitation Program, we help individual animals while also learning about the animals’ biology, health and the diseases from which they suffer. Findings lend new insight into the health of the environment.

NMLC’s Science Program is based on the “One Health” paradigm. This concept — embraced by health agencies all over the world — recognizes that human health, environmental health and animal health are interconnected. By learning about wildlife diseases and why animals strand, we gain new awareness of environmental disturbances that have the potential to impact both animals and people. NMLC’s research includes case studies of our patients, investigations of marine animal parasites and middle ear disease in seals. Research is shared through publications and presentations as well as in educational programs.

Marine animals are ideal subjects for educational lessons. Dolphins, whales, seals and sea turtles are charismatic and interesting. The ocean depths in which they live are mysterious and exciting. By using marine animals as subject material, NMLC’s Education Program addresses topics from biology to physics, writing composition to art, math to technology. Marine animals also make ideal subjects for lessons on conservation and human impacts on our environment. Because children are interested in marine animals, they are inspired to learn and take positive action.

NMLC offers internship opportunities for college students from throughout the U.S. to get involved with our marine animal rehabilitation, science, and education activities. Participating students develop skills in animal husbandry, environmental education, facilities management, nonprofit administration, interpersonal skills, marketing, writing, data collection, data entry, water quality testing, and much more. This training enhances workforce readiness.

NMLC’s rehabilitation and science activities investigating marine wildlife health contribute to Cape Cod’s vibrant maritime and technology economy. Findings from our rehabilitation and science programs, as communicated through our education program, promote a healthy environment and economy. And with our education program and our internship program, we are preparing and educating students for the future by helping them to develop STEM skills and a conservation ethic. We are proud to be part of Cape Cod’s Blue Economy!