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Volunteer Spotlight

Meet Julie McCall – Julie McCall is a veteran volunteer with MERR, having been with us for over 14 years. Julie lives at Broadkill Beach, where she has resided full time for over 11 years, and prior to that visited for many years. Julie is a true naturalist and volunteers with every wildlife project that she can. In 1994 Julie spent a week at wilderness school with renowned tracker Tom Brown, who taught her observation skills. This changed her perspective of wildlife viewing and the way she feels connected to the world around her. Julie volunteers to monitor bats, owls, frogs, plovers, horseshoe crabs, and of course helps MERR as one of our seasoned volunteers. She likes to take the time to watch and observe, and to see the connections between species that fascinate her. Julie can often be seen sitting quietly in the splendor of nature’s beauty, immersing herself in that environment. She enjoys the connection to marine mammals and sea turtles that is shared by people of all walks of life. 

Julie used to go to Warsaw Island off of the Georgia Coast to help with nesting sea turtles, and with the hatchlings. Julie got a book about volunteer vacations, and she discovered Warsaw Island. The hook was that you get to be out on the beach all night. That was 30 years ago, and she never went to another project-she stayed with this one, and sometimes brought young people from her neighborhood in D.C. so that they could experience the ocean and marine life. Julie enjoys helping other people to make these connections, and through MERR she gets to experience all of these aspects of wildlife and making connections that mean so much to her. 

Julie lived in D.C. for 30 years, and when she came to the beaches here she started to see the marine animals. She wanted to learn more about the marine environment, and MERR seemed like that would enable her to learn more. She was very drawn to it because of the mission, and the extensive way in which she could receive training. Now that she lives here full time, she has a much stronger sense of what is around her in the coastal community. 

Do you have a favorite stranding story? 

Definitely. Phil the wayward harbor seal who took a wrong turn and swam 14 miles inland to Coursey's Pond (In Felton, DE) and ultimately to the Killen's Pond spillway. I especially remember our daily searches along the ponds to try to locate him, and the day I found him sleeping in the woods under a tree! 

What is your funniest stranding experience? 

We had a call from a resident of Prime Hook Beach about a large dead loggerhead sea turtle that had washed up on the beach. The person who had made the call went with me out to the beach to show me where the turtle was, but it wasn't there. We walked up and down the beach for a long time before we suddenly looked down and could barely see the outline of the turtle beneath the sand. It appeared that someone had thought they were doing us a favor and buried it before we got there. So we ended up having to dig up the turtle by hand in order to collect the data we needed. We were quite a spectacle, and one person who had seen us later said to me "I thought that MERR people were the ones who came to BURY the turtles, not to dig them up!" 

What is your favorite part of being a MERR volunteer? 

I love learning so much about the marine animals that live in our oceans and bays. And I am constantly in awe of the incredible lengths that MERR volunteers will go to, and Suzanne's ability to develop strategies to save a marine animal or sea turtle that looked like it would be impossible to save. But oddly enough I find that responding to a deceased animal is often what I would call the most spiritual experience for me. After I collect all of my data, I find myself drawn to sitting with the animal for awhile, saying a few words to it, and acknowledging its beautiful life. 

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