Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Sciences

First Advisor

Helen Poynton

Second Advisor

Kathleen Hunt

Third Advisor

John Mandelman


Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys kempii) are critically endangered due to numerous anthropogenic and natural threats, such as cold-stunning events. Cold-stunning events occur naturally when frigid temperatures shock these ectothermic animals, leaving them in a lethargic, potentially fatal state. Cold-stunned juvenile turtles strand on Cape Cod every fall. The New England Aquarium (NEAq) rescues and rehabilitates these juveniles, providing a unique opportunity to study their behavioral endocrinology during recovery. Changes in corticosterone (stress hormone) and thyroxine (metabolic hormone) concentrations during rehabilitation may influence recovery rates and behavioral patterns. This study provides a foundation for understanding the behavioral endocrinology of recovering, cold-stunned juveniles. This research aims to characterize the general behavioral and hormonal changes during rehabilitation and assesses the possible relationships between hormones and aspects of behavior, such as level of activity, breathing frequency, and feeding. Improved understanding of these physiological and behavioral responses may enhance clinical treatments, health assessments, and conservation management strategies for populations in the clinical setting and in the wild.


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