A 3D-printed brace shell has helped one lucky loggerhead sea turtle in California get a clean bill of health.
The sea creature arrived at San Diego’s Birch Aquarium in 2014. Before moving in, the turtle was found near a power plant in New Jersey. Rescuers discovered the female turtle underweight at 98 pounds and with a hole in her shell causing curvature in its spine, explains SD Today. By 2017, even with the aquarium’s care, the sea creature’s health status was not ideal, so the aquarium worked with the University of California, San Diego’s Digitial Media Lab to create a 3D-printed brace for the turtle to help nurse her back to health and repair her shell.
According to the outlet, after receiving her 2023 physical exam, which included taking new measurements, scrubbing the shell, and collecting a blood sample, the aquarium determined the turtle was feeling better than ever. The turtle now weighs a much healthier 210 pounds and is sporting a large, healthy-looking shell.
In a statement to FOX 5, Harry Helling, the executive director at Birch Aquarium, shared that the facility hopes that the turtle’s progress gives visitors insight into the importance of marine creatures.
“Many families are gearing up for a summer of exploration as warmer weather finally makes its way to San Diego,” explained Helling. “By bringing back interactive feedings and introducing new offerings, the aquarium hopes to advance its mission of connecting understanding to protecting our ocean planet with new, fun, and engaging activities for our guests to enjoy.”
Scott McAvoy, a manager at the Digital Media Lab, explained the procedure in a 2017 conversation with KBPS by stating that the shell was created by mirroring the good half of the shell and creating a “perfect form-fitting piece that just snaps right in there.”
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE’s free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
Those interested in getting an up-close look at the sea turtle can visit the museum during its extended seasonal hours.
I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.