Sea Turtle Conservancy is currently accepting applications for sea turtle research assistants in Tortuguero, Costa Rica. Research and monitoring of sea turtles in Tortuguero was initiated in the 1950’s by legendary sea turtle researcher Dr. Archie Carr. Dr. Carr continued his work in Tortuguero until his passing in 1987 and STC continues to conduct annual programs at the site, making it the longest ongoing sea turtle conservation and monitoring program in the world.
Between eight and sixteen Research Assistants (RAs) will be trained in sea turtle monitoring techniques by, and work under the supervision of, the STC Field Research Coordinator. The RAs main responsibilities include nightly tagging, track surveys, nest monitoring and excavation. RAs are responsible for tagging nesting turtles, collecting biometric data from females, recording nesting activity during track surveys, and other pertinent data collection. RA positions are voluntary and selected RAs will receive board and lodging at the STC Field Station for the duration of their time working for STC in Tortuguero.
STC Alumni RAs have gone on to work for respected conservation organizations, universities and government agencies worldwide. Or like previous RA Ralph Pace, they continue their work with STC. Ralph was an RA in 2010 and then took on the role of STC Field Research Coordinator in 2013. Ralph is also a talented photographer. Below are some exciting details and photos from his time spent in Tortuguero with STC:
“When I took the position here as the Field Research Coordinator in Tortuguero, Costa Rica I knew fully what I was getting into. Having spent three months here as a Research Assistant for half of the green turtle season in 2010, I was well aware of the wild adventure and surprise that Tortuguero would provide. When most people hear I am working on a Caribbean beach in Costa Rica they envision a white sand beach where luxurious tiki style huts hang over crystal clear water. But, here it is far more rustic and wild. Imagine Jungle Book meets Indiana Jones. In reality, Tortuguero is a highly dynamic beach who’s landscape changes as fast as the tide. The beach is backed by a lush, dense jungle that is supported by the migration of sea turtles.
Under the clearest of Milky Way skies, we set out to patrol the beach nightly in search of three to four hundred pound nesting female turtles. We do so to collect data and monitor their epic population rebound of 500% here in Tortuguero. Then as quickly as the turtles appear they vanish on their return to far off feeding ground around the Caribbean.
The beach becomes an expressway for millions of babies who are only just beginning their majestic journey. Just this morning during a track survey, I stood in shock as six hundred hatchlings emerged under the hardest of rains. As the baby hatchlings entered the water I couldn’t help but wonder where the offshore currents will take them. Will they go to Bermuda, Brazil or Cuba as many of our turtles do? Or, will they settle closer to home in Nicaragua? (Click here to watch an amazing video Ralph shot of green sea turtles hatching!)
As with all the other mysteries, I wonder, where have six months gone? Then I remember the thousands of turtles I have seen, hundreds of hours on the beach, the dozen meteor showers, the manatee I took DNA samples of, the jaguar I stood face to face with, the daily howler monkey alarm clocks at 5 am, the hundreds of kids served in the local schools and the countless friends I’ve met from around the world that have made it all so epic. So what makes this place so special? Of the five continents I have explored, the mystique and adventure of Tortuguero is like no other place I have ever seen or imagined.”
To view more spectacular sea turtle photos by Ralph, check out his Facebook page RALFotos.
For more information about STC’s Research Assistant positions including a project summary and work description, click here. The deadline to apply for the Leatherback Research Program is January 7, 2014 and the Green Turtle Program deadline is March 10, 2014. For questions pertaining to STC’s Research Assistant Program, please contact STC Scientific Director Emma Harrison at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Forty years ago this month, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act—our nation’s safety net for fish, plants and wildlife on the brink of extinction. On December 6, the www.endangered.org, which Sea Turtle Conservancy is a member of, marked the anniversary with a new report highlighting a few of the great wildlife conservation accomplishments since the Act’s passage in 1973. The report is entitled, Back from the Brink: Ten Success Stories Celebrating the Endangered Species Act at 40, and it features the green sea turtle as one of its stories. All of the species in the report were nominated by Coalition member groups, such as STC. A panel of distinguished scientists then reviewed the nominations and decided which species to include in the report. STC Executive Director David Godfrey played a major role in the nomination and inclusion of the green turtle in the report.
The report highlights ten species that – thanks to the Endangered Species Act’s protections – are either steadily improving or have been recovered and removed from the list of imperiled species. Along with the green sea turtle, they include the nene goose, American peregrine falcon, El Segundo blue butterfly, Robbins’ cinquefoil, bald eagle, southern sea otter, humpback whale, American alligator, and brown pelican.
Below is some of the information about green turtles that was included in the report, written in part by Godfrey:
Safeguarded by the Endangered Species Act since 1978, green sea turtle populations along U.S. coasts are protected in the oceans by NOAA Fisheries and in their beach nesting habitats by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Many other countries have established laws to preserve these turtles, and the species is protected globally by both the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Indeed, the green sea turtle is one of the most defended species in the world.
Unintentional capture—particularly by the shrimp fishing industry—is one of the turtle’s most significant threats. Since 1992, NOAA has required all shrimp trawls in U.S. waters to use turtle excluder devices (TEDs), which greatly reduce the number of turtles ensnared in nets. The U.S. government also works with foreign governments to encourage the use of TEDs in trawl fisheries outside the U.S.
The USFWS recovery programs attempt to restore the turtle’s nesting grounds by limiting the impact of development, establishing federal refuges for turtles and reducing the impact of artificial light on nesting beaches. This last measure protects hatchlings, which can easily become disoriented by artificial lights when they emerge from their nests at night.
By listing this turtle under the Endangered Species Act, the United States took a bold stance, and the turtles are responding. In 1990, fewer than fifty green turtles were documented nesting at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge on Florida’s east coast. After twenty-three years of conservation efforts by STC, federal and local agencies, and other partner organizations, this 20-mile stretch of beach hosted over 13,000 green turtle nests in 2013—making this one of the greatest conservation success stories of our time.
STC has been an active supporter and advocate for the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge since the idea was first conceived over 25 years ago. The organization played a significant role in establishing the refuge in 1989, and STC was a founding member of the Archie Carr Working Group, a coalition of public and private entities set up to expand, protect, manage and promote the Refuge. STC continues to help secure funds for land acquisition and management, and directly coordinates a number of habitat improvement programs in the Carr Refuge, including dune restoration projects, beach clean ups and a program that helps beachfront residents convert their lights to the latest turtle-friendly technology. STC’s annual migration tracking studies of turtles in the refuge are yielding important information about what these turtles do when they leave the Refuge, which helps direct conservation and recovery efforts.
The kind of growth that is being seen in the Carr Refuge is also taking place in other locations where green sea turtles are actively protected, which gives us good reason to be hopeful. Through collaborative efforts of organizations and governments—both here at home and throughout the world—there is bright promise that this remarkable species may make an equally remarkable comeback.
Click here to download a PDF version of the full report. The Endangered Species Coalition also produced a slide show to accompany the report, featuring stunning photos of each of the ten species in the report. The Coalition produces a “Top 10” report annually. Previous years’ reports are available here. For more information on the Endangered Species Act, click here.
Ghost nets are fishing nets that have been discarded, abandoned or lost in the ocean, and are a major threat to sea creatures. Sometimes these nets will wash ashore but other times they are carried on ocean currents far from their place of origin, trapping and entangling anything in their path, including sea turtles. This is where the Olive Ridley Project (ORP) steps in.
Created in July 2013 by marine biologists Martin Stelfox and David Balson, the Olive Ridley Project started as an initiative to target ghost nets in the Indian Ocean. The project consists of four elements to tackle ghost nets: research, awareness, removal and recycling. Stelfox and Balson both work in the Maldives and were encountering a large number of olive ridley sea turtles entangled in ghost nets. Olive ridleys get their name from the coloring of their heart-shaped shell, which starts out gray but becomes olive green once the turtles are adults.
This species is particularly rare in the Maldives. High nesting populations are found close by in Orissa, India, and statistics suggest that 80% of the world’s nesting takes place here. The Maldives, however, are a critical resting point for many migratory species like sea turtles. Unfortunately, most encounters with this vulnerable sea turtle are under stressful conditions and a large portion are found entangled in discarded fishing nets. Entanglement often leads to severe injuries and flipper amputations are common. In addition, stress experienced by turtles during this ordeal leads to buoyancy problems, which means they cannot dive.
Since 2011, 65 olive ridleys have been found trapped in fishing nets. Many suffer severe injuries such as amputations and deep lacerations. Often rehabilitation back into the wild is extremely difficult and many do not survive. In the short time the Olive Ridley Project has been running, 21 olive ridley turtles have been found injured by ghost nets. It is difficult to say for certain where these nets originate and changes in current direction during monsoons add to the complexity in determining where drifting nets come from.
In order to combat this problem, the ORP is aiming to actively target the origin of ghost nets using information gathered from the community. In order for this project to be successful, they need information from everyone who finds nets while conducting research or diving in the Indian Ocean or a net that has washed ashore on a beach near the Indian Ocean. A simple picture with exact location found would be enough data for them to use, but if measurements can be taken that would be even better.
What exactly is a Fundana? Lisa Jo Randgaard, a longtime Sea Turtle Conservancy member, passed away unexpectedly in May 2012, at age 43, due to complications from a serious congenital heart condition. To honor Lisa’s passion for wildlife and its protection, especially her love of sea turtles, the Randgaard family established The Lisa Jo Randgaard Fund, making it STC’s first member-initiated endowment fund.
In March 2013, Lisa’s family launched Lisa’s Fundanas Project. Her mother and two sisters are hand-sewing special, limited edition bandanas using batik cotton fabric featuring a beautiful sea turtle print. Each bandana is approximately 21”x 21” and comes with a special label reading “Handmade for a Sea Turtle Hero” and a turquoise sea turtle bead. Custom, pet-sized Fundanas without beads are also available, and can be embroidered with your pet’s name.
We did a special Q&A with Lisa’s sister, Linda, about Lisa’s Fundanas Project:
How did the idea for Lisa’s Fundanas Project come about?
My Mom, sister and I – “The Sew Turtles” – wanted the chance to direct our grief and do good in the world since helping those most vulnerable, especially animals, was a central theme in Lisa’s life. Lisa saw bandanas as a wardrobe staple, she loved adventures of all shapes and sizes, and she had a particular passion for endangered sea turtles, strengthened through her involvement with STC. Lisa’s Fundanas Project was a fun-loving way to combine these aspects of Lisa’s life and raise funds for The Lisa Jo Randgaard Fund. We are very proud that it is STC’s first member-initiated endowment fund. A sales goal of 50 Fundanas was set in order to raise $1,000 for Lisa’s Fund, and things have gone further than we ever imagined possible. To our great delight, we have sold 243 and raised $6,810 since last February.
What is your favorite way to wear your Fundana?
I like to wear mine on my head or around my neck while I hike for sun protection, but don’t underestimate a Fundana’s value at darkening a room or tent when used to cover your eyes. Ironically, while I don’t travel much, I’ve become more adventure-minded since we launched this effort because I want to share in the fun. My husband and I just posted our picture from the oldest living forest on earth, with ancient trees dating 3,000 to 5,000 years old. Last spring, I went for my first hot air balloon ride. I don’t think these trips would have happened if not for the spirit of the Project, and I know Lisa would be thrilled at what is being done in her name.
Our “Say Cheese” section on the LoveIntoSustainedAction.com website and the Love Into Sustained Action Facebook page have grown into something quite wonderful. Fundana pictures have come in from “Coast-to-Coast and the Middle”; they’ve also come from as far away as Italy, Iceland, and Afghanistan. We even had a photo taken at the equator in Kenya, Africa. We set a goal of 17 U.S. states and 17 foreign countries represented in our website’s photo album since that is Lisa’s birthdate. We’re well on our way to meeting and, hopefully, surpassing these goals with 11 states and 13 countries currently represented. Some people snap shots at home or on local adventures, while others are hitting the road and taking their Fundanas with them. We love every single one, and each submission is entered automatically into our photo contest that runs through March 2014.
What is the process of making a Fundana like?
It’s emotional, but gratifying, because we’ve seen the Project go so much further than we ever expected. I, personally, stand at my kitchen island and stitch because otherwise my cats and dogs want to help. Sewing each one reminds us that there are many big-hearted, generous people in the world who share of our love of sea turtles and their ongoing protection. Equally important to us, so many Fundana Fans have shared pictures and infused that sense of playfulness into our work, which has been heartwarming.
Why do Fundanas make a great holiday gift?
People have responded warmly and generously to the fact that this Project is so personal in nature and that 100% of each donation is directed to sea turtle conservation, honoring our beloved daughter and sister. Every Fundana is one-of-a-kind and hand-sewn by Mom in Minnesota, Diane in Oregon, or me in California. The batiked 100% cotton sea turtle fabric, special label and sea turtle bead seem to be a big hit with folks. We just mailed our single largest order of 25, now on their way to the Cayman Islands. It really is a gift that keeps on giving because endowment funding underpins sea turtle conservation in perpetuity.
What are you future goals for Fundana sales / Lisa’s Fund?
The Project runs through March 2014, and we hope to see sales continue until we pack up our sewing needles. In addition to Lisa’s Fundanas, we’ve made a couple “Fancy Fundanas” for the holidays with unique beading that are available to view and order online for $40-$50 donations. As for our next project? Stay tuned.
Who would you love to see rock a Fundana?
The minimum donation for each Limited Edition Lisa’s Fundana is $20 (also $20 for a pet Fundana) and 100% of all money raised is donated to STC for The Lisa Jo Randgaard Fund. To celebrate Lisa’s love of travel, the family is asking all Fundanas fans to share pictures of themselves and pets wearing their Fundanas on both local and global adventures. Pictures can be added to the growing album at LoveIntoSustainedAction.com and Love Into Sustained Action on Facebook.
Click here to purchase a Fundana!
This year, Sea Turtle Conservancy’s Tour de Turtles tracked 13 sea turtles representing five species from five different locations: Florida, Tortuguero, Panama, Nevis, and Bermuda.
Calypso Blue II, a giant female leatherback from Panama, finished in first place in STC’s 6th annual Tour de Turtles Migration Marathon. She was sponsored by Atlantis Paradise Island and swam 2,836 miles in 97 days. She led the race almost the entire duration, and finished more than 800 miles ahead of the second place turtle, Panama Jackie. Fun fact: Calypso Blue II and Panama Jackie were both released from STC’s brand-new research site in Soropta Beach, Panama!
Rounding out the top three was a female loggerhead from Florida named Johnny, sponsored by John’s Island Real Estate Company. Johnny wasted no time heading straight south for the winter, and looks to be spending the holidays near Cuba. We’ve heard it’s nice there this time of year! The race for third place was a definite nail biter, as Johnny just barely edged out fellow loggerhead Carrie (sponsored by Disney’s Animal Programs and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort) in the last few weeks of the race. Johnny ended up finishing only 107 miles ahead of Carrie, who had to settle for fourth place.
Not to be outdone, Carrie crushed the competition in the separate Causes Challenge, raising $1,500 for her cause of Light Pollution, and earning the title of Causes Challenge Winner. Fun fact: In a Tour de Turtles first, Carrie came back to Vero Beach to nest AGAIN, only two weeks after her original nesting. We know that the females will lay several clutches each season, but we have never documented a TdT loggerhead returning to nest after the start of Tour de Turtles! Good thing Carrie has read all those papers on turtles – she laid her eggs EXACTLY 14 days later. Her second nest was even within 1/2 mile of where she laid her original nest. Our friends with Disney’s Animal Programs also reported that Carrie’s first nest had 161 hatchlings– the largest loggerhead nest they’ve seen this year!
Other honorable mentions in the Causes Challenge also include Florida loggerheads Ripley (5th place) sponsored by Ripley’s Aquariums, who raised $1,100 for Water Quality and Claire (6th place) sponsored by Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund who raised $900 for Plastic Debris. Those loggerheads sure know how to work a crowd! Speaking of loggerheads, it looks like all of our loggerhead competitors are currently hanging out together in the Atlantic ocean not far from Cuba and the Bahamas. Wonder if they’re having a Tour de Turtles party?!
In 7th place was Mora, a green sea turtle released from Tortuguero, Costa Rica, who was named after Jairo Mora Sandoval, a Costa Rican biologist who was tragically killed in May while monitoring a sea turtle nesting beach south of Tortuguero. Some of you might recognize turtle Mora from the July page of our new 2014 Sea Turtle Scenes calendar. She’s become quite the celebrity since making her debut appearance in Tour de Turtles!
In 8th place we had Cruz (sponsored by Shark Reef Aquarium), a green sea turtle released from Tortuguero, who was named after Guillermo “Billy” Cruz, STC’s first Vice President and recipient of the Archie Carr Lifetime Achievement Award, who passed away this summer. Cruz took her time “cruz-ing” along the coastlines of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, traveling 103 miles north of her release spot.
Did you know that both Mora and Cruz both have some amazing photos and videos on our Tour de Turtles website? They were taken by our Tortuguero Field Coordinator Ralph Pace!
Hawksbill turtles Banjo (9th place) and Caribelle (10th place) didn’t stray too far from their original release site near their sponsors at the Four Seasons Resort in Nevis. Caribelle only swam about 235 miles while it looks like Banjo spent her time island hopping in the Caribbean, swimming around St. Kitts, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Who can blame her! You can click here to watch a cool video from Banjo’s release.
Even though Tampa Red (sponsored by the Tampa Bay Green Consortium) came in 11th place in the race, her story is full of firsts! She was the first Kemp’s ridley and first rehab turtle to ever compete in TdT. She was rescued by the Florida Aquarium in March when she suffered from buoyancy issues caused by a red tide bloom. Red tide is an algal bloom that produces toxins which can be harmful to sea turtles, fish, birds, and other marine animals. After being rehabilitated, she was released from Bunche Beach, making her the first TdT competitor to be released on the West coast of Florida!
While it appears that juvenile green turtle Relay (sponsored by Turtle & Hughes, Inc.) came in last place in the race, he/she was actually participating in not one, but TWO marathon events! Relay came in first place as part of the Tour de Turtles Bermuda: Race on the Rock!The Bermuda competitor earning second place was juvenile green turtle Venti Anni (sponsored by RenaissanceRe). This was the second year STC held the Tour de Turtles Bermuda, an offshoot of the Bermuda Turtle Project, the world’s longest running in-water study of Bermuda’s turtles, conducted in partnership between STC and the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo.
STC would like to thank everyone who made the 2013 Tour de Turtles a great success. Nearly 5,000 people attended sea turtle releases in Florida, Costa Rica, Panama and Nevis. In addition, more than 9,600 people from 119 countries logged on to the Tour de Turtles website in just three months. We hope everyone enjoyed following these 13 turtles on their marathon migration adventures!
We’d also like to give a big thank to all of our wonderful sponsors: – Four Seasons Resort Nevis – Disney’s Animal Programs – Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund – Disney’s Vero Beach Resort – Atlantis Paradise Island – Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay – Ripley’s Aquariums – Tampa Bay Green Consortium – John’s Island Real Estate Company – Turtle & Hughes, Inc. – Sea Turtle Grants Program – Community Foundation for Brevard –Rockwell Collins – Boeing – N.O.A.A. – Florida D.E.P. – RenaissanceRe – Bermuda Department of Conservation Services – Bermuda Zoological Society – Bermuda Turtle Project – Atlantic Conservation Partnership.
Timing is everything. As the 2013 Tour de Turtles approached this summer, one juvenile green sea turtle was still left unsponsored.
It was late July, and Turtle & Hughes CEO Jayne Millard was visiting the Caribbean island of Nevis, coincidentally the very same weekend that Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) was there for a Tour de Turtles event, hosted by turtle sponsor Four Seasons Resort. Millard happened to come across the event as it attracted many spectators to the beach outside her hotel. Intrigued, she decided to meet with STC’s Executive Director David Godfrey, where she learned that one turtle and one cause remained without a sponsor. After hearing that the remaining cause was “light pollution,” Millard knew that Turtle & Hughes would make a perfect match for the last sponsor spot.
Turtle & Hughes is a fourth generation family-owned business based in Linden, New Jersey and one of the nation’s largest electrical and industrial distributors. Established in 1923, the company partners with key manufacturers to serve the industrial, construction, commercial, electrical contracting, OEM, export and utility markets at 17 locations nationwide.
Other than its awesome name (named after one of its founders M. Berry Turtle) the turtle it chose to sponsor was swimming to raise awareness about “light pollution,” an issue that Turtle & Hughes felt it could have a hand in decreasing.
Light pollution is the interference of artificial lights along the beaches with sea turtle hatchlings. When sea turtles hatch, their instinct is to follow moonlight to help them find their way to the water. The artificial lights from commercial buildings, homes and streets can disorient hatchlings and lead them in the opposite direction, which often cause their demise.
Turtle & Hughes handles large lighting projects and has a separate division that performs energy-efficient lighting retrofits similar to those needed to protect sea turtles. It decided to become a Tour de Turtles sponsor to advocate the need to change lighting systems along beaches.
“Turtle & Hughes joined the race to spread the word about sea turtle-friendly lights and fixtures,” Millard said. “In most cases, it’s easy and relatively inexpensive to install new lighting that shields the turtle’s nesting grounds.”
“Relay,” a juvenile green sea turtle that was satellite tagged on August 7, 2013 in Bermuda, became Turtle & Hughes’ sponsored sea turtle. He was named after the company’s mascot.
Relay swam a total of 30 miles by the end of the Tour de Turtles race and in addition to Turtle & Hughes’ generous sponsorship, raised over $400 for the lighting pollution cause.
“Sponsoring Relay was a great opportunity for us to support a worthy cause and become a strong industry advocate for change,” Millard said.
Turtle & Hughes is working to help sea turtles in more ways than one. It recently collaborated with Philips Lighting to promote sea turtle-friendly lighting. As part of this promotion, Philips Lighting will donate a portion of HID lamp sales to STC, based on Turtle & Hughes’ sales of their products.
Aside from supporting the survival of the sea turtle, Turtle & Hughes is also working on the reconstruction of the World Trade Center area. Its services include providing Power Distribution Project Management Services for Tower One (Freedom Tower), Tower Four, World Trade Center Chiller Plant and the Transportation Hub.
Turtle & Hughes is celebrating its 90th year in business. It continues a strong tradition of dedication to customers by providing best solutions. Its motto, “First in the Long Run,” embodies its culture of innovation, service, and heritage.
STC would like to thank Turtle & Hughes for its support in this year’s Tour de Turtles race!
Many of us are familiar with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but what about #GivingTuesday? And what’s with that hashtag symbol? #GivingTuesday is a campaign to create an international day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support non-profit organizations. Taking place on December 3, 2013 –the Tuesday after Thanksgiving– #GivingTuesday aims to harness the power of social media to create an international movement around the holidays dedicated to giving, similar to how Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become days that are synonymous with holiday shopping.
So far, over 4,500 non-profit organizations have signed up to be official #GivingTuesday partners and Sea Turtle Conservancy is excited to announce that we too will be participating in this exciting movement! #GivingTuesday is a time for the world to come together and show how powerful humanity can be when we unite to give on one day. Click here to view STC’s official #GivingTuesday info page.
So how can you participate? You don’t have to be a world leader or billionaire to make a difference. There are many different ways to take part in the #GivingTuesday movement while supporting STC! We created a “Giving Tuesday Pledge Certificate” that you can print out and fill in your own pledge. You can pledge a donation, conservation action, or an activity to educate yourself or others about sea turtles. The possibilities are endless! After you fill out your pledge certificate, send us a picture to show us what you’re pledging. We’ll be sharing photos in the weeks leading up to and throughout the day on #GivingTuesday on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
Need an idea of what to pledge? Click here to watch a video of what some of our supporters are pledging! Here are some other examples:
– Make a donation to Sea Turtle Conservancy
– Start recycling at home/work/school
– Participate in a beach/park/neighborhood trash clean-up
– Adopt a sea turtle from Sea Turtle Conservancy
– Take reusable bags to the store
– Read a book about sea turtles
Don’t feel limited to the pledges above. Create your own and tell us how you are going to give back this year!
Along with STC’s #GivingTuesday Pledge, we’re also encouraging our supporters to make their voices heard on social media by using the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #unselfie.
Not into social media? Not to worry! In the spirit of #GivingTuesday, if we can raise $10,000 by December 31st, Sea Turtle Conservancy’s Board of Directors has offered to match this with a generous donation of $10,000!! That doubles your donation! Donations can be made on STC’s website or mailed in from December 3rd – 31st.
So save the date and join the movement to celebrate giving with STC! “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill
On November 14, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced that Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) had been awarded a major grant to support our efforts to address impacts to wildlife from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This significant grant awards STC $1.5 million for a two-year project addressing coastal lighting problems in the Florida Panhandle. Out of the hundreds of project proposals submitted for work in the state of Florida, only six were selected for funding in this first series of grants. This award will allow STC to significantly expand our successful lighting work, which is being overseen by STC’s Lighting Specialist Karen Shudes.
Since STC began conducting lighting retrofit projects in 2010, problem lights at over 80 coastal properties throughout Florida have been retrofitted with sea turtle friendly lighting, helping to restore darkness to over 10.5 miles of prime sea turtle nesting habitat, and saving an estimated 16,000 hatchlings that otherwise would have been disoriented by lights. These results, combined with the financial benefits associated with using energy-efficient LEDs, make this project replicable in other coastal communities where poorly managed artificial lighting degrades nesting habitat.
This new project will greatly increase sea turtle hatchling survivorship on Florida Panhandle nesting beaches by correcting problematic lights on private properties with a history of sea turtle disorientations. The project will target problem lights adjacent to existing dark areas in order to improve contiguous stretches of beach rather than small pockets of habitat. Willing property owners will be identified and complete retrofits of beachfront lights that impact the nesting beach.
Florida hosts over 90% of all sea turtle nesting in the continental United States, including the largest population of loggerheads in the Western Hemisphere and regionally significant nesting populations of green turtles, leatherbacks and Kemp’s ridleys.
As coastal development continues around the state, the problem of beachfront lighting continues to hamper sea turtle recovery efforts. Each year tens of thousands of nesting females and hatchlings are negatively impacted by artificial beachfront lights, with thousands never making it to the sea to help recover these diminished populations, which were particularly impacted by the Gulf oil spill in 2010. While significant funds have been allocated to reduce light pollution on public property, comparatively little funding has been available to bring privately-owned lights into compliance. The counties of the Panhandle of Florida that are targeted in this proposal are part of the Northern Gulf Coast Recovery Unit for loggerhead turtles, which is the nesting assemblage most at risk for this population and whose beaches had the most direct impacts from the spill.
For more background information on STC’s lighting initiatives, you can read our 2011 Velador article, “Addressing Florida’s Beachfront Lighting Problem.” To learn more about STC’s successful lighting work, check out our video, “Darker Beaches, Brighter Future,” which was created to accompany our traveling lighting displays.
My name is Courtney Kramer. I have been the Education Intern at Sea Turtle Conservancy for a little over a year now. I’m in my freshman year at the University of Florida, majoring in Environmental Science and minoring in Nonprofit Organizational Leadership. As STC’s Education Intern, I manage the AdvoKids program, which is a program dedicated to get youth involved in sea turtle and ocean conservation.
I’m always interested in learning about new ways to get young people excited about conservation and the environment, which is why I was thrilled when I got the chance to attend an environmental conference called Power Shift in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania several weeks ago.
Power Shift brought together a group of passionate, active youth in an effort to support the environment. The thought of a conference typically produces images of stuffy wealthy men in a suit and tie. This particular “conference,” however, was more than its connotation: it was a gathering, a union. It was inspiration, networking, passion and enthusiasm all for the environment.
I left October 17th, a Thursday evening on a bus with 47 other college students from the University of Florida, Florida Atlantic University and University of North Florida. You can imagine a bus full of young hippies can make for a pretty interesting ride. After 17 hours of guitar songs, 2 cranky bus drivers, beautiful scenery, pita bread and a quick stop at IHOP, we finally arrived Friday afternoon in a city with 7,000 congregated new people, mostly youth, from across the nation.
We started the event with a number of speakers from all over the world, both young and old. Some were leaders of well-recognized organizations while others had been directly impacted when their hometown was devastated by environmental catastrophes such as mountain top removal. One particular speaker was a 12-year-old girl indigenous to the Sliammon First Nation. She explained that many of the customs her family were once able to practice, she now cannot practice anymore because of environmental destruction. Her presence alone was full of passion, professionalism and sincerity, and captivated the audience.
The next day was a career fair composed of a number of organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Greenpeace, as well as smaller organizations and clubs such as IDEAS (Intellectual Decisions on Environmental Awareness Solutions). I was able to network with a number of people who played a large role within organizations, such as the President of the EPA.
On Monday, over a thousand people from Power Shift walked the streets holding signs to protest fracking and raise awareness about the importance of clean energy development and a “just economy.” Fracking occurs when fossil fuels are extracted out of mountains and natural gas is released. When this happens, the surrounding areas become contaminated; this includes the local people’s drinking water. Many people passing by on the street would come up to me and ask what was going on. It was amazing to see just how much curiosity and awareness this event created.
Throughout my trip, I met so many new and interesting people. Some of them I hope to make life-long friends. I am grateful to have met so many determined, amazing young people who are driven with the same passion as I.
It is this same inspiration that Power Shift has shown me, I hope to show other young people. The planet needs to be protected. It is only with the next generation’s help that this is possible. I hope to teach our future generation the importance of protecting our planet, including its beautiful oceans. The work that STC does not only supports sea turtles, but other marine life. For example, STC supports “sea-turtle-friendly” fishing nets and practices. These nets and practices often affect other sea creatures such as dolphins, sting rays and coral. Efforts that children can participate in to protect sea turtles have many direct influences on the health of the ocean. Such efforts include hosting a clean-up, educating the public or raising money in support of sea turtle and ocean conservation organizations. In order to have a more sustainable future, we need to involve our youngest generation now! For more ideas on how to get involved, stay tuned for upcoming information about the new AdvoKids page or check out the Get Involved section on our website: /involved.php?page=actions
Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) is committed to protecting the natural habitats upon which sea turtles depend, while also recognizing the interconnectedness of all habitats and the role they play in our ecosystem. Many species of plants and animals make their home in the coastal and estuarine waters of Florida. Coastal economies are dependent on these natural resources, Floridians take great pride in these waters and tourists from all over the world come to visit them. But one of these bodies of water is in serious trouble.
The Indian River Lagoon (IRL) spans 150 miles along Florida’s Atlantic Coast from the Ponce de Leon Inlet in Volusia County to Jupiter Inlet in Palm Beach County. It is an estuary, a body of water where freshwater mixes with ocean saltwater. This waterway is one of the most biologically diverse estuarine systems in the United States, home to more than 4,300 different species of plants and animals—including 35 that are threatened or endangered.
Over the past year, a record number of dolphins, manatees and pelicans have turned up dead in this waterway. Scientists have seen large amounts of algae blooms in the waterway, some of them toxic, and there is a clear imbalance in the ecosystem. Almost 47,000 acres of vital lagoon sea grass have died from algae blooms since 2011. Biologists liken this trend to a rain forest dying. In some areas, the water has turned from clear blues and greens to a coffee-colored dark brown and people have been advised to stay out of the water. While people have this choice, the wildlife does not.
Although the exact cause of the Lagoon’s problems is unknown, there are a few possible culprits. To prevent Lake Okeechobee from overflowing or compromising the dike around the lake, water from the lake is released into a canal that drains into the IRL. Water from Lake Okeechobee carries high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus which could be causing algae blooms. Inadequate sewage treatment, street runoff and effluent from septic tanks in the area could also be affecting the water. There are approximately 237,000 septic tanks in just three of the counties that sit on the Lagoon.
So far, scientists have not identified any direct effect on sea turtles that occupy the Lagoon, but STC is closely monitoring the situation. Sea turtles of various age classes utilize the Lagoon for foraging and as a developmental habitat. Ecosystems such as the IRL are complicated and overall health is determined by many interacting variables. Educating the public and elected officials about this crisis is imperative for the recovery and long-term survival of the IRL.
Recently on National Estuaries Day, STC partnered with the Barrier Island Sanctuary Management and Education Center (BIC) in “Hands Across the Lagoon,” an event to help bring attention to the estuary’s fragile state. People in all five neighboring counties located on the Lagoon were asked to stand up for its protection and restoration. Thousands came out and held hands across bridges over the Lagoon showing their support. Click here to watch a cool video about the event! Following the event, participants were invited to the BIC for environmental education activities to learn more about our country’s most diverse estuary.
While small steps have been made toward improving the health of the Lagoon, we encourage everyone to get involved in the process. The first place to start is to know what is happening. Check out these upcoming events to learn more about the crisis:
The Brevard County Board of County Commission is holding a workshop to find solutions to the current IRL issue on Thursday, October 17th at 6:00 p.m. at the Ted Moorhead Lagoon House in Palm Bay. CLICK HERE to see the agenda and speakers for the workshop.
The Brevard Naturalist Program is holding an information session on November 2 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Cocoa Beach Public Library, followed by a paddling trip to the Thousand Islands. CLICK HERE for more info or register for the event HERE.
STC at the BIC is hosting a special stewardship workshop, “Recipes to Save the Indian River Lagoon” on Saturday, November 16th. The workshop includes guest expert speakers sharing what has been happening to life in the IRL and how we can help restore it, a spoil island marine debris clean up, and a shoreline restoration mangrove planting. See this flyer for more info and how to sign up!
After adopting Albina, the third graders of Lake Canyon Elementary in California were inspired to study sea turtles. In doing so, they created a “Readers Theatre” for their school, where they shared their knowledge of sea turtles and provided tips on ways to help conservation efforts. Their classroom became known as the “Sea Turtle Room.” During open house, many students not in the class brought in their parents to teach them about sea turtles. The school then put on a fundraiser called the “Color Me Run.” Classes choose a charity to run for, collected pledges and ran while getting sprayed with colored paint. The event was even covered in the local news! The third grade class raised an amazing $226 for STC. Excellent work Lake Canyon Elementary!!! Thank you for your support in helping sea turtles!
After researching the French islands, Central Middle School in Maryland discovered the eminent threats to sea turtles which nest on these islands. Their focus was to promote responsible tourism on the French islands where sea turtles were found. To raise awareness and money, the school held a turtle art competition. After only one week, they collected $1,005 to support STC! Way to go Central Middle School!!! Thank you for your support!
Check out this blog post on blog o’animals by Lexie Beach about the 2013 Tour de Turtles: http://lexiepbeach.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/tour-de-turtles/
Great photos and video!
In order for STC to succeed in our mission, environmental education is paramount. In Tortuguero, Education and Outreach Coordinator, Georgina Zamora, plans and implements relevant curriculum in the local kindergarten, elementary/middle school, and high school (among other programs). Alongside Georgina, Research Assistants, interns, and Eco-Volunteers engage the young community members in hands-on activities not only focused on sea turtles, but also environmental issues, the three R’s, and the spectacular animals and plants found in Costa Rica. We hope that we can develop environmental awareness in Tortuguero’s young people so they are curious and protective of the gorgeous landscape surrounding them. We also hope to foster a sense of critical thinking about solutions to real-world problems.
In mid-July in Tortuguero, locals, tourists and media joined STC to watch the release of two green turtles freshly outfitted with satellite transmitters. Not even a tropical storm on the second day could stop over 200 well-wishers from excitedly cheering on the new contestants in this year’s Tour de Turtles on-line migration event (www.tourdeturtles.org).
There was a rare opportunity for people to see these beautiful creatures, aptly named Mora and Cruz, in the daylight and everyone here in Tortuguero has their fingers crossed that either one will be crowned the winner of this year’s Tour de Turtles ‘race!’
The green turtle season is off to an incredibly lucky start in Tortuguero. As soon as this season’s research assistants arrived at the Sea Turtle Conservancy Research Station, the turtles began emerging from the sea in numbers. By the end of their first week, the 2013 Green Turtle Research Assistants had the opportunity to work with hawksbills, leatherbacks, and green turtles. If this is an indicator of what’s to come, it is going to be a great season!
On June 21st, The Flying Corkscrew in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida, will be tasting Weibel Family Vineyard’s limited edition Sea Turtle Selection blended red and white wines. Starting at 5 pm, visit The Flying Corkscrew learn about the wines and how the proceeds are helping Sea Turtle Conservancy. In addition to the contribution from Weibel Family Vineyards, the store will be donating another $1.25 per bottle sold. As they say at The Flying Corkscrew, come savor a glass and help save a turtle!
For more information, visit The Flying Corkscrew at 1877 S. Patrick Dr., Indian Harbour Beach, call (321)773-8757, or visit their website at www.theflyingcorkscrewflorida.com.