Category Archives: Get Involved


Attend the 2018 Southeast Regional Sea Turtle Meeting in Myrtle Beach Feb. 12-16, 2018

2018 Southeast Regional Sea Turtle Meeting

February 12-16, 2018 – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Swimming on a Changing Tide

Make plans to join sea turtle researchers, academics, volunteers, and conservationists traveling from Virginia to Texas to attend the 4th Southeast Regional Sea Turtle Meeting!

Meeting in a snapshot . . .

Two Keynote Speakers kick off two full session days featuring special sessions on Changing Climate, Sustainable Beaches, and Science that Supports Conservation and Recovery.

 David Helvarg, Executive Director of Blue Frontier, is an award-winning journalist and passionate advocate for ocean conservation as well as the author of six books.  David has worked as a war correspondent in Northern Ireland and Central America, covered a range of issues from military science to the AIDS epidemic and reported from every continent including Antarctica.

Nicole Hernandez Hammer, climate science and community advocate at the Union of Concerned Scientists, previously served UCS as a climate outreach consultant and was invited by Michelle Obama to the 2015 State of the Union address.  Nicole has given numerous interviews for local and national media, and made an appearance in National Geographic’s television series on climate change: Years of Living Dangerously.

Workshops

Fancy building, programming and flying an unmanned aerial drone for wildlife conservation research?

How about a closer look at the causes of sea turtle strandings and the latest developments in sea turtle rehabilitation?

Ready to explore a career in the world of sea turtle conservation or learn about political advocacy in advancing sea turtle conservation?

What about addressing the common themes and issues of volunteer groups and the vital role they play in conservation?

SERSTM Exhibitors/Vendors will be set up and ready to sell, share, and educate. The Silent Auction will be in full swing with unique items waiting for your bids.  Feel free to donate, bid, and peruse to your hearts content.

The Southeast Regional Sea Turtle Meeting is offering a very special workshop for the first time ever available to the public only.  Turtle Ambassadors: How Citizens Can Aid in Sea Turtle Conservation promises to be enlightening and connect the local community with representatives from several organizations skilled in teaching how to be an active participant in sea turtle conservation. Click here to download the flyer! Click here to download the flyer!

You can do all this, and more, at the 2018 Southeast Regional Sea Turtle Meeting.  Check out the links below and we’ll see you in Myrtle Beach!

www.serstm.org                 https://www.facebook.com/SoutheastRegionalSeaTurtleMeeting

Abstract Submission:           http://www.serstm.org/abstracts-posters/

Accommodation:                http://www.serstm.org/home/accommodations/

Exhibitors/Vendors:            http://www.serstm.org/home/vendor/

Registration:                      http://www.serstm.org/home/registration-2/

Workshops:                        http://www.serstm.org/home/workshops/

Mission Statement:  In order to advance marine turtle knowledge and conservation efforts from Virginia to Texas, the Southeast Regional Sea Turtle Meeting facilitates the presentation and exchange of scientific research from diverse disciplines conducted on the beaches and waters of the southeastern United States.

Wanted: Sea Turtle Photos for STC’s 2018 Calendar!

Calling all photographers! Sea Turtle Conservancy is looking for talented photographers (amateur or professional) for our 10th annual Sea Turtle Calendar Contest! The sea turtle calendar reminds people throughout the year that sea turtles need our help to survive, and it includes important sea turtle dates like World Sea Turtle Day, Earth Day and World Oceans Day. Contributing to the calendar is a great way to help spread the word about sea turtle conservation!

We had an amazing calendar filled with beautiful images last year, and we are looking forward to the great submissions for next year’s calendar! We are only accepting photograph submissions for the 2018 calendar, NO artwork.

Photo submissions along with the Photography Permission Form should be sent to lexie@conserveturtles.org no later than October 1, 2017 and must follow the criteria below:

  • Include photographer’s name, brief description of the image, location and date it was taken.
  • Image must be submitted by the actual photographer or include written permission for submission from the photographer.
  • Image must show turtles in a natural setting and follow turtle-friendly guidelines (i.e. no flash images of nesting sea turtles, no images of people handling sea turtles, etc.)
  • Initial email submissions should be a small file (no larger than 10 MB) but a high resolution version of the image must be available for final printing if selected.
  • Photographers may only enter a maximum of three photographs.

The winners will be announced in STC’s monthly e-newsletter (Sea Turtle Talk), website and Facebook. Each winner will receive two free calendars and an STC logo t-shirt!

By submitting your image to lexie@conserveturtles.org before September 29, 2017, you are granting STC rights to use your photography for the 2017 Sea Turtle Scenes Calendar and other STC education initiatives. STC will not distribute your image without your written permission.

If you’re interested in submitting a photo, you must include the Photography Permission Form in your submission. Good luck!

Help STC Collect 500 Cell Phones for Sea Turtles!

Are you planning to upgrade your phone and don’t know what to do with your old one? Or maybe you have a drawer full of old cell phones and electronics collecting dust? Great news… You can recycle your old devices and raise money for sea turtles at the same time with SecondWave Recycling!

cell phonesSecondWave Recycling partners with non-profits to fundraise by recycling cell phones, tablets and iPods! SecondWave will donate 100% of the wholesale value of the device to STC. This program also keeps phones out of landfills, which prevents harmful toxins from potentially seeping into waterways. The materials that go into these devices also have more than just one life and can be used for new technology!

Since partnering with SecondWave in 2014, STC supporters have helped recycle over 800 phones and earned $1,035 in donations for sea turtles!

Our new goal is to collect 500 more cell phones by March 31st. Help us reach our goal and save sea turtles!

Sending in your phone is quick, easy, and FREE if you send in 4 or more phones at once! To donate your cell phone, all you have to do is visit www.secondwaverecycling.com/, click Donate Your Phone, choose Sea Turtle Conservancy as your Charity and print out your mailing label. Or if you are planning to send in multiple devices, you can click here to get a FREE FedEx shipping label!

**NOTE – Free shipping labels can only be provided for US-based shipments. For international shipments, please use your local postal carrier and ship to the SecondWave Recycling Office.**

 

Besides helping sea turtles, here are a few other reasons why you should donate your old phone:

Secondwave step 1The mining of metals for cell phones and other electronics is the #1 cause of toxic pollution in the United States.

 

One million cell phones contain 33 pounds of palladium, 75 pounds of gold, 772 pounds of silver and 35,274 pounds of copper. These resources can be recovered and used to make new cell phones.

Secondwave step 2

 

Cell phones contain toxic materials such as Arsenic, Antimony, Beryllium, Cadmium, Copper, Lead, Nickel and Zinc. If these materials are not properly disposed of they can contaminate air, soil and groundwater. The Cadmium from a single cell phone is capable of polluting 158,200 gallons of water.

 

Secondwave step 3

If we recycled every cell phone discarded in the United States annually we would save enough energy to power more than 24,000 homes for a year. Recycling just one cell phone saves enough energy to power a laptop for 44 hours!

 

 

Questions about our SecondWave Recycling campaign? Email lexie@conserveturtles.org 

Build a Drone Workshop: Sign Up Now and Fly for Conservation!

Kashmir World Foundation (KwF), in collaboration with Sea Turtle Conservancy and Brevard County, Florida, will be conducting a 3-day hands-on workshop on the design, fabrication and operation of programmable multi-copters for use in environmental monitoring. The workshop will assist you in creating a basic platform to evaluate a variety of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for diverse habitats and environments while providing the expertise you need to build, maintain, and fly your drone.

Dates and Times:
Drone Building Days, August 11 & 12: 10 am—4 pm
Flight Day, August 13: 7 am—2 pm
Backup Flight Day, August 14
Location:
Barrier Island Center, Melbourne FL
8385 S Hwy A1A Melbourne Beach, FL 32951

 

REGISTER & ORDER DRONE KITS ONLINE AT:

http://www.kashmirworldfoundation.org/#!bic/cslv

To download event flyer: FlyForConservation

This workshop is in partnership with Kashmir World Foundation, Sea Turtle Conservancy, the Barrier Island Center, Brevard County Parks and Rec., and the Environmentally Endangered Lands Program.

KWFlogo

STC-Horizontal

BICBCPlogoEEL logo

Celebrate Endangered Species Day!

The 11th annual Endangered Species Day is May 20th, 2016! Endangered Species Day was created by Congress in an effort to raise awareness of the many endangered, threatened, and at risk species and the critical role they play in their environments.

Many zoos, parks, wildlife refuges, museums, schools and community centers, among other participants, will host educational events to  promote and celebrate Endangered Species Day and the reasons behind its creation. To find an event near you, visit http://www.endangered.org/campaigns/endangered-species-day/

esd

Endangered Species Day raises awareness about the many endangered species we have in our own communities. For example, did you know Florida has more endangered species than any other Atlantic state? Population growth coupled with habitat loss, tourism, and pollution are just a few factors that have imperiled  many species in our state. In addition, Endangered Species Day is also a great time to celebrate success stories, like the recovery of the green turtle, the alligator, and the bald eagle.Thanks to the significant strides we have made under the Endangered Species Act, we are celebrating more and more success stories with each passing year.

leatherback_scottbenson_noaa

Photo retrieved from Endangered Species Coalition

For decades all sea turtles in U.S. waters have been listed under the Endangered Species Act, which was created in 1973.They are  protected by the NOAA Fisheries in the ocean and by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in their beach nesting habitats along U.S. coasts. In the United States threats to sea turtles include habitat loss, pollution and disease, boat strikes, entanglement in marine debris and accidental capture in fisheries. However, unlike other species of sea turtles, green turtles interact less with fisheries, which has contributed significantly to their recovery and made them an Endangered Species Act success story. During the nesting season of 1990, fewer than 50 green sea turtles were documented at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge on Florida’s east coast. By 2005, there were just over 3,000 nests. In the most recent nesting season of 2015, green sea turtles set a new record with 14,152 nests! This comeback makes green turtles one of the greatest conservation success stories of our time. The species’ success can be attributed to the Endangered Species Act, STC and all other supporters who worked tirelessly to give green turtles a fighting chance.

julie

Green Sea Turtle by Julie Suess

Sea turtles are not the only species that have had huge success stories thanks to the Endangered Species Act. Many species you may encounter on a regular basis in Florida were once on the brink of extinction. In the 1950s, the American alligator had nearly been hunted to extinction, but thanks to habitat protections and strong hunting regulations, their population from North Carolina to Texas has increased to about 5 million. The brown pelican was dramatically impacted by loss of habitat, but under the Endangered Species Act, they have made a strong comeback, and were officially removed from the endangered species list in 2009. Our national bird, the bald eagle, numbered in the hundreds in the 1960s, but with protection and  the elimination of the pesticide DDT, which made eggs to fragile to hatch, its numbers have soared to over 14,000 breeding pairs today. The Endangered Species Act protects 1,357 species of animals (694 U.S. species) and 901 species of plants (898 U.S. species), and has prevented their extinction, which in turn helps to maintain healthy and sustainable ecosystems and a healthy planet.

On Endangered Species Day celebrate the Act’s successes and keep the momentum going!

1. Learn about endangered species 
The best way to protect endangered species is learning about them and why they’re important. So teach yourself and educate those around you about the value of endangered species and why they are worth saving in their own right. STC’s educational program empowers sea turtle groups throughout Florida, provides educational materials and uses the concept of sea turtle migration tracking as an online educational tool.  Learn more about endangered species by visiting the official site of the US Fish and Wildlife Service at www.fws.gov/endangered

Archie Carr refuge sign2. Visit a national wildlife refuge, park or other open space
These places are home to a lot of different species, and preserving an endangered species’ habitat is essential to protecting the species. You can help by visiting a refuge close to where you live and become a volunteer. The Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Florida is a major safe haven for sea turtles. About 25 % of Florida’s  sea turtle nesting  occurs in the Refuge.

3. Make your home wildlife friendly
Secure garbage in shelters or cans with locking lids and feed pets indoors to avoid attracting wild animals to your home. Taking these actions can keep animals like raccoons, which are sea turtle predators, away. Reduce your use of water in your home and garden so animals that live in or near water can have a better chance of survival. If you live on the beach you can make your home sea turtle friendly by implementing sea turtle lighting.

4. Plant native plants
Native plants provide food and shelter for native animals. You can plant sea oats on the beach to help prevent dune erosion and provide habitat for sea turtle nesting. STC conducts native dune vegetation planting to provide an additional buffer to reduce or eliminate unwanted light on the beach and to enhance nesting habitat at various project sites in the Florida panhandle.

5. Stay away from herbicides and pesticides
Herbicides and pesticides may keep yards looking nice, but they are in fact hazardous pollutants that affect wildlife at many levels. Many herbicides and pesticides take a long time to degrade and build up in soil and throughout the food chain. For alternatives to pesticides, visit http://www.beyondpesticides.org.

Turtle Crossing-Robin Loznak

Photo by Robin Loznak

6. Slow down when driving
One of the main obstacles for wildlife in developed areas is roads. Animals that live in developed areas navigate in areas full of human hazards and roads present wildlife with a dangerous threat. So when you’re driving, slow down and be on the lookout for wildlife. You should also apply these practices while boating to avoid harming sea turtles and other endangered species in the water.

7. Recycle and buy sustainable productsdownload
Recycle anything that can be recycled and buy sustainable products as a simple gift to nature and its species. We love reusable glass straws from Strawesome and snack bags from LunchSkins!

8. Never purchase products made from threatened or endangered species
Overseas trips can be exciting and fun, and everyone wants a souvenir. But sometimes the souvenirs are made from species nearing extinction. Avoid supporting the market for illegal wildlife products such as tortoise-shell, ivory and coral. Hawksbill sea turtle shells are often used to be made into sunglasses, jewelry and other trinkets because of their beautiful shell pattern.

9. Stand up for wildlife
Harassing wildlife is cruel and illegal. Harmful behavior such as disturbing and distracting sea turtles is illegal and can be reported by calling any of the numbers listed on our website.

10. Protect wildlife habitat
Perhaps the greatest threat that faces many species is the widespread destruction of habitat.  Environmental issues such as oil and gas drilling and development result in habitat destruction. Habitats belonging to endangered species should be protected so the impact on endangered species is minimized.

Any effort to help an endangered species is appreciated, so participate and celebrate national Endangered Species Day on May 20th, 2016!

 

Tips for Sea Turtle Nesting Season May – October

It’s that time of the year again; nesting season is here in the state of Florida! The majority of nesting in Florida occurs between May 1st and October 31st.  About 90% of all sea turtle nesting in the United States takes place on Florida’s beaches, which means it is critical that residents and visitors alike do their part to ensure that sea turtles have a safe and successful nesting season. By reading the tips below, you can do your part to make sure they’re made part of your beach routine!

Loggerhead returns to sea after nesting (Photo Credit: Blair Witherington)

Loggerhead returns to sea after nesting (Photo Credit: Blair Witherington)

Use sea turtle-friendly lights or no lights at all! In order to prevent nesting and hatchling turtles from wandering off track, your beachfront property should use sea turtle friendly lighting. You can also help by closing drapes and blinds, and shield or turn off outdoor lights that are visible on the beach. Sea turtle hatchlings can become easily disoriented by bright lights on the coast from hotels and beachfront properties. By following these steps, you can encourage females to nest and lead hatchlings in the right direction, the ocean!

Tracks from disoriented hatchlings. Their tracks should lead straight to the sea.

Tracks from disoriented hatchlings. Their tracks should lead straight to the sea.

Knock down sandcastles and fill in holes! Although this is every kid’s nightmare, it’s important to knock your sandcastle over and flatten out the sand at the end of the day. Additionally, filling in all holes made in the sand can avoid the entrapment of hatchlings while on their way to the water. Even the nesting mothers can become stuck in these holes when crawling up the beach to nest. Furthermore, remove all beach accessories, such as tents, umbrellas, toys, and chairs. These can prevent obstacles for both the mother and the hatchlings.

An adult loggerhead fell into a large hole on the beach and had to be rescued by Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol

An adult loggerhead fell into a large hole on the beach and had to be rescued by Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol

Avoid the attraction of unwanted pests. Raccoon, foxes, coyotes and other types of animals all have one thing in common: they love our leftovers. Raccoons destroy thousands of sea turtle eggs each year and are one of the greatest causes of sea turtle mortality on Florida’s beaches. Leaving food outside for neighborhood dogs and cats also attracts raccoons. You can help deter these animals from destroying sea turtle eggs by cleaning up food and additional trash after a day at the beach.

Program the phone number for your area’s wildlife stranding hotline into your phone so you’ll be prepared if you happen to encounter a dead, sick, stranded or injured sea turtle. It is also important to report any harassment of sea turtles or disturbance of nests. In Florida, you can call FWC Wildlife Alert Number at 1-888-404-3922 or visit their website. For other states, you can find a list of contact info here.

nesting tape FWC

Don’t interfere with the nesting or hatching process. It’s important to allow hatchlings to crawl to the water on their own. Many scientists believe the journey from nest to water allows them to imprint on their own beach. Picking up hatchlings may interfere with this process. It is also illegal to touch sea turtles under both federal and state laws.

Don’t place beach furniture too close to a marked nest. If possible, place furniture at least 5 feet away. Furniture can mislead turtles during the hatching process and also entrap them. Also make sure to put away your beach furniture at the end of the day as they become a dangerous obstacle for a nesting turtles.

Loggerhead turtle stuck under a chair that was left on the beach. Photo via Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch

Loggerhead turtle stuck under a chair that was left on the beach. Photo via Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch

Don’t use fireworks on the beach. Although this can be tempting with 4th of July right around the corner, think about how the loud noises and bright lights can disturb nesting females. Instead, many local organizations hold inland fireworks displays for your enjoyment. Bonfires on the beach also pose a danger to sea turtles.no fireworks

If you would like to watch a nesting turtle, join an organized sea turtle walk. In Florida and other states where sea turtles nest, turtle watches are conducted by trained and permitted individuals. The goal is to educate people about sea turtles through direct contact, without disturbing the turtles. Register to join an STC Turtle Walk and learn more information about nesting season by visiting our website at /.

Photo courtesy Greg Lovett, Palm Beach Post

Photo courtesy Greg Lovett, Palm Beach Post (taken using long-exposure, no flash)

Join STC for a Cuba Sea Turtle Expedition in June 2016!

Join Sea Turtle Conservancy for the second annual Cuba Sea Turtle Expedition! STC is partnering with the Cuba Marine Research and Conservation Program, The Ocean Foundation and Holbrook Travel to offer a Sea Turtle and Cultural Expedition to Cuba from June 25th – July 3rd, 2016.

MAIN-nesting-sea-turtle-stock

Participants will visit Havana, the Guanahacabibes Peninsula and Vinales over the course of the expedition. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ITINERARY

Participants will have the opportunity to look for turtles coming ashore on the beaches of the Guanahacabibes Peninsula and observe the nesting process.

The group will return to a turtle nesting beach the following day to document any tracks from the previous night.

Hours later, participants will return to the turtle beach where they will have the opportunity to help the researchers measure the turtles and record data.

Program highlights:

Photo of Havana by Andrea Holbrook

  • Travel with two experts from the Sea Turtle Conservancy and a Cuban marine turtle specialist.
  • Observe the nesting process of green sea turtles and collect data with biologists.
  • Snorkel the clear waters of the coral reef at Maria la Gorda(optional scuba diving may also be available at an additional charge).
  • Meet with local conservationists, marine researchers and a wildlife artist.
  • Visit the picturesque town of Vinales.
  • Stop at Hemingway’s home, Finca La Vigia.
  • Support the ongoing research and conservation projects of The Ocean Foundation

Participants will also enjoy activities such as a walking tour of Old Havana, a visit to the National Museum of 20150910_172220Natural History, a visit to the Alamar Organoponic Gardens and leisure time.

The beaches of the Guanahacabibes National Park are home to the second largest breeding population of green sea turtles in Cuba with an average of more than 300 nests per season.

2013 was a record year for the park’s beaches with nearly 900 nests recorded!

Through the efforts of University of Havana’s Center for Marine Investigations, an estimated 14,000 hatchlings were saved. You will get to participate directly in this successful Cuban conservation program, with a portion of your trip fees going directly to support this ongoing work.

Watch below to see STCs Cuba expedition from last year:

Program pricing:

  • $3285 plus airfare

Cost includes gratuities, Miami/Tampa hotel and donations to the Cuban Society for the Protection of the Environment and Sea Turtle Conservancy.

Cost does not include international airfare estimated at $575 from Miami or Tampa (estimate includes visa fee).

Information and registration:

  • To see a full itinerary of the expedition and secure your spot, visit Holbrook travel’s website link here: http://www.holbrooktravel.com/where-we-travel/americas/cuba/cuba-sea-turtle-expedition-sea-turtle-conservancy-0 
  • For further questions, contact Lisa Palmese-Graubard by email at lisa@holbrooktravel.com or by phone at 800-451-7111 x339

Enter Your Turtle Art for a Chance to Win a 3 Night Stay at the Four Seasons Resort in Nevis!

**UPDATE: CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED! WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED LATER THIS MONTH!**

July 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of Sea Turtle Conservancy’s Sea Turtle Weekend at the Four Seasons Resort Nevis, West Indies. To celebrate, STC and the Four Seasons are welcoming turtle lovers to join the Sea Turtle Art Contest!

Cert Picture

July 2015 Nevis Tour de Turtles release

For a chance to win a three-night stay at the Resort, artists and conservationists are invited to submit an original artistic design depicting sea turtles through the Resort’s Facebook page.

FS4

Photo credit: Four Seasons Resort Nevis, West Indies

FS2

Photo credit: Four Seasons Resort Nevis, West Indies

One design will be selected based on creativity, turtle imagery and simplicity, and the winner, along with a guest, will be flown to Nevis to partake in Four Seasons Resort Nevis’ Sea Turtle Weekend, July 15-18, 2016. Along with a weekend-long, sea turtle-themed program, you also will help scientists track, catch, tag and release these majestic creatures. The winning design will also be placed on T-shirts, and all profits will go to the Sea Turtle Conservancy to continue to raise awareness for the protection and education of sea turtles.

Neve (6)

July 2012 Nevis Tour de Turtles release

The deadline to enter is March 31st. Entries will be judged on creativity, turtle imagery, and simplicity. For more details, and to enter, use this link: http://shout.lt/bsNMd

For questions about the contest, please email lexie@conserveturtles.org

**UPDATE: CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED! WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED LATER THIS MONTH!**

 

Sea Turtle Conservancy Presents “Ahead of the Tide”

 

Ahead of the Tide

Sea Turtle Conservancy is proud to announce the release of a series of short videos about sea level rise and the need to protect Florida’s beaches in an era of rising seas. The video series, Ahead of the Tide, was produced in partnership with the nonprofit organization CAVU.

Sea level rise will have serious and long term impacts to the state’s sea turtle nesting beaches.  Our hope is that this series of short, powerful films will help to serve as a Call to Action for all Floridians to demand that our elected leaders, government agencies and coastal communities begin planning for sea level rise in order to protect Florida’s most valuable asset — its natural sandy beaches — both for sea turtles and for people. Below is Chapter One – Florida’s Lifeblood.

Sea Turtle Conservancy believes many specific actions can be taken and policies implemented to reduce the impacts of sea level rise and climate change on sea turtle nesting beaches while also helping to protect our beaches and to ensure coastal resiliency.  Most importantly we have to start making the right and smart decisions now. Of the hundreds of pages that make up Florida’s coastal development and beach management laws there is no mention of sea level rise despite the fact that Florida’s beaches are ground zero for impacts. We hope these videos will help raise awareness and empower citizens to demand that our elected officials take action. The state’s beaches belong to all Floridians; they define our state.

You can sign up to be alerted when future chapters of this series are released by visiting Aheadofthetide.org.

Save the Date! #GivingTuesday is Dec. 1st!

The holidays are near, which means it’s time to celebrate generosity and give! On December 1, 2015 Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) will be participating for a third time in #GivingTuesday. #GivingTuesday provides one day to make a BIG difference!

GivingTuesday Banner 2015 with STC logo copy

STC needs your help on this special day to support the Barrier Island Center (BIC)!  The BIC, located in Melbourne, FL in the heart of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, is an education and outreach center which provides free or low-cost programs to visitors, local schools and community members.

These programs help to educate the public about the important eco-systems of the barrier island, wetlands, and lagoon. These areas provide vital nesting and foraging habitat for sea turtles. Since the BIC opened in 2008 over 245,000 adults and children have been able to learn through hands-on activities such as Eco-Explorers summer camps, oyster mat making, sand dune planting, and much more.

Unfortunately, the BIC recently learned it would not be receiving an annual grant of $15,000 to help fund education programs and other operating costs.

Join the movement and help STC continue it’s efforts to further these educational programs.

Can we count you in for #GivingTuesday? Help us reach our $15,000 goal! Click here to participate!

STC’s First Turtle Expedition to Cuba

Since 2000, when Sea Turtle Conservancy waged a successful campaign to block a proposal by the Cuban government to reopen international trade of sea turtle products, STC has been trying to build collaborative relationships with Cuban sea turtle researchers. For example, STC facilitated the participation of two Cuban biologists in the International Sea Turtle Symposium. We included several young Cuban biologists as turtle Research Assistants in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, where they gained valuable field experience. And in Bermuda, a biology student from Cuba was sponsored to participate in a course offered by STC and our partners that teaches in-water techniques for studying sea turtles. Despite these efforts to build relations in Cuba, STC’s ability to directly participation in turtle research or conservation in Cuba has been stymied by longstanding restrictions against American travel to the country…until now.

20150906_100404 As widely reported in the news, President Obama recently took steps to improve diplomatic relations with Cuba. The U.S. Embassy in Havana has reopened, and the State Department announced new guidelines making it easier for American citizens to travel to Cuba by participating in authorized “People to People” programs. Immediately following this announcement, STC partnered with the Ocean Foundation and Holbrook Travel to organize a turtle research and cultural exchange expedition to Cuba that would meet the new qualifications and allow STC to explore opportunities for collaborating with sea turtle researchers in one of Cuba’s most pristine national parks. Once our trip was approved by the State Department, STC officially opened registration to members and supporters, and all 20 spaces were filled rapidly.

STC’s first expedition to Cuba took place over eight days in September. Leading the expedition were STC Executive Director David Godfrey and Scientific Director Dr. Emma Harrison. Also participating in the trip were an enthusiastic mix of STC donors, Florida turtle volunteers, scuba divers from around the US and even the UK, an architect, and even a turtle conservationist from Hawaii. During our journey through Cuba we interacted with the amazing and friendly people of Cuba; discovered a diverse and rapidly-changing culture; explored pristine natural resources; marveled at cities, cars and architecture preserved for a generation; learned about an explosion of urban-based organic farming; and, of course, observed a unique population of sea turtles nesting on Cuba’s far western shore. To say the trip was amazing is an understatement; it was unforgettable.

The organic farm where we learned about sustainable urban agricultural.

The organic farm where we learned about sustainable urban agricultural.

Cuba hosts regionally-important nesting populations of hawksbills and green turtles. In addition, many nesting beaches and marine habitats around Cuba are in near-pristine condition and are ripe for long-term sea turtle research and recovery. During the course of the expedition, STC forged a strong new relationship with Cuban biologist Dr. Julia Azanza, who leads the turtle research project at Guanahacabibes National Park. Based on our interactions with Dr. Azanza, STC hopes to achieve a new era of support for sea turtle conservation in Cuba. Plans already are in the works for a return trip in 2016, when we hope to assist in the deployment of satellite transmitters on several nesting green turtles. Anyone interested in joining the 2016 expedition should contact David Godfrey at david@conserveturtles.org to inquire about reserving a spot. Like this year’s expedition, spaces will fill up quickly.

cuba green turtle nature.peninsula.guanahacab

Cuba Expedition Travel Journal by Dr. Emma Harrison

STC was met at the Havana airport by a dedicated local guide and bus driver, who remained with our group throughout the 8-day expedition. Our assigned guide was the lovely and knowledgeable local guide, Susana Rodriguez, who STC hopes to book for future visits. For the first couple of nights our base was the iconic Hotel Nacional de Cuba, which overlooks the ‘Malacón’ – the iconic waterfront walkway that is a popular hangout for local residents. Our diverse program of activities commenced with a guided tour of an organic farm, where we learned about sustainable urban agricultural that is blossoming in suburbs of Havana and other cities around Cuba. Lunch on our first full day was at a family-run ‘paladar’ in Cojima and included a variety of traditional dishes, Cuban coffee, of course, and mojitos! Most businesses in Cuba are owned and operated by the government. However, over the last year restrictions have eased in the operation of private restaurants, or “paladars,” which tend to have a much higher variety and quality of food.

FB_IMG_1442269405023The main reason for STC’s trip was to visit and provide assistance to the sea turtle project run by Cuban biologist Dr. Julia Azanza, with the long-term goal of developing a partnership through which STC can support sea turtle research and recovery in Cuba. Dr. Azansa joined our group in Havana to give a thorough presentation about her work and the current status of turtle conservation in Cuba.

After our brief exploration of Havana we boarded our bus and began a rather eventful journey to Guanahacabibes National Park in the westernmost part of the island. Less than half way to our destination we unfortunately blew a tire, and had to creep slowly several miles to the Cuban equivalent of a rest area. We only had to wait an hour or so before a replacement bus picked us up and we were able to finish the remainder of our journey. Our trusty bus driver, Juan Carlos, however, had to wait another 5 hours before he was able to fix the tire and make his way to the hotel with our assigned bus.

The following morning we got our first look at the nesting beach in Guanahacabibes, which resembled a lunar landscape due to all of the deep body pits characteristic of the green turtles—the main species nesting in this part of Cuba. Dr. Azanza introduced us to the student volunteers who live in rustic conditions (in tents, with no electricity or running water!) for several weeks at a time while they conduct track surveys and night patrols to collect valuable scientific data for the p about the green turtles nesting at this site.  We learned that a green turtle nest had hatched the previous night and were able to participate in a nest excavation to assess hatching success. Fortunately, the majority of hatchlings had made it safely from the nest to the ocean.

Observing a nest excavation on the beach

Observing a nest excavation on the beach

Cuba’s marine environment is very pristine, as we witnessed first-hand during snorkel trips to coral reefs that were just offshore from our hotel in Maria la Gorda.  While we didn’t happen to see any turtles while in the water, we did enjoy crystal clear blue water, beautiful reefs and a fantastic diversity of fish species.

During our evenings of turtle patrolling we were fortunate enough to encounter a green turtle that came ashore to lay her eggs during the two nights we were on the beach. We also had the great fortune of observing the emergence of a nest of green turtle hatchlings! For some in our group this was the first time that they had seen either baby turtles or a nesting female, and to have that first up-close and personal experience on a remote beach in a Cuban National Park made it all the more memorable for everyone, even for those of us who have seen it innumerable times before.

Among the other highlights of our trip was a visit to a tobacco farmer in the agricultural region of Viñales—a dramatic and lush valley in Cuba’s interior that produces tobacco for some of Cuba’s most famous cigar brands. Sitting in the farmer’s kitchen and watching him expertly roll a cigar using tobacco grown in the surrounding fields was another unique experience. Most in the group could not pass up the opportunity to sample a hand-rolled Cuban cigar made directly at the source.

20150906_173750An unexpected change of hotel meant that we got to spend a night in Pinar del Río, on the very day when the region was celebrating its 128th anniversary! Our unplanned change in itinerary turned into an amazing opportunity to watch a street parade and meet numerous local characters who were thrilled to find a group of American’s staying in their village. In fact, it was common throughout our travels around Cuba to encounter people who were genuinely overjoyed to meet Americans. To a person, everyone we met in Cuba was incredibly friendly and helpful.

The days passed quickly and all too soon we found ourselves heading back to Havana for our last night in Cuba, but not before one last whirlwind of cultural experiences. The STC group spent half a day exploring Ernest Hemingway’s farm, Finca La Vigia, which has been miraculously preserved by the Cuban people and is still filled with Hemingway’s personal possessions, clothes, artwork, book, and even his famed boat “Pilar.” Later that night our group was taken to see the famous Opera de la Calle, a talented company of Cuban singers, dancers and musicians that treated STC to a private performance none in our group will ever forget.20150910_122154

Of course, no trip to Cuba would be complete without a little drama, and ours came in the form of multiple power outages as we were waiting in line to go through immigration to leave the country. Each time the power went out the computer system had to be reset, eating up valuable time when we should have all been heading to the gate!  Gradually, at less than a turtle’s pace, each member of our group managed to make it through and we all boarded the plane, with just minutes to spare before takeoff. Of course, we learned later that this is a common occurrence and the American Airlines flight crew knows to wait for all passengers to clear security during such delays.

This was definitely a memorable trip for everyone, and one that STC will be repeating in the future.  We are excited about the possibility of forging a collaborative relationship with sea turtle conservationists in Cuba, to give our members an opportunity to visit this incredible country and support a local project working to protect the region’s turtle populations!

 

 

Help Stop Plastics From Entering the Ocean

Plastics have become a staple of modern societies across the globe. In 2012, nearly 300 million tons of new plastic items were produced. Each day, these and other plastic articles are sold, used, and disposed. However, an alarming amount of these plastics do not stay on land. Through improper disposal or direct dumping, millions of tons of plastic now call our ocean home.

According to recent studies, including a paper in the prestigious journal Science, we are facing a dire future:

  • 5-14 million tons of plastic enter our ocean each year from land-based sources.
  • Over 50% of plastic entering the ocean comes from just five countries where there is a lack of waste management capacity.
  • By 2025, for every three tons of finfish swimming in the ocean, there could be one ton of plastic in marine waters as well.
  • Plastics are already negatively affecting more than 660 marine wildlife species.

As organizations committed to ocean and human health, the mounting body of science makes us increasingly concerned about the growing tide of plastics entering the ocean and its negative impacts on marine wildlife and habitats.

We’re calling on industry to work with us to stop plastic from entering the ocean.

The signees of this letter represent a diverse array of NGO stakeholders from around the world asking industry and fellow NGOs to stand by us to help stop plastics from entering the ocean. By working together, we can develop innovative solutions, including integrated waste management, at a global scale that will reduce plastic leakage from land and keep our ocean and communities vibrant and healthy.

Please join us.

f you would like to add your organization as a signatory, please email:  plasticpreventionletter@gmail.com

If you would like to add your organization as a signatory, please email: plasticpreventionletter@gmail.com

Learn more at http://www.plasticpreventionletter.org/

Tour de Turtles Sponsor Spotlight – Ripley’s Aquariums

Sea Turtle Conservancy is excited to have our friends from Ripley’s Aquariums sponsor a turtle in this year’s Tour de Turtles for the third year in a row! Last year, Ripley’s sponsored a loggerhead turtle named Shelley who was released from the Barrier Island Center (BIC) in Melbourne Beach. Shelley  swam 761 km and came in 2nd place in the People’s Choice Award Competition! This year, Ripley’s sponsored turtle will be released from the BIC on Sunday, August 2nd and her name is…. MYRTLE!

Ripleys Myrtle

To decide on a name for their turtle, each of the three Ripley’s Aquariums submitted a name. Those names were then voted on by Ripley’s fans. More than 6,000 online votes were received and Myrtle (submitted by Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach) was chosen as the winner! During this year’s race, Myrtle will be swimming to raise awareness about the threat of plastic debris.

For more than 90 years, Ripley Entertainment, Inc. has entertained visitors around the world, with more than 90 attractions in 10 countries. Ripley Entertainment’s three aquariums in Myrtle Beach, SC, Gatlinburg, TN, and Toronto, Canada have educated millions of visitors. In the next decade, Ripley’s plans to open more aquariums in tourist markets throughout North America and the world.

MB-TURTLELEFTRipley’s mission is to provide an immersive experience into the aquatic world while fostering education, conservation and research. The three aquariums are each home to more than 10,000 exotic sea creatures such as sting rays, sharks and jellyfish, which entertain, inspire and encourage visitors to respect and protect the waters of the world.

Each of the Ripley’s Aquariums are home to non-releasable green sea turtles that swim alongside sharks, moray eels and fish. There is one turtle at Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach, one at Ripley’s Aquarium of Gatlinburg and two at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. All four turtles receive consistent and excellent care overseen by Dr. Robert George, Ripley’s Chief of Veterinary Services. Ripley’s sea turtle exhibits help educate the public and raise awareness about the threats that sea turtles face.

The past two Ripley’s turtles in the Tour de Turtles race have raised awareness about the dangers sea turtles face from longline fisheries. The turtles, attracted to the bait, get caught on the hooks used to catch fish. Loggerheads face higher risk to longline fisheries than most species of sea turtles because of their feeding habits.

Ripley's sponsored turtle Shelley is released from the BIC in 2014.

Ripley’s sponsored turtle Shelley is released from the BIC in 2014.

Ripley’s is currently involved in numerous conservation efforts such as the AZA’s Party for the Planet/Earth Day Celebration and Species Survival Program, as well as participation in International Coastal Cleanup and other local community cleanups. Ripley’s Aquarium Conservation Team is partnering with the North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol to help monitor sea turtle nests along previously unmonitored portions of the beach. Other actions include partnership with the organization Ocean Wise to support sustainable seafood and efforts to reduce in-building energy and water usage.

One of Ripley’s Aquariums main goals is to promote conservation and protection of marine wildlife, and Tour de Turtles is an excellent way to achieve this goal! Ripley’s especially feels that it is important to support sea turtle conservation efforts and sees Tour de Turtles as a way to engage and educate guests about sea turtles.

STC would like to thank Ripley’s Aquariums for its continued support of our Tour de Turtles program!

Hatchling Season Tips & Nest Excavation Info

Photo credit: Kevin Geraghty

Photo credit: Kevin Geraghty

Nesting and hatchling season is in full swing on Florida’s beaches, where about 90 percent of sea turtle nesting in the U.S. takes place. Whether you are a Florida resident or are simply stopping by for summer vacation, this information will help you get the most out of our beautiful beaches while also being considerate of nesting sea turtles and hatchlings. Share this information with your beach-loving family and friends to ensure that our beaches can be safely and responsibly enjoyed by all!

Human threats that can interfere with the nesting and hatching process include:

  • Lights: keep them dim! Make sure that your beachfront property uses sea turtle-friendly lighting. You can also help by make sure that your drapes and blinds are closed at night to prevent sea turtles from wandering away from the ocean.
  • Holes: fill them in! Holes in the sand may be fun to dig during the day, but if left unfilled, nesting sea turtles and hatchlings can easily fall into them and become trapped at night. If you dig a hole or see one that has been left behind by someone else, please fill it in.
  • fwcSandcastles: knock them down! The flatter the beaches are, the easier it will be for nesting sea turtles and hatchlings to safely make it to and from the water. We know you worked very hard on your masterpiece and are sorry to see it go, but the turtles appreciate it.
  • Furniture: bring it in! You may have gotten a really good spot on the beach and it may have been a lot of work to set up your beach chairs, umbrellas, tents, etc., but furniture left on the beach overnight can pose great danger for sea turtles. Nesting sea turtles can easily become trapped underneath these items and hatchlings can be misled by them while attempting to go to the ocean. Please keep the beaches flat for sea turtles.
  • Trash and leftover food: pick it up!  Foxes, raccoon, coyotes and other animals can easily be attracted to beaches by what we leave behind. Unfortunately, they are also responsible for the destruction of thousands of sea turtle eggs each year. By leaving the beach clean you can help prevent predators from preying on sea turtle eggs and hatchlings. For more information on how you eliminate waste, visit TerraCycle.com or purchase one of our STC reusable bags. Additionally, our website has more information on the threats from invasive species, click here if interested.

Want a chance to see hatchlings? Attend a nest excavation! Nest excavation is a process in which a nest is dug up three days after the first hatchling has emerged. Inventory of the nest is then taken, in which the numbers of empty egg shells (shards), unhatched eggs, dead hatchlings and live trapped hatchlings are recorded. Nest excavations are very educational and can be observed by the public through the following programs:

AMI nest excavation

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch & Shorebird Monitoring 

5 Ways to Have a Sea Turtle-Friendly Summer Vacation

This is a guest post written by Hannah Helsabeck. Hannah is President and Co-Founder of WildMintShop.com, an online shop dedicated to helping families find toxin-free and Eco-friendly products for healthier lifestyles.

Summer vacations are a great opportunity to toss your cares away, have major fun in the sun, and create lots of memories with family and friends. If you seek beaches, campgrounds, or pretty much anywhere outside of the concrete jungle to relax, you’ll want to make sure you’re not leaving anything behind that can harm wildlife as you’re becoming one with nature.

It is estimated that more than 100 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean and that more than 80 percent of this plastic comes from land. When we throw away or litter plastic items, they can wash out to sea from beaches, streets, and landfills. This pollution often kills wildlife like our precious sea turtles when they ingest it or become entangled in it. That’s why it’s so important to reduce the amount of plastic garbage we produce and seek safer, eco-friendly alternatives.

It’s our responsibility to reflect about the impact we all have on the environment that we share with other animals and there are lots of easy ways to live more eco-friendly lives.  So, as summer approaches, here are 5 simple ways to have a greener (and more sea turtle friendly!) summer vacation:

wildmint reusable bottleWater bottles. A huge offender when it comes to plastic waste is the use of disposable plastic water bottles. Staying hydrated is crucial, but there’s a better way to do it: switch to reusable water bottles. To shy away from plastic bottles and the potentially toxic chemicals used to make them, choose alternatives like glass water bottles or stainless steel instead. Simply refill with your favorite drinks and reuse for all of your adventures.  By making the switch you can help protect our planet, avoid chemicals like BPA/BPS, and reduce your amount of plastic waste.

Tiny turtle in a glass food containers

Tiny fruit turtle in a glass food container

Food containers and baggies. Bringing your own food with you while traveling on vacation is a great way to stay healthy and save money, but plastic containers and bags are not so great for the environment. Plastic bags, big and small, are a huge contributor to marine pollution. Plastic does not biodegrade, meaning that the bag you use once and throw away is sticking around somewhere for a very, very long time. The best way to help reduce this plastic pollution is to completely avoid buying these products and instead opt for non-plastic, reusable sandwich bags and glass food containers (like the one shown with the kiwi turtle!) to pack foods.

Sea turtle friendly summer vacation spots. If you plan on visiting the beach or staying at a hotel on the water, you can check to see if it is sea turtle friendly, meaning that the facility supports conservation through its lighting policies and educational activities. Click here to learn which vacation spots get the STC seal of approval!

DO Naturals sunscreen is certified organic aloe

Natural sun protection. Protect your family from the chemicals found in many sunscreens on the shelf by doing a little more research and choosing natural sunscreen and insect repellent. These mineral-based sunscreens reduce your exposure to the harsh chemicals that can mimic hormones once absorbed in the body found in chemical sunscreens. These products also help to keep these toxic chemicals out of the environment so both plant and animal species can avoid exposure as well.

Straws. Nothing makes a drink feel extra special than a fun straw! Unfortunately, single use disposable straws add to the harmful effects of plastic pollution on the environment. Thankfully there are reusable straws made with stainless steel and glass that are beautiful and eco-friendly. Now you can pop a festive straw in your tropical drink and enjoy knowing that your sustainable choice makes a difference for the better.

In celebration of summer vacations and eco-friendly fun, Wild Mint Shop would like to offer a special discount to Sea Turtle Conservancy readers. Please enjoy 10% off all purchases through June 30, 2015 by using the coupon code TURTLES at checkout. You can find a variety of the reusable and non-toxic products listed in this article and more on Wild Mint Shop.com.

UPDATE: TRIP FULL! Join STC for a Cuba Sea Turtle & Cultural Expedition in September 2015

Photo of Havana by Andrea Holbrook

Photo of Havana by Andrea Holbrook

For the first time ever, STC is partnering with the Cuba Marine Research and Conservation Program, The Ocean Foundation and Holbrook Travel to offer a Sea Turtle and Cultural Expedition to Cuba from September 4th-12th, 2015. Deadline to sign up in July 1st!

Participants will visit Havana, the Guanahacabibes Peninsula and Vinales over the course of the expedition. CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE OFFICIAL ITINERARY.

Participants will have the opportunity to look for turtles coming ashore on the beaches of the Guanahacabibes Peninsula and observe the nesting process.

The group will return to a turtle nesting beach the following day to document any tracks from the previous night.

Hours later, participants will return to the turtle beach where they will have the opportunity to help the researchers measure the turtles and record data.

Program highlights:

Photo of Finca La Vigia by Michelle Korczynski

Photo of Finca La Vigia by Michelle Korczynski

  • Travel with two experts from the Sea Turtle Conservancy and a Cuban marine turtle specialist.
  • Observe the nesting process of green sea turtles and collect data with biologists.
  • Snorkel the clear waters of the coral reef at Maria la Gorda (optional scuba diving may also be available at an additional charge).
  • Meet with local conservationists, marine researchers and a wildlife artist.
  • Visit the picturesque town of Vinales.
  • Stop at Hemingway’s home, Finca La Vigia.
  • Support the ongoing research and conservation projects of The Ocean Foundation
Photo of the view from the tower at Finca La Vigia by Michelle Korczynski

Photo of the view from the tower at Finca La Vigia by Michelle Korczynski

Participants will also enjoy activities such as a walking tour of Old Havana, a visit to the National Museum of Natural History, a visit to the Alamar Organoponic Gardens and leisure time.

The Center for Marine Research has hosted similar trips in the last couple of years, but this is the first time this experience will be made available to U.S. Citizens without special permits following the change in Cuban-American policy announced by President Obama and the State Department earlier this year. Both STC and Center for Marine Research experts will host the expedition.

Cuba Marine Research and Conservation photo of a nesting green sea turtle at Guanahacabibes National Park

Cuba Marine Research and Conservation photo of a nesting green sea turtle at Guanahacabibes National Park

The beaches of the Guanahacabibes National Park are home to the second largest breeding population of green sea turtles in Cuba with an average of more than 300 nests per season.

2013 was a record year for the park’s beaches with nearly 900 nests recorded!

Through the efforts of University of Havana’s Center for Marine Investigations, an estimated 14,000 hatchlings were saved. You will get to participate directly in this successful Cuban conservation program, with a portion of your trip fees going directly to support this ongoing work.

Program pricing:

  • $3189 plus airfare

Cost includes gratuities, Miami/Tampa hotel and donations to the Cuban Society for the Protection of the Environment and Sea Turtle Conservancy.

Cost does not include international airfare estimated at $600 from Miami or Tampa (estimate includes visa fee).

Information and registration:

Your Shopping Cart
Subtotal: $0.00  (0 items)
Your shopping cart is empty
Start Shopping!