Category Archives: Uncategorized


Help STC Raise $70,000 for Urgent Turtle Research and Protection Efforts in Tortuguero this Giving Tuesday!

Each year for Giving Tuesday (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving), Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) targets one of its most pressing sea turtle protection projects as the focus for this annual charitable event. The campaign starts with a pledge from STC’s Board of Directors to match the individual donations provided by STC members and supporters, up to a certain amount. This year’s challenge match from the Board will be $35,000, which means our Giving Tuesday fundraising goal is $70,000 or more.

All funds donated for this year’s Giving Tuesday will be directed toward STC’s turtle research and protection efforts in Tortuguero, Costa Rica—the birthplace of sea turtle conservation. STC’s work in Tortuguero began back in the 1950s, making it the longest-continuous turtle conservation project in the world. Many of the turtle monitoring and protection efforts developed at Tortuguero are used today by sea turtle conservationists around the globe. In fact, many of the world’s leading sea turtle scientists and project leaders got their start as STC Research Assistants in Tortuguero. Most importantly, as a result of STC’s efforts over the last six decades, the green turtle colony that nests at Tortuguero recovered from near the brink of extinction to being one of the two largest green turtle populations in the world.

With all the history and success of this project, STC is concerned knowing that the gains made on behalf of Tortuguero’s green turtles could be in jeopardy for reasons that are poorly understood. Our strategy of systematically reducing threats to sea turtles both on the nesting beach and at sea produced measurable results over the decades. Beginning in the late 1970s, approximately 25 years after conservation efforts started at Tortuguero, the green turtle population began increasing in size. The timing was not a coincidence. Green turtles take at least that long to reach maturity—meaning hatchlings that were protected and released in the 1950s should have started returning to Tortuguero as adults to nest by the end of the 70s. That’s exactly what our data indicates happened.

From the 1960s up to 2012, the number of green turtle nests deposited in Tortuguero grew by over 600%. During high nesting years, it was common to document well over 150,000 nests in a season. The establishment of Tortuguero National Park, the elimination of global sea turtle trade, the banning of turtle and egg consumption at Tortuguero, and the development of sea turtle eco-tourism as an alternative livelihood for the local community all had positive impacts—proving that sea turtle conservation efforts developed by STC worked. Tortuguero green turtles were on the path to full recovery.

But something unexpected began to happen over the next decade. Starting in 2013, we began documenting a declining trend in nesting. It wasn’t a dramatic drop. In fact, given the phenomenal growth of the population prior to this time period, STC was not particularly worried about a few “down” years of nesting. The factors that cause annual turtle nesting numbers on any beach to ebb and flow still are not well understood. However, our cautious observation of the nesting trend turned into real worry in 2021, when after several down nesting seasons, the number of nests dropped to the lowest level in 25 years (about 40,000 nests for the entire season). This is still a lot of green turtle nests, and it reaffirms Tortuguero’s global importance for this species. Nevertheless, it sparked worry knowing that a little over ten years ago the number of nests hit 180,000 during a single season.

While our preliminary analysis of the 2022 nesting season indicates an encouraging uptick in nesting, the trend over the last decade still has us concerned that something unusual is happening. And that’s bad news for green turtles throughout the Caribbean and Atlantic. With funding raised through this year’s Giving Tuesday campaign, STC will launch important new studies and conservation efforts to help identify and address the threats that have caused the population decline. There probably is not a single “smoking gun.” Rather, it’s more likely that the collective impact of several threats is affecting the population. Our work will focus on identifying new marine foraging sites used by green turtles where they may be experiencing previously-undocumented hunting pressure. We also will work more strategically with the community and natural resource agencies in Tortuguero to curtail illegal hunting of turtles and eggs, which increased dramatically during the pandemic and still remains at an elevated level. It is entirely possible that unforeseen factors related to climate change could be impacting turtle reproduction, so this is another area where our focus will turn.

STC has proven that it has the skill, dedication and tenacity to ensure the long-term survival of sea turtles. We will not allow our decades of success on behalf of sea turtles at Tortuguero to be undone, but we need your help. Please consider making a special donation for this year’s Giving Tuesday (donations will be accepted for this purpose through the end of the year).

Help support STC’s Giving Tuesday Fundraiser by donating in one of three ways:
1. Online at www.conserveturtles.org/GivingTuesday or facebook.com/conserveturtles
2. Call 352-373-6441 with your credit card info
3. Mail a check with “Giving Tuesday” in the subject line. All checks received with “Giving Tuesday” in the subject line will count towards the campaign if received by December 31st.

Congratulations 2023 Sea Turtle Calendar Contest Photo Winners!

Introducing the winning photos from our 2023 Sea Turtle Calendar Contest! Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest. It gets harder every year to narrow down hundreds of beautiful images to only 13 photos! Calendars will be for sale in our online gift shop in late November or early December. We will post the link once they’re live!

COVER PHOTO – MATTHEW HAMMOND

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sign Up for Our Virtual Certified Interpretive Guide Course

January 18 – February 15, 2023
Instructors: Sarah Rhodes-Ondi, Sea Turtle Conservancy and Amanda Thompson, The Nature Conservancy

Registration Cost: $235 (an additional $150 to add the certificate)
May be an image of 14 people, people sitting, people standing and outdoorsAre you a nature guide, conservation professional or volunteer interested in honing interpretive communication skills? The Sea Turtle Conservancy at the Archie Carr Refuge, in partnership with the National Association for Interpretation (NAI) and The Nature Conservancy, is offering a Virtual Certified Interpretive Guide Course Jan. 18th thru Feb. 15th. Attendance at 8 online classes is necessary for certification.
Course meets 9am-1:30pm Mon. & Wed.; Jan. 18, 23, 25, Feb. 1, 6, 8, 13, 15.
Prior to the start of the course, you will receive information from your instructor on how the course will work and the times you will be meeting. For more information about the course, please contact Sarah Rhodes-Ondi at sarah@conserveturtles.org or call (321) 723-3556.

For more information and to register for the course, click here! 

An Update from the Lisa Jo Randgaard Fund

The Lisa Jo Randgaard Fund

Unrestricted endowment funding to meet the complex challenges of a changing world

Written by Linda Randgaard Antonioli (Lisa’s sister)

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This year marks a decade since we lost Lisa, and she remains at the heart of all we do for the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC).

Lisa came into the world in Naperville, IL, on August 17, 1968. A serious heart condition, later diagnosed as severe tetralogy of fallot, necessitated her immediate transfer to Children’s Memorial Hospital (now Lurie Children’s) in downtown Chicago. The Democratic Convention began there nine days later, and chaotic demonstrations erupted on the streets. Mom recalled vividly the smell of tear gas and protestors pounding on the car as she drove to get to Lisa’s bedside. It was a most colorful start for our brave sister, our family’s youngest.

The challenges of living with a chronic pediatric disease so rare that adult medicine was ill-equipped to treat it required Lisa to receive care and surgical support from pediatric physicians throughout her lifetime. Florida’s climate was far gentler on Lisa’s health than Minnesota, where we grew up; she moved to Ft. Lauderdale in the 1990s and ultimately relocated to Ft. Myers, where she put down roots. There, Lisa became acquainted with STC, and a passion for sea turtles began. It brought her great joy to support STC, and to track sea turtles online through Tour de Turtles events. Even as her health started to decline, Lisa’s beautiful soul, sharp wit, humble nature, adventurous spirit, great love for animals, and generous heart never dimmed. 

With the support of Executive Director David Godfrey, the Lisa Jo Randgaard Fund was established by her family after Lisa’s sudden passing from complications of her disease at the age of 43 on May 2, 2012. This is the first endowment fund created by donors, which, we know, would make Lisa very proud. There are many kind and generous people in the STC Community that support our fundraising and each of them has our enduring gratitude. 

Linda, Tom, Jenny, Diane, Jerry, & Kenny

As we mentioned, this year marks a decade since we lost Lisa, and she remains at the heart of all we do for STC. Some of our achievements over the last decade include:

  • The Lisa Jo Randgaard Fund was established by our family in 2013 to honor Lisa and her love of sea turtles. Annual family gifts and fundraising are our focus. 
  • In January 2013, Mom, Diane, and I began hand-sewing Lisa’s Fundanas, sea turtle-themed bandanas, to raise money for the Lisa Jo Randgaard Fund. In total, 334 Fundanas were shipped to 28 states and a number of countries abroad.
  • In 2015, the Randgaard family gave personal funds to help renovate the staff office building at STC’s research outpost in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, now named the Lisa Jo Randgaard Building.  
  • Since 2015, fundraising centers on Flippery When Wet artisan soaps, Diane’s handmade sea-turtle stamped bars. To date, 2,411 soaps have shipped to 31 states and two Canadian provinces. To learn more and to order, please visit LoveIntoSustainedAction.com
  • We committed at the start to donate to Lisa’s Fund 100% of ALL money raised from our fundraising, and we have kept that promise. Mom left us in 2016, but she remains an angel on our shoulder as we move forward.
  • Currently, the Lisa Jo Randgaard Fund totals $110,473. Our goal is to reach a minimum of $1 million in principal gifts. 
  • I have committed a gift of $50,000 to Lisa’s Fund in honor of my late husband, Kenny, who passed away in 2020. Kenny led our family’s vision by making the first donation in 2013.

Sea Turtle Grants Program Awards $445,000 to Conservation Projects in Florida

The Sea Turtle Grants Program (STGP), funded by the sale of Florida’s “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” specialty license plate, recently awarded $445,550.59 to 26 different projects benefiting Florida sea turtles as part of the 2022-2023 grant funding cycle. Since it’s inception, the Sea Turtle License Plate Grants Program has awarded more than $7 million to conservation projects.

Each year, the Sea Turtle Grants Program distributes money to coastal county governments, educational and research institutions and nonprofit groups through a competitive application process. The sea turtle specialty license plate is also the primary source of funding for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marine Turtle Protection Program.

The following organizations received grants for their approved projects for the 2021-2022 cycle:

Q&A with Chris Kopp: The Town of Longboat Key’s Lone Code Enforcement Officer

Florida’s sea turtles face a number of threats to their survival – coastal development, poor water quality, ingestion of marine debris, and artificial lighting – but they also have a lot of people in their corner that fight to protect them. Among these people are coastal code enforcement officers who survey the lighting on beachfront properties during sea turtle nesting season and work with coastal property owners to comply with their local ordinances. Because the State of Florida leaves it up to individual counties and municipalities to adopt and enforce their own sea turtle lighting ordinances, local government officials are on the front lines of protecting their local sea turtle populations from disorientation by poorly managed lights.

This task is not for the faint of heart. Although sea turtle nesting season occurs mostly during the summer months, code enforcement officers spend the winter preparing their communities for nesting season by sending out reminders to turn off lights or use sea turtle friendly lighting, compiling violation data, conducting pre-season lighting surveys, and tending to other code enforcement-related responsibilities that don’t involve their sea turtle lighting ordinances. In addition, a code enforcement officer’s coastal territory often covers several miles and dozens of coastal properties – all with potentially problematic lighting that needs to be addressed. Some officers utilize off-road vehicles at night to cover the extensive stretches of beach, while others conduct their lighting surveys by foot.

Chris Kopp, the only code enforcement officer for the Town of Longboat Key, prefers the latter method.  His survey area is 11 miles long and hosts the second-highest number of disorientations in Florida. He recently spearheaded the effort to update the Town’s sea turtle lighting ordinance to reflect the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s new Model Lighting Ordinance and regularly assists code enforcement officers across the state with doing the same. Below, we talk with Chris about how he manages his time as a department of one, his enforcement style, and his favorite sea turtle experience.

What is your education and career background?

I am Florida born and raised. I have over 20 years of combined military, law enforcement, and code enforcement experience. I served two tours on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps.  In 2007, I began my enforcement career with the Margate Police Department in Florida, before transferring to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in North Carolina. In 2019, I turned my part time gig of teaching active shooter survival into a full-time business with Lockdown International. In 2020, I returned to Florida as the Code Enforcement Officer for the Town of Longboat Key. I hold a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Administration and several advanced certifications in the enforcement fields.

How did you end up as a code enforcement officer on Longboat Key?

I was looking for a career opportunity which allowed me to use my professional experience and desire to work with the community in public service. The Town of Longboat Key was always a beautiful place to visit during family vacations. Longboat Key gives you that small town feel with big cities amenities all around. Code Enforcement on Longboat Key checked all those boxes for me and my family.

What role do you play as code enforcement during sea turtle nesting season?  

The Code Enforcement Division handles every aspect of sea turtle protection during nesting season. We write the ordinance, present ordinance changes to the Town Commission, educate the public on the ordinance, inspect properties for compliance, work toward voluntary compliance with property owners, issue citations, and even take property owners to a Special Magistrate Hearing. A lot of our work happens outside of sea turtle nesting season. Citations and Magistrate Hearings are always a tool for enforcement, but don’t always produce the best long-term results. If we can properly educate and prepare the community prior to the nesting season, then our violations tend to decrease. Our goal is to educate the community on why the rules exist, and work with violators to gain full compliance for the safety of sea turtles.

As you often say, you are a department of one. How do you manage all of the responsibilities of an entire department, especially during the height of nesting season?

Time management and community involvement are crucial in this position no matter the size of the department. However, I am not alone during the nesting season. Longboat Key Turtle Watch has a wonderful team of volunteers assisting our local FWC permit holder, Mote Marine Laboratory, with the daily morning monitoring of turtle nests. These volunteers provide outstanding communication about potential lighting and obstruction violations they observe. I also receive every FWC Marine Turtle Disorientation Report within 24 hours. All this information helps me focus my time in the needed hot spots.

What was the impetus for Longboat Key’s ordinance update and what was the process like?

There were a number of driving factors which caused the Town to update our Marine Turtle Protection Ordinance, with the biggest factor being our number of disorientations. It pains me to say that our Town has had the second highest number of disorientations in the entire state for years. We are not proud of this, and we are striving to change it. Other factors included the advancements in sea turtles research, the advancements in lighting technology, our increasing population, and other minor verbiage changes long overdue. The process was not as simple as making a couple of changes and applying the ceremonial rubber stamp. Each word in the ordinance can potentially affect sea turtles, our citizens, and other community stakeholders. We were calculated in our changes to ensure it was in everyone’s best interest. We had long discussions with our residents, our businesses, attorneys, lighting experts, window manufactures, tinting engineers, and our partners in sea turtle protection, including the Sea Turtle Conservancy. We wanted to get the entire community involved in creating an effective ordinance. It was an eight-month process, and we are proud of our final product.

How do you approach enforcing Longboat Key’s ordinance?

Voluntary compliance is the goal for every code enforcement officer. Once a violation is observed, we attempt to make an in-person or over-the-phone meeting. Many property owners in violation don’t know they are violating an ordinance. We want to educate them on the ordinance, how they are violating it, and how to come into compliance. This method also provides a much quicker compliance rate then using snail mail. The type of violation (i.e. lighting, furniture left on the beach, etc.) will determine our enforcement options. Items left on the beach can be tagged for removal or impounded. Citations can be written for each day a violation exists. A Notice of Code Violation letter may be mailed to the property owner which starts a legal process toward a Special Magistrate Hearing. A Magistrate can then access fines in the form of liens. We have used all methods to enforce our Marine Turtle Protection Ordinance.

What has been your most challenging sea turtle lighting case or violation that you’ve handled?

We have a repeat offender who continues to have lighting violations. The property is a short-term rental, owned by an out-of-state company. Zero communication from the company. We observe a violation, inform the renters about the ordinance, and then a week later a new renter arrives. We then observe another violation, inform the new renter about the ordinance, and you get the picture. We have issued numerous citations and have an active lien on the property. Not all violations have a success story. The other 99% of my interactions have positive, successful endings.

What do you think is the best part of your job?

The community. Community services was my specialty during my time in law enforcement.  It is what I enjoy most – the interaction with everyone. No one wants to see the Code Enforcement Officer at their door or receive a violation in the mail. I understand my job from their perspective. I try to provide each person with some education, a smile, and some light humor.

Tell me about a meaningful sea turtle experience you’ve had.

Watching a massive sea turtle lay eggs or hatchlings exploding out of the nest like a bag of Jiffy Pop is just really cool to see. I am fortunate to see these things happen during nighttime inspections. I was able to rescue a couple of hatchlings trapped in the vegetation roots and being eaten by ants. The hatchlings were rehabilitated by Mote Marine Laboratory and released. It puts into perspective the “why” for me and my job responsibilities.

What advice do you have for code enforcement officers in coastal counties who want to implement lighting ordinance updates?

Your abilities as a Code Enforcement Officer are only as good as your ordinance is enforceable. Your ordinance needs to stay current with sea turtle research, lighting technology, and recommendations by our partners at the state level. The Model Lighting Ordinance was released as Florida Administrative Code 62B-55 on December 17, 2020. Does your ordinance reflect their recommendations? If not, then it’s time to update your ordinance. We are a brotherhood and sisterhood in the fight together. I’ve assisted other jurisdictions with updating their ordinances. Let me be a resource for you. My email is ckopp@longboatkey.org.

A Turtle Walk to Remember

Written by Janet Nupp Hochella, long-time STC member and BIC volunteer. The 30 plus years of efforts on behalf of turtles earned Janet the prestigious Ed Drane Award for Volunteerism at the 2017 International Sea Turtle Society Symposium. Janet now resides in Melbourne, Florida where she can continue to pursue her passion – sea turtles!

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From the first year that Guided Sea Turtle Walks were conducted at the Barrier Island Center, I have navigated the dark sandy beach at Bonsteel Park in hopes of finding a nesting loggerhead sea turtle for the guests, young and old, who have assembled from all parts of the state or the country. As a sea turtle walk scout, I never tire from the excitement of meeting new people. But more gratifying is finding a nesting loggerhead sea turtle to show the guests, most who have never seen a sea turtle in the wild, and to share in the guests’ enthusiasm and appreciation of this special reptile.

Guided Sea Turtle Walks offer a unique educational and outreach opportunity for participants. But sometimes, there is an added bonus. The loggerhead sea turtle that the Friday night scouting crew found on their first walk night of the 2021 season on June 4th was a very special sea turtle!

Turtle Scouts Adam Steinfeld, Jenna Coven, Janet Hochella, Scott Beazley, and Branden Garrett

Early into the scouting, while the guests were listening to the educational slide presentation, Turtle South came upon a nesting loggerhead. Scott Beazley and Brandon Garrett radioed to Turtle North, Jenna Coven and me, that they had a small loggerhead digging her egg chamber which would be a good candidate to show the guests. The turtle was not far south of the Bonsteel ramp where the guests access the beach. The Lead, Cindy Pless, was notified and the guests were gathered to get to the beach and to the turtle in time to see the turtle dropping eggs into her egg chamber. This was a small turtle and she was moving right along, but the guests got there in time to see the egg laying process.  Always interested in determining whether an observed turtle might have been encountered by the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group and under the FWC permit guidelines, I requested that we check, after the turtle finished camouflaging her nest, for tags – metal tags on one of the scutes of the inner edge of both the left and the right flippers, and most importantly, for a PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tag which could be located in any one of the four flippers. Most importantly because the sea turtle can “lose” the metal tags, but the internal tag is usually permanent and can be read with a PIT tag scanner.

Without the use of any light, Scott and I checked for the metal tags. There was none on the left front flipper…but, bingo, there was a flipper tag on the right front flipper! Because I also volunteer with the UCF MTRG and am permitted to check for tags, I grabbed my PIT tag scanner and immediately got a reading from the right front flipper. Finding a PIT tag is always exciting as it reveals there is a history with the turtle. This PIT tag was not in a series that I recognized so finding out the source of the PIT tag would be very intriguing and important. With only the use of the red headlamp to read the flipper tag and the PIT tag, I asked one of the scouts to copy the number to a clipboard that the Lead carries so that I could investigate the source of the tag numbers.

Upon checking with the University of Central Florida Marine Turtle Research Group who monitor and conduct sea turtle research on the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, I was informed that this turtle most definitely had a history. Not only was the turtle seen on the Archie Carr National Refuge by the UCF researchers almost 18 years prior, she was originally encountered by a NOAA group in Florida Bay 21 years ago. I would need to contact Barbara Schroeder, National Sea Turtle Coordinator of NOAA-NMFS, for the particulars.

After several attempts through various channels, I was able to connect with Barbara Schroeder. I was thrilled to learn that the turtle we encountered was one that Barbara Schroeder herself has researched and documented over many years as part of the FFWCC/NOAA Florida Bay Sea Turtle Project.

(Photos courtesy of Barbara Schroeder, FWC/NOAA Sea Turtle Bay Project)

This small loggerhead has quite a backstory! Barbara Schroeder writes in an email “this turtle was first captured by us in Florida Bay in 2000, she was an adult then (you can see her length has not changed). In March 2013 we satellite tagged this turtle after ultrasound revealed she was preparing to breed that summer and she was seen nesting at ACNWR in June 2013 and of course her satellite tag data showed us the same. We named her “Shiver” as it was very cold in March 2013 when we captured her.”  Summary records that Barbara Schroeder sent along in the email show that the turtle has been recorded as seen nesting on the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in 2016, 2018, and now in 2021.

Shiver is a special turtle study with her history of being recaptured multiple times in Florida Bay and on the Archie Carr Refuge in multiple years. Shiver gained celebrity status with her own write up in Blair E. Witherington’s book Our Sea Turtles published by Pineapple Press in 2015.  Dr. Witherington used Shiver’s data, provided by the FFWCC/NOAA Florida Bay Sea Turtle Project, to exemplify the reproductive migrations of sea turtles.  In his book on page 123, Witherington writes “To track her movements over her upcoming nesting season, the researchers attached a satellite transmitter to Shiver’s carapace. Her broadcasts indicated that she left Florida Bay to enter the Atlantic in mid-April and moved along the Florida coast to the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, covering the roughly 250 miles (400 km) trip in about two weeks. Shiver lingered off the refuge and deposited several clutches over an 11-week period. Not long after her last nest, Shiver set off for home, nearly reaching her home waters of Florida Bay after a three-week swim.”  The photo to to the right, taken from the book, shows a photo of Shiver and her migratory path in 2013.

As sea turtles generally nest every two years, Shiver probably won’t be encountered on her nesting beach this year. Finding her again in the 2023 Sea Turtle Nesting Season would truly be a stroke of luck with the hundreds of loggerheads that nest multiple times every season on the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. But the Sea Turtle Conservancy Barrier Island Center Sea Turtle Scouts will be out there again this 2022 season. Who knows what sea turtle we will encounter on our guided sea turtle walk night. All of the sea turtles are special! Like Shiver!

 

Further information on Referenced Organizations:

Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge – https://conserveturtles.org/archie-carr-national-wildlife-refuge-refuge-sea-turtles/

FWC – https://myfwc.com/research/wildlife/sea-turtles/research/fl-bay-population-study/

NOAA –  https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/sea-turtles

Sea Turtle Conservancy Barrier Island Sanctuary – https://conserveturtles.org/barrier-island-education-center/

University of Central Florida Marine Turtle Research Group –                                    https://sciences.ucf.edu/biology/marineturtleresearchgroup/?fbclid=IwAR32HUqbqY0RdEe2pcZeTN3Zk3meCYavHVvAvxq7v5mLmQmaKEl_1JU_Qow

Congratulations 2022 Sea Turtle Calendar Contest Winners!

Introducing the winning photos from our 2022 Sea Turtle Calendar Contest! Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest. It gets harder every year to narrow down hundreds of beautiful images to only 13 photos! Calendars will be for sale in our online gift shop in later November or early December. We will post the link once they’re live!

COVER PHOTO – STEFANIE PLEIN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JANUARY – DIRK PETERSON

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FEBRUARY – DANNY BAKER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARCH – KARLA MORALES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

APRIL – HECTOR CHENGE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAY – KARLA G. BARRIENTOS-MUNOS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JUNE – CLAY COLEMAN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JULY – SHELLEY MICHEL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUGUST – CHANTAL KOHL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEPTEMBER – SIMON WAITLAND

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OCTOBER – BARBARA SELLES RIOS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOVEMBER – EVAN COOPER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DECEMBER – JAYMIE RENEKER

STC Earns 4-Star Charity Navigator Rating for 14th Year

Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) is proud to announce another top rating from Charity Navigator, the leading evaluator of non-profit groups in the United States. STC received 4 out of 4 stars for the 14th year, indicating that our organization adheres to good governance and other practices that minimize the chance of unethical activities and consistently executes our mission in a fiscally responsible way.

“The Board and staff of Sea Turtle Conservancy take great pride in our consistent high ratings from Charity Navigator,” said David Godfrey, STC Executive Director, “and it gives our donors confidence that their contributions are being managed wisely to the maximum benefit of sea turtles.”

According to Charity Navigator, a 4 star rating is an ‘exceptional’ designation, and differentiates Sea Turtle Conservancy from its peers and demonstrates to the public it is worthy of their trust. STC spends almost 90 cents of every dollar donated directly on research, conservation and education programs. STC’s commitment to transparency, good governance and fiscal responsibility ensures that donations are used in an efficient manner to support conservation programs.

“We are proud to announce Sea Turtle Conservancy has earned our fifth consecutive 4-star rating,” says Michael Thatcher, Charity Navigator CEO. “This is our highest possible rating and indicates that your organization adheres to sector best practices and executes its mission in a financially efficient way. Attaining a 4-star rating verifies that Sea Turtle Conservancy exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in your area of work. Only 18% of the charities we evaluate have received at least 5 consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that Sea Turtle Conservancy outperforms most other charities in America. This exceptional designation from Charity Navigator sets Sea Turtle Conservancy apart from its peers and demonstrates to the public its trustworthiness.”

STC’s rating and other information about charitable giving are available free of charge on Charity Navigator’s website here.

STC advocates against harmful bills during 2021 Florida Legislative Session

Florida’s globally-important sea turtle populations face myriad anthropogenic threats, with coastal armoring and artificial lighting being among the most urgent. During the 2021 Florida Legislative Session held in March and April, Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) advocated against two bills that would have greatly worsened both of these threats.

One of the bills (HB 1133 and SB 1504 – Coastal Construction and Preservation) sought to weaken the regulation of coastal armoring, which would have facilitated a rapid expansion of sea wall construction along important sea turtle nesting beaches in Florida. Seawalls block turtles from reaching the upper portion of the beach, causing them to nest in less-than-optimal nesting areas lower on the beach where their nests are more susceptible to waves and inundation.

In addition, studies have shown that fewer turtles emerge onto beaches with seawalls than onto adjacent, non-walled, natural beaches. Sea walls also disrupt natural beach dynamics and increase the rate of erosion down the beach. This can create a ‘domino effect’ that necessitates more and more seawalls, destroying sea turtle and shorebird nesting habitat.

Introduced by Representative Tom Leek and Senator Tom Wright, whose districts include parts of Volusia and Brevard Counties, the bill would have eliminated any consideration of whether upland structures are actually vulnerable to erosion before qualifying for a sea wall. If a beachfront property owner requested a permit to build a sea wall (or sought a permit for a wall already installed illegally), the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) would be forced by law to grant the permit. This process would result in no consideration of impacts to the beach, neighbors, other natural alternatives or federally protected sea turtles.

After STC learned of the bill, Executive Director David Godfrey and Holly Parker-Curry with Surfrider Foundation met with the primary bill sponsor. As is often the case with short-sighted legislation like this, the bill was designed to appease a particular group of local constituents whose request for a sea wall permit was denied because their homes are not actually vulnerable or eligible for sea walls. In attempting to resolve a narrow local issue, the sponsors were willing to roll back protection for sea turtles and coastal habitat throughout Florida.

Following vocal opposition by STC and our colleagues, both the House and Senate versions of the bill died in their first committees. However, this issue is likely to come back during future legislative sessions, as beachfront property owners continue to face the impacts of sea level rise and coastal erosion in Florida. STC will continue to advocate for natural solutions to this worsening problem, including the use of living shorelines, beach nourishment, managed retreat from heavily eroding beaches and stricter policies on where people can build on the coastline.

Another bill sought to strip local governments of their ability to regulate certain building design elements on private homes. This developer-backed legislation was not intended to directly impact sea turtles, but the wording was so vague that it would have inadvertently eliminated the ability of coastal counties and municipalities to enforce sea turtle lighting regulations. Language in the bill would have prevented local governments from regulating any “exterior nonstructural architectural ornamentation” on single- and two-family homes in Florida. The bill, S.B. 284 and H.B. 55 – Building Design, was introduced by Senator Keith Perry and Representative Toby Overdorf. Since the exterior lighting used on homes would fall under definitions contained in the bill, if passed the legislation would have undermined all local sea turtle protection ordinances that prohibit unshielded white lights during sea turtle nesting season, which could result in an increase in sea turtle disorientations statewide.

After alerting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Legislative Affairs office about the potential impacts of the bill, STC drafted an amendment that, if added to the legislation, would ensure sea turtle protection ordinances remained intact. Despite numerous attempts to get the bill’s sponsors to acknowledge the unintended glitch and support our amendment, this approach was getting us nowhere. Eventually, STC contacted Senate Majority Leader Debbie Mayfield, whose district includes the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Brevard and Indian River Counties. Senator Mayfield took the issue very seriously, knowing how important sea turtles are to her constituents.

With her leadership, STC’s amendment was eventually added to version of the bill that eventually passed. STC is appreciative of all of our partners at FWC, the Surfrider Foundation, Florida Conservation Voters and within the Legislature who moved this amendment forward. We are particularly grateful to Sen. Mayfield for her leadership on this matter.

Although STC’s work on these two bills resulted in good outcomes for sea turtles in 2021, another round of bad bills for sea turtles is likely to arise next year. If a proposal is particularly damaging to sea turtles, STC will alert its members and followers and encourage them to contact representatives in the Legislature. We have defeated harmful proposals together in the past, and we are confident that we will have the same success in the future.

Make sure you subscribe to our e-newsletter and/or follow us on social media @conserveturtles to receive Action Alerts and other legislative updates. Email lexie@conserveturtles.org with questions or to sign up now!

Partner Spotlight – Fahlo, previously known as Wildlife Collections

Fahlo, previously branded as Wildlife Collections, is the exclusive turtle tracking jewelry partner of the Sea Turtle Conservancy and donates 10% of net profits from every turtle bracelet sold to STC. Thanks to our partnership, Wildlife Collections has donated almost $300,000 towards our sea turtle conservation programs!

 

Wildlife Collections was created in 2018 by two childhood best friends, Daniel Gunter and Carter Forbes. They wanted a way to get more people involved in saving wildlife, so they came up with the idea of their popular animal tracking bracelets. Each bracelet comes with a card that gives customers the name, picture, and backstory on their animal, along with a QR code that allows them pull up a tracking map on their phone or computer, showing where their animal is in the world! 10% of net profits of each bracelet are donated to the organization associated with the animal on the bracelet. “By combining a tangible bracelet and interactive tracking experience, our goal is to educate customers about wildlife and excite them about conservation,” said Forbes.

Helping raise money and awareness for all endangered wildlife species is the overall mission at Wildlife Collections. Along with sea turtles, Wildlife Collections also supports elephants and polar bears through the sale of their tracking jewelry. “Since plastic pollution in the ocean is at an ever-increasing rate, we felt that raising awareness for the rapid decreasing population of sea turtles was a great place to start,” said Gunter. “With some in-depth research of trying to figure out what organization would have the biggest impact on saving sea turtles, we set our sights on the Sea Turtle Conservancy as the clear choice to partner with!” 

The partnership between STC and Wildlife Collections continues to grow each year! In 2020, Wildlife Collections adopted and named two satellite-tracked turtles as part of STC’s Tour de Turtles program. Robin, an endangered green turtle, and Leia, a loggerhead turtle, were both equipped with satellite transmitters after nesting in the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in July 2020. This year, Wildlife Collections is once again adopting and naming two more turtles! Their first turtle is named Vesper, an endangered leatherback turtle who nested on Jupiter Island, FL in May 2021. Their second turtle is a loggerhead that will be tagged and released from the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in July 2021.

“The STC has been an amazing organization to work with. We love getting updates from their team about new turtles that have been rescued or new conservation efforts that are going on,” says Gunter. Our mission is to continue to spread the word about endangered species and encourage people to lean towards wildlife conservation. Our goals are to expand that mission to more people every year and continuously make a larger impact in saving wildlife!”

To purchase your own turtle tracking bracelet and support STC, visit www.wildlifecollections.com/collections/save-the-turtles/products/the-journey-bracelet

Satellite-Tagged Leatherback Turtle “Hope” Returns to Nest in Florida for Second Consecutive Year—a First!

**UPDATE 4/30/21 – Hope was encountered nesting again but unfortunately her new transmitter was no longer attached. It seems the attachment method failed or the transmitter came off while Hope was mating. However, we remain HOPEFUL that we will encounter Hope yet again and get one last try at satellite tracking her long-term. The scientific data she could provide would truly be invaluable!**


After a 17,000 km round trip migration up to the coast of New Jersey and down towards the Caribbean, leatherback turtle “Hope” returned to Jupiter Island, FL to nest just 1.5 km from her previous nest, which she laid in May 2020. Leatherback turtles typically nest every 2-3 years, and it’s very rare for one to nest in consecutive years. This is the first time researchers have had the chance to track a leatherback turtle that’s nested consecutive years!

Hope was equipped with a satellite transmitter last May by researchers from the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) and Florida Leatherbacks, Inc. as part of STC’s annual Tour de Turtles “migration marathon” education program. The satellite transmitter allows the researchers and the public to track Hope’s location online and follow her migration. Hope was sponsored and named by Turtle & Hughes, Inc., a fourth generation family-owned business and one of the nation’s largest electrical and industrial distributors.

Hope’s original migration map which shows the location she stopped transmitting.

“Hope provides an incredible opportunity to track the same leatherback a second time from a nesting beach,” said Dr. Daniel Evans, STC Research Biologist. “She was an interesting turtle to follow in 2020, so we are excited and curious to see whether or not she follows her previous path.”

Hope developed a legion of dedicated fans who enjoyed checking her location online every day and following her incredibly unique track.

After transmitting for nearly nine months, Hope’s location stopped updating while she was located about 250 miles north of Puerto Rico. This can happen for a number of reasons—the tracking device may be damaged, have fallen off completely, or could be covered in biofouling which prevents it from sending a signal. Hope’s fans stood by hoping to see her signal come back online one day. Researchers were also hopeful she would start transmitting again, as her track indicated she may be returning to Florida, which would be an extremely unique event.

With no signal from Hope for almost two months, researchers from Florida Leatherbacks, Inc. were surprised when they came across a familiar turtle during their nightly track survey on March 29. It was Hope! It turns out, her satellite transmitter had fallen off, but they were able to identify her by her metal flipper tags and a PIT tag, or microchip. They were able to re-apply a satellite transmitter to continue tracking her, a very rare opportunity.

Hope the leatherback returns to the ocean after nesting. Photo credit Chris Johnson, Florida Leatherbacks

“We were incredibly excited and honestly quite shocked when the team found her again this year,” said Kelly Martin of Florida Leatherbacks Inc.” “We were even more thrilled that we had another satellite transmitter ready to go. This is the first time we have been able to track an endangered leatherback that has nested two years in a row and provides a very unique opportunity to look at behaviors that aren’t usually easy to track.”

As of Monday April 5, Hope is located about 30km east of the Ft. Pierce inlet in 128ft deep water. Since tagging last May, she has traveled more than 18,000 kilometers. The public can track Hope online at www.trackturtles.com/hope

**UPDATE 4/30/21 – Hope was encountered nesting again but unfortunately her new transmitter was no longer attached. It seems the attachment method failed or the transmitter came off while Hope was mating. However, we remain HOPEFUL that we will encounter Hope yet again and get one last try at satellite tracking her long-term. The scientific data she could provide would truly be invaluable!**

Sea Turtle Grants Program Awards $415,000 to Conservation Projects in Florida

The Sea Turtle Grants Program (STGP), funded by the sale of Florida’s “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” specialty license plate, recently awarded $415,463.82 to 26 different projects benefiting Florida sea turtles as part of the 2021-2022 grant funding cycle. Since it’s inception, the Sea Turtle License Plate Grants Program has awarded more than $6.5 million to conservation projects.

Each year, the Sea Turtle Grants Program distributes money to coastal county governments, educational and research institutions and nonprofit groups through a competitive application process. The sea turtle specialty license plate is also the primary source of funding for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marine Turtle Protection Program.

The following organizations received grants for their approved projects for the 2021-2022 cycle:

The sea turtle plate is the number three overall selling specialty tag in Florida, and the number one environmental specialty plate. By purchasing the sea turtle specialty license plate, Floridians are voluntarily funding important programs to save endangered sea turtles and their habitats.

To learn more about the Sea Turtle Grants Program and the “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” specialty license plate, please visit www.helpingseaturtles.org.

ACTION ALERT: Proposed law would create explosion of sea wall construction on Florida beaches

Florida’s sandy beaches are unlike any place in the world. More than 100 million people visit them each year, making them the main economic driver for our state. They provide coastal recreation, bring aesthetic beauty and infuse billions of dollars into our economy each year. Florida’s sandy beaches are part of our state’s identity and our economic health.

At the same time, Florida’s beaches provide the most important nesting habitat for loggerhead sea turtles in the world. For those of us lucky enough to have witnessed a sea turtle crawling out of the sea at night to lay her eggs, or to have seen a nest of tiny hatchlings emerge from their nest and instinctively charge toward the water, you know how special Florida is for threatened and endangered sea turtles. All sea turtle species that nest in Florida are protected by both State and Federal law. These laws also protect their nesting habitat, meaning it is unlawful for things like sea wall construction to destroy this habitat.

A bill introduced recently in the Florida House and Senate (H.B. 1133 and S.B. 1504) seeks to deregulate coastal armoring, allowing for the rampant proliferation of sea wall construction around the coastline of Florida. No sandy beach would be safe. If approved, this bill would convert Florida’s coastline to concrete to protect the thin ribbon of pricey properties built on the beachfront – all while risking Florida’s economy; cutting off beach access for Floridians and tourists; and decimating the most important habitat for loggerhead turtles in the world.

For decades, bipartisan leaders of Florida have recognized the value of our sandy beaches. Sea walls and other forms of “hard armoring” to protecting upland property from erosion have been viewed as a last resort option because of how much is sacrificed once you erect a wall on the beach.  Once installed, sea walls disrupt the natural beach dynamics and rapidly increase the rate of erosion down the beach—creating a “domino effect” that necessitates more and more sea walls—destroying sea turtle and shorebird nesting habitat, cutting off public access and eliminating the aesthetic, recreational and economic value of the coast for everyone.

The bills filed by Representative Tom Leek and Senator Tom Wright, whose districts include parts of Volusia and Brevard Counties, represent a complete abandonment of the thoughtful management of Florida’s natural, sandy beaches. They are a major threat to Florida’s wildlife and Florida’s economy, and they should be withdrawn from consideration.

What these bills would do is eliminate any real consideration of whether upland structures are actually vulnerable to erosion before qualifying for a sea wall. If a beachfront property owner requests a permit to build a sea wall (or seeks a permit for a wall already installed illegally), the Florida Department of Environmental Protection would be forced by law to grant the permit. No consideration of impacts to the beach, no consideration of impacts to neighbors, no consideration of other alternatives and certainly no consideration of federally protected sea turtles.

We need your help to stop this horrible legislation from moving forward. Please contact bill sponsors Representative Tom Leek and Senator Tom Wright and tell them to remove this bill from consideration in order to protect Florida’s wildlife and way of life.

Senator Tom Wright
District Office: (386) 304-7630
Satellite Office: (386) 304-7630
Tallahassee Office: (850) 487-5014
Email: wright.tom.web@flsenate.gov

Representative Tom Leek
Capitol Office: (850) 717-5025
District Office: (386) 238-4865
Email: Tom.Leek@myfloridahouse.gov

If you would like to contact STC staff about these bills, email David Godfrey (david@conserveturtles.org) or Stacey Gallagher (Stacey@conserveturtles.org).

SCAM ALERT – DO NOT PURCHASE PRODUCTS FROM TURTLE’S JOURNEY, OCEAN PROJECT.CO, OCEAN BETTER, WILDLIFE MISSION OR WILDLIFE TEAM

**NOTE: To purchase tracking bracelets from our official charity partners, please click this link or check out the companies listed on our Partners page here: http://stcturtle.org/partners/ **

SCAM ALERT! Companies operating under a variety of names are advertising on Facebook, selling products online, and illegally using STC’s turtle tracking maps as a perk to buyers. If you have been offered an STC tracked turtle by purchasing something from Ocean Project.co (not to be confused with ‘The Ocean Project‘), Turtle’s Journey, Wildlife Team, Wildlife Mission, or Ocean Better, they have used Sea Turtle Conservancy’s turtle tracking information without our permission. Don’t be duped or support the scammers!

If you have been scammed, please do NOT email or call STC if you haven’t received your order or if you have questions about your turtle. Unfortunately there is nothing we can do. The greatest inconvenience to STC (aside from having our copyrighted information stolen) is the valuable staff time that is being wasted responding to people’s complaints rather than actually working to protect sea turtles. Instead, we encourage you to report the activity of these companies to the Better Business Bureau, Shopify, and Facebook (contact information below).

How to report scam companies:

File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau: https://www.bbb.org/consumer-complaints/file-a-complaint/get-started

Report online shops to Shopify: https://help.shopify.com/en/questions#/contact/email

Report pages to Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/help/355811251195044

If you ever question the legitimacy of a company who claims to partner with STC, we encourage you to reference the PARTNERS page on our website, which we update regularly.

 

 

Congratulations 2021 Sea Turtle Calendar Contest Photo Winners!

Introducing the winning photos from our 2021 Sea Turtle Calendar Contest! Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest. It gets harder every year to narrow down hundreds of beautiful images to only 13 photos! Calendars will be for sale in our online gift shop in November. We will post the link once they’re live.

 

COVER PHOTO – BEN HICKS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JANUARY – MARIO CISNEROS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FEBRUARY – ADHITH SWAMINATHAN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARCH – HECTOR CHENGE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

APRIL – KATHY WIANKE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAY – BARBARA SELLES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JUNE – KARLA G. BARRIENTOS MUNOZ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JULY – CHRISTIAN MARTINEZ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUGUST- MARIO CISNEROS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEPTEMBER – ADHITH SWAMINATHAN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OCTOBER – RALPH PACE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOVEMBER – ARGHYA ADHIKARY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DECEMBER – STEFANIE PLEIN