ACTION ALERT: Florida Bill to Prevent Straw Bans to be voted on next Monday
Single-use plastics pose a threat to all marine life, but especially to sea turtles. Researchers from the University of Exeter recently found single use plastics and fibers in the gut of all 102 sea turtles they sampled in 2018. Without a major global effort to reduce the consumption of single-use plastics, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.
After a video of a sea turtle with a straw in its nose went viral in 2015, a global plastic-free movement has been gaining momentum. Corporations such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, Delta Airlines, and Marriott recently announced changes to their plastic policies to protect marine life. In Florida, Sea Turtle Conservancy works with coastal restaurants to change their straw policies and to empower their guests to make conservation-minded decisions. Local governments in Florida are also introducing restrictions on plastic bags and single-use cutlery.
This effort may be in jeopardy. Florida Senator Hutson filed a bill in January, Senate Bill 588, which seeks to stop local governments from passing laws to reduce plastic consumption in their communities. In particular, the bill will invalidate all existing straw bans in Florida and will prevent local governments from banning straws in the future. This bill, disguised as an effort to reduce plastic consumption, will freeze the efforts of local governments to make decisions about their own neighborhoods. You can read the bill in full by clicking here. Check out this recent article from the Tampa Bay Times for more on the issue.
Sea Turtle Conservancy does NOT support SB-588 because we SUPPORT bans of plastic bags, cutlery, Styrofoam and straws to reduce potential harm of sea turtles by marine debris. Sea Turtle Conservancy does support House Bill 6033, filed by Representative Grieco and co-sponsored by Representative Eskamani, which proposes to restore the ability for local governments to ban plastic bags.
How You Can Help
We need your help! On Monday, March 4 at 1 p.m., members of the Florida Senate’s Commerce and Tourism committee will vote on Senate Bill 588. Please let committee members know your feelings about this bill by emailing or calling them using the contact information below.
Personalized comments are the most effective, especially if any of these committee members are in your district in Florida. Here is a short example of what you can say:
“My name is _____ and I ask that you vote “No” on Senate Bill 588. I oppose Senate Bill 588 because plastic debris kills wildlife every year, including endangered sea turtles. Straw bans are an effective way to reduce plastic consumption and protect marine life from possible plastic ingestion. There is a global movement to reduce plastic use at the local, state and federal level. Senate Bill 588 will freeze that progress and prevent local governments from making decisions that impact their own communities.”
Senator Travis Hutson (bill sponsor)
Senator Victor Torres (850) 487-5015
Senator Joe Gruters (850) 487-5023
Senator Linda Stewart (850) 487-5013
Senator Tom Wright (850) 487-5014
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Sea Turtle Conservancy is based in Gainesville, Florida and is the oldest and most accomplished sea turtle organization in the world. STC is hiring a Lighting Project Specialist to work on our Sea Turtle Lighting Project. This person will work as part of our lighting team implementing sea turtle lighting retrofits, educational workshops, and dune plantings. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is funding this project as part of its Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, which mitigates impacts to sea turtles caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The project’s goal is to change problematic beachfront lighting to sea turtle friendly alternatives using the best available technology.
Duties and Responsibilities
The primary responsibilities of this position will be implementing sea turtle lighting retrofits and dune planting projects in the south west Florida peninsula. The position will involve the collection of night-time photography and lighting measurements; contract negotiations with property owners and managers; developing exterior lighting plans; communicating with property owners and lighting distributors; and data entry, management, analysis and mapping using Access, Excel and ArcGIS Online. Travel to the south west Florida peninsula and other parts of the state over 3 to 5 day periods will be required. Duties will also include coordinating travel logistics; tracking the progression of multiple projects in various stages; and planning and conducting lighting workshops developed for code enforcement and building professionals. The position will require flexible work hours, occasionally at night and on the weekends. The Lighting Project Specialist will be based in Gainesville and work directly under the Lighting Project Manager.
Bachelor’s degree with a major in wildlife conservation, policy, management, communications or similar field.
Experience with contract management, grant development and/or environmental regulation preferred.
Organized and detail-oriented with the ability to simultaneously handle and prioritize multiple tasks.
Strong written and verbal communication skills.
Motivated professional with the ability to work closely with others and follow leadership and conservation directives.
Skilled with MS Office (Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint) and familiar with ArcGIS software.
Passionate about the conservation of threatened and endangered species.
Salary and Benefits
Starting salary will be commensurate with experience (Range $32,000 – $40,000)
Fully paid employee health and dental insurance.
Paid holidays, sick time and vacation days.
Retirement plan initiated after 12 months of employment.
Work in a flexible, yet highly motivated non-profit environment with a close-knit team of professionals committed to sea turtle conservation.
Applications will be accepted until a candidate is selected. The candidate must start by the end of May 2019 but earlier is preferred. Apply by submitting your cover letter and résumé to the Project Manager at Rachel@conserveturtles.org.
STC and Holbrook Travel are working together again to bring you another incredible Sea Turtle Expedition to Cuba! From July 6 – July 13, 2019 you can join experts from the Sea Turtle Conservancy and take part in sea turtle conservation efforts, all while experiencing the beautiful culture and landscape of Cuba.
Led by STC’s David Godfrey and Dr. Dan Evans, the expedition will take participants throughout the western coast of Cuba, stopping in Havana, the Guanahacabibes Peninsula and Viñales. Participants will have the opportunity to witness the amazing nesting process of green or loggerhead sea turtles and work alongside biologists collecting data. Click here to see the full itinerary!
Travel with experts from the Sea Turtle Conservancy to observe the nesting process of sea turtles and collect data with biologists.
Snorkel the clear waters of the coral reef at María la Gorda (optional scuba diving available at an additional charge).
Meet with local conservationists and marine researchers.
Visit the picturesque Viñales Valley, known for its unusual limestone formations.
Stop at Ernest Hemingway’s home, Finca La Vigía.
In addition, participants will enjoy activities such as a walking tour of the historical city of Havana, birding in the ecologically-rich Guanahacabibes Natural Park, and a visit to a local cigar and guarabita rum factory in the picturesque town of Viñales. In between activities, participants will be able to enjoy leisure time and a variety of delicious cuisine.
Pricing: $3,645 – $4,065
All meals, accommodations, and activities as mentioned in the itinerary, in-country transportation, full-time guide, carbon offset, donation to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, departure tax, Cuban visa, and all tips and gratuities. Trip is based on a minimum of 8 participants.
*Price will be lowered if more participants register.*
STC’s Rick Herren holds a juvenile green turtle caught and released as part of STC’s In-Water Research Project.
On November 27th, Sea Turtle Conservancy is participating in our 6th annual Giving Tuesday to raise $50,000 for our new In-Water Research Project!
Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, and is a day of charitable giving around the world. Giving Tuesday provides one day to make a HUGE difference! For the past five years, STC has been very fortunate to receive incredible support from our friends and donors. Last Giving Tuesday, STC supporters raised $40,000 to support our Tour de Turtles educational program! In 2016, you helped raise nearly $40,000 to launch the Florida In-Water Turtle Research Project.
STC asks for your help once again this year to support the ongoing work of our new In-Water Research Project. This project was able to get started this past summer with the help of your donations from two years ago. The funds raised this year will allow the program to operate through all of 2019. The state of Florida and its waters are among the most important in the world for sea turtle survival. The near shore waters are especially important to young sea turtles and their healthy growth. Juvenile turtles come from nesting beaches around the Caribbean and Atlantic to grow up in Florida’s warm waters. The majority of sea turtle research is conducted when turtles come to the beach to nest, however, they spend over 99% of their time in the ocean! The In-Water Project, based out of Cedar Key, Florida, seeks to study sea turtles in their natural habitat, the ocean.
Help STC support the Florida In-Water Turtle Research Project’s operating expenses and sea turtle tagging by donating to the cause in one of four ways:
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, even if received after November 27, 2018. Please make checks out to Sea Turtle Conservancy and mail to 4424 NW 13th St. Suite B-11, Gainesville, FL 32609.
STC’s new research boat, funded in part by 2016’s Giving Tuesday campaign.
Funds raised during this campaign will be matched by STC’s Board of Directors, up to a maximum of $25,000! Help turn $25,000 into $50,000 for sea turtle research!
Can we count you in for #GivingTuesday? Be sure to follow our Facebook and Twitter for LIVE fundraising updates on Giving Tuesday!
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Our younger sister, Lisa, loved to travel and did so with great joy and wonder. The decline of her physical health from the congenital heart condition she lived with so bravely was a limit she recognized, once noting that her body “wouldn’t be able to keep up with her desire to see the world.”
Lisa found other ways to indulge her wanderlust, and sea turtles helped fill a need in her soul. STC’s annual Tour de Turtles was of particular interest, tracking strong, yet vulnerable, animals that traverse wide swaths of the world’s vast, dangerous oceans. She shared her passion for sea turtles with others and donated to this cause that grew near and dear to her. When Lisa died suddenly at age 43 in May 2012, she left a grieving family that got busy and began fundraising for STC in her honor.
This Holiday Season, we are offering our handmade soaps and other special items to raise $3,000 by January 2019, building on the $100,500 generated since the start of this amazing journey. In 2016, Lisa’s Building, which houses staff and welcomes visitors, was dedicated at the STC outpost in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, a crucial nesting beach for greens and leatherbacks, and 100% of ALL holiday donations goes to the Lisa Jo Randgaard Fund, an unrestricted endowment fund focused on the future of sea turtle conservation.
Lisa’s heart goes on, thanks to the kindness of many wonderful people that share her great love of sea turtles.
Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) would like to give a special congratulations to the winners of our 2019 Sea Turtle Scenes Calendar Contest! All of the photos were truly fantastic. Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter!
The winning photographs will be featured in STC’s 2019 Sea Turtle Scenes Calendar, which will be available online in our gift shop sometime in November. Thank you to all of our participants who made this year’s selection exciting and especially difficult. We received HUNDREDS of submissions! If you missed out on this one, look out for the 2020 photography contest next year!
Here are this year’s winners:
**Cover Image!** Photographer: Ben Hicks
January: Photographer David Randazzo
February: Photographer Karla Morales
March: Photographer Ben Hicks
April: Photographer Guillermo Plaza
May: Photographer Dirk Peterson
June Photographer: Karla G Barrientos Munoz
July: Photographer Hannah Bacalla
August: Photographer Jim Angy
September: Photographer David Randazzo
October: Photographer Mario Cisneros
November: Photographer Jim Angy
December: Photographer Saira Ortega
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STC’s Executive Director David Godfrey was recently interviewed by NBC Nightly News to discuss the importance of sea turtle friendly lighting in Florida, which STC has played a major role in implementing across the state. The story aired live on September 22, 2018 and can be viewed on NBC’s website by clicking the image below:
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STC Lighting Project Manager Rachel Tighe discusses a recently completed lighting retrofit with the General Manager & Operating Manager of the Holiday Inn Express Pensacola Beach.
The training allowed Rachel to increase her knowledge and gain expertise in lighting basics and luminaire application. This adds competence and confidence to the team and enhances STC’s ability to offer the best sea turtle friendly lighting solutions while maintaining human safety and security. We are now able to more effectively educate and communicate with property owners about the benefits of sea turtle friendly lighting.
The STC lighting team takes a meter reading and records the data in our online geodatabase system during a night evaluation in Perdido Key.
It is STC’s hope that the certification will help foster and maintain relationships with other lighting professionals in the industry. We are now better equipped to teach lighting professionals about sea turtle friendly lighting so they can better assist us in darkening sea turtle nesting habitat.
To learn more about STC’s Beachfront Lighting program, click here!
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Calling all photographers! Sea Turtle Conservancy is looking for talented photographers (amateur or professional) for our 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 2019 calendar, NO artwork.
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 email@example.com before October 1, 2018, you are granting STC rights to use your photography for the 2019 Sea Turtle Scenes Calendar and other STC education initiatives. STC will not distribute your image without your written permission.
Over the last five years, the Randgaard family has raised $100,000 for Sea Turtle Conservancy to honor the memory of their beloved youngest daughter and sister, Lisa, who passed away at the age of 43on May 2, 2012, from complications of her congenital heart condition.
The family helped fund the renovation of The Lisa Randgaard Building in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, to provide safe, eco-friendly housing and office space at this STC research outpost for staff, scientists, volunteers and other visitors.
When Jenny passed away in October 2016, her daughters knew they gained another angel on their shoulder to guide them in their work. “In addition to our soap bars, we are going to reissue, after heartwarming demand, a limited run of our ‘Lisa’s Fundanas.’ Helping sea turtles is a great way to honor Lisa and Mom.”
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)
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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. Click here for more information about registering to join an STC Turtle Walk.
Photo courtesy Greg Lovett, Palm Beach Post (taken using long-exposure, no flash)
Florida State University: Life on Loggerheads: an integrated epibiosis study to assess foraging behavior, reproductive success and habitats of Northern Gulf of Mexico loggerheads nesting at St. George Island
The sea turtle plate is the number two 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.
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The Bermuda Turtle Project, a joint research and protection program of the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) and the Bermuda Zoological Society (BZS), is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year – making it by far the longest-continuous sea turtle conservation program that focuses on the animal in its marine environment. To celebrate the milestone, STC and BZS have produced a beautiful documentary about the program, and we are planning a series of events that will unfold over the course of 2018. Among these events will be the release of a special commemorative stamps series in Bermuda that celebrates the Bermuda Turtle Project (see below).
As we reflect on the Bermuda Turtle Project’s half century of work, it is appropriate to recall the roots of the program and draw attention to some of its many accomplishments so far. In the mid-1960s, Sea Turtle Conservancy (known then as the Caribbean Conservation Corporation) was carrying out its groundbreaking conservation program – Operation Green Turtle. The project was a unique conservation experiment set up by STC scientific founder Dr. Archie Carr and supported by the US Navy. The goal was to reestablish green turtle nesting colonies at beaches around the Caribbean where they had been wiped out to feed human demand for turtle meat. It was a bold and unprecedented conservation strategy, and it laid the groundwork for what would grow in to a global movement to protect sea turtles.
One of the places where little turtles were taken by the thousands for release was the tiny island nation of Bermuda. Caribbean in climate and appearance, Bermuda is actually almost due east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Old sailors’ logs tell of great fleets of turtles in the waters around Bermuda as well as healthy nesting populations around the island. By 1620, the government was sufficiently concerned about the wanton exploitation of the turtle resource to pass “An Act Agaynst the Killing of Ouer Young Tortoyses,” which is the earliest known legislation regarding sea turtles anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, the law failed to halt the extirpation of the breeding colony, and by the 1920s nesting by green turtles had ceased on the island. Thus, by the time Dr. Carr and the STC had been formed in 1959, the nesting population had been entirely wiped out in Bermuda and only immature green turtles were found to inhabit the island’s extensive shallow-water habitats.
STC Board member and philanthropist Dr. Clay Frick, who owned a home in Bermuda (on what is now known as Frick Island) took a keen interest in the hatchling release program and in the little turtles found around the island. Dr. Frick and his family took up the cause to help recover Bermuda’s turtles, assisting STC with the hatchling shipments from Costa Rica and launching what is now known as the Bermuda Turtle Project (BTP). The BTP was formally initiated in 1968 by Dr. Frick, in cooperation with the Bermuda Government. Since 1991, the project has been a collaborative effort of STC, BZS and Drs. Anne and Peter Meylan. Throughout its history, the program has received financial support from the Frick family. Work carried out under the Bermuda Turtle Project falls into three main project activities: 1) Gathering data about Bermuda’s Sea Turtles; 2) Training Scientists; and 3) Public Education.
The research efforts of the BTP Project are focused on filling in the information gaps on green turtle biology so that successful protection may be given to these vanishing animals. Bermuda is one of a few locations worldwide where post-pelagic, immature green turtles occur in the complete absence of adults. It may be the best site in the world where green turtles of this age can be studied in their natural habitat. Whereas most studies of sea turtles take place on nesting beaches, Bermuda provides scientists and resource managers with a unique opportunity to study the little understood juvenile stage of the green turtle.
As of 2018, about 4,000 individual green turtles and 140 hawksbills have been captured by the project, tagged and released so that information can be obtained on size structure of the population, genetic identity, sex ratios, growth rates, site fidelity, and migratory patterns. More than 1,000 recaptures have been made of tagged green turtles by the project in Bermudian waters, providing one of the best data sets in the world on growth rates and movements of free-ranging, immature green turtles. Green turtles tagged in Bermuda have been captured as far away as Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela; the long-distance tag returns are particularly important because they shed light on the migrations of the green turtles that grow up in Bermuda waters.
A recently-completed genetic survey carried out as part of the Bermuda Turtle Project found that green turtles that grow up in Bermuda come from several nesting beaches, including Florida, Costa Rica and northern South America – many of the places where STC carries out systematic nesting beach monitoring and conservation projects for green turtles.
Satellite tracking has revealed important information about the use of home ranges by green turtles in Bermuda. They appear to utilize a particular spot near coral reef or rocks to sleep at night and then return to a main foraging ground during the day to graze on sea grasses. At a certain point in their maturity, they depart Bermuda waters, often following a bee-line route, to join an adult turtle colony, where they likely remain for the duration of their lives, aside from bi-annual migrations to their natal beaches (where they were born) to mate and nest.
Over the last half century, the Bermuda Turtle Project has discovered nearly everything that is known about the biology and life history of Bermuda’s sea turtles. In the process, the project has provided training for generations of sea turtle biologists and helped contribute to global sea turtle conservation efforts. The ongoing work to protect green turtles that reside in Bermuda during an important phase of their lives is helping recover this species in the Western Hemisphere. And STC’s sustained research and conservation programs in the US, Caribbean and Latin America have been credited with saving the Atlantic green turtle from near extinction and improving the survival outlook for many other turtle populations. We hope STC members and supporters will join us in celebrating the Bermuda Turtle Project’s 50th anniversary, and we invite you to watch our new documentary about the project, which is available above and online here: https://youtu.be/rbFLJ4z1tIk
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Since 2003, Drs. Anne and Peter Meylan have worked in partnership with the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) to monitor important Panamanian sea turtle nesting beaches in the Bocas del Toro Province and the Comarca Ngäbe Buglé, from the Changuinola River to the Chiriquí River. Key among these beaches are three in the Bastimentos Island National Marine Park, Small Zapatilla Cay, Big Zapatilla Cay and Playa Larga. For the 2018 nesting season, they anticipate having up to 6 openings for research assistants to help with this work.
Application Information for Research Assistant Positions
Research Assistantship (RA) positions are voluntary (unpaid) and selected RAs are expected to plan and finance their own travel to and from Bocas del Toro, Panama. Selected RAs will receive board and lodging in small field camps and will be expected to help with cooking and clean-up.
Good knowledge of Spanish and English is required. Applicants with: 1) education in biology or related fields, 2) previous fieldwork with sea turtles, and 3) experience working/living in multicultural environments in isolated locations for extended periods will be most competitive for these positions. Availability for the entirety of one specified time interval for the BINMP program (27 April through 31 July or 25 July through 2 November) is preferred.
STC Alumni RAs have gone on to work for conservation organizations, universities and government agencies worldwide.
Applications for RA positions must include the following materials:
Application Form (download below);
A cover letter explaining why you are interested in the Research Assistant position, details of any relevant experiences and a statement of your level of proficiency in English and Spanish (either a formal qualification or an indication of your written/oral comprehension);
A CV or resume with pertinent information; and
Name and email contact of three professional references.
All application materials must be received at our office before or on the deadline listed for each program. Short-listed candidates will be contacted within four weeks of the application deadline. Please do not phone or e-mail to inquire about the status of your application.
Applicants that do not supply all requested materials will not be considered.
2018 BINMP Program Research Assistant Position Information:
Project description: Conservation and monitoring of hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles Location: Bocas del Toro Province, Bastimentos Island National Marine Park (BINMP)
Dates: Group 1: 27 April – 31 July 2018
Group 2: 25 July – 2 November 2018 Applications will be accepted until all positions are filled.
Since 2003, Anne and Peter Meylan have worked in a partnership with the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) to monitor important Panamanian sea turtle nesting beaches in the Bocas del Toro Province and the Comarca Ngäbe Buglé, from the Changuinola River to the Chiriquí River. Four sea turtle species are found in the waters of Bocas del Toro and the Comarca; Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Green (Chelonia mydas) and Loggerhead (Caretta caretta). Within this region, we have standardized monitoring, research and protection efforts in collaboration with STC and members of local communities close to the nesting beaches. This program has had very positive results. Nearly 1,000 hawksbill nests were recorded in the park in 2017. In the last 14 years, there has been a reduction in the illegal killing of turtles on the majority of nesting beaches in the area, and an increasing nesting trend for both Leatherback and Hawksbill turtles. Despite these advances, numerous threats remain for the sea turtles within and adjacent to BINMP, including increasing pressure on coastal and marine habitats through unregulated tourism development and the continued hunting of turtles for personal consumption and commercial purposes both on the beach and within park waters.
Up to 6 research assistants (RAs) will be trained in sea turtle monitoring techniques by, and work under the supervision of, the Meylans (Eckerd College and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission) and Cristina Ordoñez, STC’s Panama Coordinator. The season is divided into two time periods that together span the majority of the hawksbill nesting season in BINMP: May through July and August through October. The beach monitoring team will be made up of local Panamanians with moderate to extensive experience with the project and RA’s from multiple countries around the world. The primary responsibilities of the RAs will include day time census patrols, night time tagging patrols, and logistic support of all camp activities. Day time patrols include identifying and accurately recording all emergence and nesting activity, marking of nests for future hatching success evaluation, and performing excavations of hatched nests. Night time patrols include tagging and measuring nesting females. All RA’s are expected to contribute to recording data, maintaining the camp, cooking and cleaning, making food trips to town, and other activities in support of the project.
RAs can expect to work very long hours, throughout the day and night, often with little sleep. Beach patrols require walking between 6 to 12 kilometers in soft sand and in extreme weather conditions. Night time patrols are 5 hours long (8 pm – 1 am or 1 am to 6 am). Therefore excellent physical condition is a requirement for the RA positions.
The work will be developed in three different beaches in Bastimentos Island National Marine Park (BINMP): “Small” Zapatilla Cay (Zapatilla Uno), “Big” Zapatilla Cay (Zapatilla Dos), and Long Beach (Playa Larga). RAs will rotate among the three beaches while participating in the sea turtle program and may have an opportunity to work for short periods at other sites in the region.
Leatherback sea turtles are ancient, giant reptiles. Named for their unique shells composed of thin rubbery skin, they can dive the deepest and travel the furthest among all seven sea turtle species on earth. Leatherbacks have traveled the globe for millions of years, but they face a number of mostly human-caused threats to their survival and recovery.
A leatherback sea turtle returns to the sea after nesting. Photo credit: Karla Morales
One of the greatest threats they face is being accidentally caught by commercial fishing operations. When they are caught underwater in nets or on baited lines, they drown if they can’t reach the surface for air. They can also sustain internal injuries from hooks or external injuries from entanglement, including strangulation or amputation. In October of last year, a New Jersey-based organization representing commercial fishing interests quietly introduced a federal petition to classify the Northwestern Atlantic leatherback population as a distinct population and to change the status of this population under the Endangered Species Act from “endangered” to “threatened.”
In the petition, the group states that the Northwestern Atlantic leatherback population (including leatherbacks that nest in Florida, Costa Rica, and Panama) should be listed as “threatened” because it is “not currently at risk of extinction (i.e., endangered) due to its overall population size.” But the scientific evidence submitted with the petition did not take into account data from 2014 and forward that disputes this claim.
In Florida, leatherback nesting has decreased from 650 to just 200 nests since 2014, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. In addition, over the last two decades, STC has documented a severe decline in leatherback nesting at Tortuguero, Costa Rica (see Figure 1). Furthermore, the nesting trend for this species at Chiriqui Beach, Panama, which had shown positive growth over a decade ago, actually shows a slight decline since 2005.
The future of leatherback sea turtles is also at risk due to climate change and global warming. Following a global trend, south Florida sea turtle hatchlings are becoming increasingly female due to warmer-than-average sand temperatures. Hot sand is also causing turtle embryos to overheat in their nests at STC’s research sites in Panama, reducing the hatching success rate to less than 20 percent in many areas monitored by STC.
Figure 1: STC has documented a severe decline in leatherback nesting at Tortuguero, Costa Rica.
If this population of leatherback sea turtles is downgraded to “threatened,” STC worries that commercial fisheries and other industries will take less care in reducing incidental “take,” or the accidental killing of leatherback sea turtles, and federal authorities will be less focused on the urgency with which this species needs protection.
NOAA is accepting public comment on this petition. STC will be making formal comments based on our own scientific data; however, anyone interested in sharing their opinion on the topic may do so online by visiting this site: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=NOAA-NMFS-2017-0147-0001. We hope STC members will ask the federal government to reject this petition and keep leatherback sea turtles listed as “endangered” so they benefit from full protection under the Endangered Species Act.
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Turtle Ambassadors: How Citizens Can Aid in Sea Turtle Conservation
February 13, 2018 from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes
**This workshop is not open to SERSTM registrants, only members of the general public.**
Join us for a special free workshop that’s open solely to the general public! It will engage citizens and share with them ideas on how they can become active participants in sea turtle conservation. They will listen to speakers from several organizations and learn ways to lend a hand and have a voice. Participants will be provided educational materials and swag bags. This workshop will be run from 9 am – 12 noon on Tuesday, February 13, 2018. For more information or to RSVP for this free workshop, please contact Rebecca Mott at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out the official SERSTM WORKSHOP FLYER.
We want to be able to give people the tools to participate in conservation in their daily lives. The topics we will be tackling are:
Marine Debris (Ocean Conservancy)- how to track trash on the mobile app
Turtle-friendly Lighting (Sea Turtle Conservancy)- how to create turtle-friendly lighting for your home
Local Nesting Work (Myrtle Beach State Park)- what nesting looks like on your local beach and how you can help
Sustainable Seafood (SC Aquarium)- how to choose wisely what goes on your plate
You can also get more information on the official Southeast Regional Sea Turtle Meeting (SERSTM) website www.serstm.org. Don’t forget to contact Rebecca Mott at email@example.com to RSVP!
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A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE WITHIN THE STATE. REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE. 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352), www.FloridaConsumerHelp.com