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Sea Turtle Blog



A Whale of a Time: Interns at Sea

Posted by Katy Biddle on July 31st, 2013

          During my time working with Turtle Island Restoration Network  as a sea turtle conservation intern, California has shown me some incredible things that I would of otherwise never have experienced in Illinois.  Amongst the coastal mountains, Iíve watched black-tailed deer graze (we only have white-tails in Illinois and no mountains to speak of).  Iíve seen orchards of citrus trees and fields of strawberries (as opposed to our rows of corn and soybeans), and this past Tuesday I saw Californiaís greatest treasure: the Pacific Ocean.  It was time to put months of training and education to use and jump onboard a Leatherback Watch Program expedition into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

In perhaps the best intern-bonding yet, the other TIRN interns and I traveled to Moss Landing to join a whale watching trip with Blue Ocean Whale Watch in Monterey Bay.  Itís a long trek from Marin County to Monterey Bay, so we left at 6:30 to make our 10 AM departure.  Luckily for the other interns, I keep tabs of all the Starbucks within a 20-mile radius, so we were able to get some caffeine coursing through our veins to wake us up.   Once we had our coffee we were fully awake and amped for our trip!        

  Upon arrival at the harbor in Moss Landing I was immediately impressed with the beautiful sight of all the boats lined up in the marina, but even they couldnít prepare me for what I was about to see.  Conditions were calm and clear, a perfect day to try and spot an endangered Pacific leatherbacks sea turtle and for whale watching!  Just a few miles offshore, Kate, the naturalist on board, said there was activity ahead.  A few minutes later we were surrounded by hundreds of dolphins!  Kate informed us that they were Rissoís  and Pacific white-sided dolphins. We followed them for quite some time when all of a sudden we saw a whale up ahead!  We were able to watch a juvenile humpback play with kelp all the while swimming by dolphins.  We even saw it breach!  Even though the humpback was only a juvenile it was still HUGE.  Apparently baby humpbacks are 15 feet long at birth.  Thatís three times my height! Humpbacks travel with their moms until theyíre about a year old, so this juvenile was at least that old since it was traveling by itself.     

  Between the humpback, the dolphins, sea otters, sea lions, and elephant seals that I saw, we all had a very eventful trip.  I was able to make an announcement to the entire crew and all the passengers about the efforts of the Leatherback Watch Program, and many people signed up to receive more information and email updates from SeaTurtles.org.   After I gave the announcement they even let me sit in the captainís chair!  It was definitely a defining moment in my life.  The only disappointment was not seeing a leatherback. Sightings are rare due to the fact that leatherback populations in the Pacific have decreased 95% since 1980.  The crew of Blue Ocean Whale Watch, however, has seen many leatherbacks already this year and they definitely had their eyes peeled hoping they could spot one for me.  I wish I could join them out on the water again on another one of the Leatherback Watch Program trips, but I must return to Illinois where there is no ocean and definitely no leatherbacks.   I am so glad I got to explore the Pacific Ocean while I was out here in California!  




Katy's Turtally Awesome Summer

Posted by Katy Biddle on June 3rd, 2013

When I was just three years old, my mother took me to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois.  When I came across the large saltwater tank I became completely enamored with the giant sea turtle gliding through the water.  The only way Mom could get me away from the tank without kicking and screaming was to buy me a toy turtle from the gift shop.  I fell in love with turtles that day, and since then this love has only grown.  
    It is my love of turtles that brings me here to TIRN.  While all of my friends were deciding what financial internships they wanted to do or which university they wanted to do clinical research at, I went to Google and simply searched ďsea turtle internships.Ē  Seaturtles.org was one of the first websites to come up.  Whether itís fate or just dumb luck, Iím not sure.  But I do know that I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to come out here to the San Francisco area to learn more about conservation, sea turtles, and the non-profit sector.  In just three days I have already learned more about sea turtles than I have in the past twenty years.  Not only have I learned about them, but Iíve even begun to create school curriculum to teach children about the Leatherback Sea Turtle, the newly declared marine reptile of California.  Not only do I get to help create this curriculum, but I am also working on the Leatherback Watch Program, which enlists the help of volunteers to document when and where Leatherbacks are being sighted off the coast.  Iím so grateful for this opportunity to help sea turtles in this way.  When I started looking into turtle internships I was concerned that nobody would want me because Iím not a Biology major.  But here I get to save sea turtles by using the skills Iíve developed through my Communication Studies major at Vanderbilt.  Talk about my dream job!
     Coming all the way to California to work at TIRN was certainly a risk, but one that Iím glad I took.  Growing up in Normal, IL (yes, it really is called Normal and no, it really isnít normal) and attending school in Nashville, TN makes California seem like a foreign country.  First of all, I didnít know what mountains looked like until I looked down on the four-hour flight from Chicago to San Francisco.  Second of all, my research tells me there are mountain lions near the office.  Thirdly, I have never seen a place that was so sunny, but so cold.  These, amongst other things, are what make this internship such an adventure!




Washington Meets California: Esmyís Summer Adventure

Posted by Esmy Jimenez on May 28th, 2013

Day three of summer in West Marin County and I wake to the sound of songbirds and sunlight peeking in through the window. A modern day Cinderella, I lay still for a second as I watch a deer graze less than 50 feet from the house. The bike ride to work is no less impressive as I follow a winding country road to the Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) headquarters. Located on Golden Gate National Recreational Area, the office is surrounded with the redwoods of Northern California and in fact, Lagunitas Creek behind the office, is home to Coho salmon smolt.

Originally from Eastern Washington, I moved to Los Angeles to study at the University of Southern California. Now a junior majoring in Environmental Studies and International Relations, I knew I wanted a summer experience engaged in both fields. Here at Sea Turtle Restoration Project, I found just that. Working under the guidance of biologists, outreach coordinators, and other experienced non-profit staff, I tackle local and international legislation enforcing laws to protect these creatures from countless threats like plastic bags or fisheries. Additionally, future work will focus on developing educational resources for local schools to implement into their curriculum. Recently STRP partnered with local middle school students providing me with the opportunity to teach them field work methodology in creating their own Marine Debris Action Team project. Because sea turtles and other wildlife mistake smaller particles for food or become entangled in larger pieces of litter, plastic debris is one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems. Long-term data collection could supply us with a better understanding of local Ďhotspotsí where greater amounts of debris are present. Such patterns could potentially help us focus our efforts to create the biggest impact possible. Whatís more is that, any beach cleanups like this also help improve overall water quality for Pacific Leatherbacks that feed on jellyfish found off the West Coast.

While this summer has just begun, there is no doubt in my mind that it will continue to be a spectacular learning experience, putting my academic knowledge to work and strengthening my professional background. Surrounded by vivid greenery and hardworking people, my summer holds plenty of potential and I see it unfolding into a wonderful adventure.




Kari's Turtle Travels

Posted by Kari Gehrke on October 17th, 2012
Kari Gehrke with female Green nesting turtle going back to the ocean.

This summer I was able to go to Costa Rica and work with Green sea turtles in Tortuguero. Also while I was there I was able to do my own research on if plastics found on the beach had any affect on sea turtle nesting. I was there for three months and had an amazing time. I loved working with the turtles and being able to go to a different country.

After I got back form Costa Rica I wanted to look for what might be my next step into doing what I want to do for the rest of my life. So I looked around my area and was only able to find one organization that worked with sea turtles. That is what made me start my internship at seaturtles.org.

I am a senior in college and about to graduate. I want to work with sea turtles as my main job and I want to work with them in the water. Iím not to sure what I exactly want to do so far but I do know that I want to work with them in the water. My next move after college is to take a year off of going to school and get more field work in working with sea turtles. After this I also plan on starting my PhD work at a school that has a sea turtle graduate program. I hope this all works out for me and I am excited to get it done.




Teal's Turtle-tastic Time

Posted by Teal Riege on October 17th, 2012
Teal showing some turtle love at SailFest 2012! Photo: Kristyn Jensen.

People always ask me, why sea turtles? What makes you love them so much? And despite the fact that they have outlived the dinosaurs, are an important keystone species for our ecosystem, are greatly endangered, and amazingly cute, there is something deep in me that knows that they are my love.  After having experience in eighth grade in Baja, Mexico tagging turtles in the Sea of Cortez, and then spending four years studying biology, I guess you could say I have found my passion.

But after graduating, we are all faced with the question of what do we do now? It took me a little while to remember this dream of mine from the eighth grade to go into sea turtle conservation, and even still I was held back by not knowing how to get into this world of sea turtle advocacyÖ Until I found the Sea Turtle Restoration Project. After writing to them expressing how much I loved sea turtles, and that I would move across the state to come work with this group, they offered me the opportunity to come work for them here in Marin County, and I have been so happy with it.

Even though I have only been here a month, I have already experienced and learned so much about what it takes to run a non-profit, and it has opened my mind to how much there really is to learn and do to protect sea turtles! I feel like I have actually gotten to make a difference, whether it is responding to school kids letters, or researching scientific articles on Hawaiian turtles, or helping to create policy that could change the whole system of how fishing industries work, it has been so rewarding. I recommend anyone looking to jump-start their career in sea turtle biology, or just someone with a great passion for learning more about non-profits. Plus, the staff is super friendly and accommodating, which is really great to have such great support behind all of these projects.







Sea Turtle Restoration Project • PO Box 370 • Forest Knolls, CA 94933, USA
Phone: +1 415 663 8590 • Fax: +1 415 663 9534 • info@seaturtles.org
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