Once, Twice, Three Times a Turtle: A Local Reflection

Bees, Trees and Turtles

Along with rain forest deforestation and honeybee colony-collapse disorder talk in recent decades, the plight of the sea turtles has come onto our radar as a serious environmental concern.  Deforestation affects many other species of plants and animals—not to mention the oxygen supply and possible overall weather patterns.  The honeybee issue is atrocious in its severity although much of the general human population hasn’t realized it yet but may if our food supply is abruptly altered one of these days.   Meanwhile I live in south Florida where it so happens that a few endangered species of sea turtles come to nest annually including the Green, Loggerhead and Leatherback sea turtle.  As a child growing up on the east coast here in Florida it wasn’t uncommon to come across a nest of turtle eggs and there were no public pushes to “save them”—little did I know that one day I’d be a grown-up where turtle talk would be critical to our survival in addition to those of other plants animals such as the bees and trees.

Turtle Walk: Not What First Comes to Mind

The Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) is located in Juno Beach, Florida and their website is www.marinelife.org .  It turns out they have something called a “Turtle Walk” where attendees arrive on a scheduled evening and learn more about the details of the sea turtles’ habits and the kind of research and direct assistance to the sea turtles that the LMC provides through generous donation of volunteer time and public donations.  At the same time, there are “spotters” in communication with staff indoors as to whether there is a turtle sighting—they inform if is there a female turtle approaching the shore in order to lay her eggs in the dark.   If a turtle comes ashore that matches the species allowed by state permit for LMC to view with a tour then the visitors are chaperoned down to the shore in the nighttime with the assistance of red flashlights that will not hamper or scare the turtle.  The general purpose of this Turtle Walk is to educate visitors through education and viewing in real-time the tedious work of a sea turtle to try against many odds to secure the next generation’s survival.

Last Tuesday: No Turtle Show

I had the opportunity to participate in a Turtle Walk event last Tuesday at the LMC in Juno Beach.  Unfortunately our group didn’t have the chance to view a turtle laying in real-time, however, the information I was able to learn in a couple of hours from some of the staff that evening was really enlightening.  Among my favorites: learning that the water evacuating from the pipe from rehabilitation turtle tanks has been treated with a hydrogen peroxide solution that affirms my intuition that has allowed my children and I to enjoy the water play by the shore from it, the fact that leatherback turtles are our best friends because they eat their weight in jellyfish(!) and that LMC’s presence in our area has helped to make significant changes that benefit humans as well as turtles with keeping the nearby beaches cleaner and calmer with less ambient light.  Also, “hot chicks, cool dudes” was the phrase coined to describe the fact in the 1980s biologists realized that sea turtles undergo temperature-dependent sex determination–i.e. the temperature of the sand encloses the egg nests on the shore will sway whether an egg hatches a male or female sea turtle.

Mean Green Clean

If you have had the opportunity to read some of my earlier blog posts you will already understand my anger about our shorelines being treated as an open sand landfill or ashtray—seriously, what possesses us humans to think it’s okay to discard our trash on purpose in a place we all share with each other and the other animal and plants?  On July 5th the LMC organized a beach cleanup and invited the public to come out and utilize tools to pick up any and all trash that could be found after a major holiday.  I brought one of my young children along and when faced with a tantrum I gently sang to him as to why we needed to clean up—for the turtles, for the trees, for the bees and for you and me.  It was both impressive and sad to see how much the public had left in the sands only inches and feet away from wooden markers indicating a sea turtle nest.  Although it is great to have public beach cleanups organized, I feel it’s incumbent upon anyone who steps on a beach to refrain from littering and to pick up any rubbish they see and properly discard.

Local Paper Highlights

Within the same week of attending a LMC Turtle Walk night and participating in a public beach clean up our local paper The Palm Beach Post had a fun Accent front page story entitled “On the trail of turtles” written by Barbara Marshall and photographs by Greg Lovett: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/lifestyles/on-the-trail-of-turtles/nYc6g/  It was a fun piece that highlighted a snippet of what volunteers, biologists and physicians do at the LMC to help ensure that the leatherback turtles who nest on our shores are able to continue their calling as part of our ecological balance in the ocean–did you know they may actually be natives of the Asian oceans? Also, they eat jellyfish, I repeat: THEY EAT JELLYFISH.  There is more to be written on the need to assist the sea turtles, of course, but it is good to see that the information continues to come out no matter how big or small.

Turtle Time

It is understandable that we can get so overwhelmed by any news that affects the survival of animal species, plants and the frightful fluctuations of our climate on this Earth—so that we actually are moved to not move, we become paralyzed and apathetic.  My hope is that we can at the very least become more aware of our immediate environment where we respectively live and do our best to assist outstanding issues with wildlife other concerns.  We cannot disassociate ourselves from the fact that we depend on each other and other building blocks in our physical world to survive and thrive as we strive to become a better human race overall.

R.V.S.Bean

Some newsworthy links:

recent article on honeybee CCD: http://science.time.com/2013/05/07/beepocalypse-redux-honey-bees-are-still-dying-and-we-still-dont-know-why/

recent article on rainforest destruction: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22706402

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Wyoming Life

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