Archive for November, 2011

Marine Biologist of the Month – Lauren Johnson

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

At Sea Turtle Camp, we strive to integrate conservation principles into every aspect of our programs and daily lives. That is why we were so impressed with Lauren Johnson’s continued commitment to removing single use plastics from her family’s lives. As many of campers saw first hand at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital, plastics have a devastating impact on our marine life, in particular sea turtles. And the problems that they create will be around for a long time, since plastics don’t biodegrade. Inspired by a talk from Bonnie Monteleone in our Marine Biology Immersion program, Lauren had opted to remove plastics from her life. Leading by example truly is such a powerful way to inspire others, and she has started with her family and friends in her own community. Learn more about Lauren as we feature her as our November Marine Biologist of the Month and join her in her efforts to eliminate single use plastics from our households.

Name: Lauren Johnson

Hometown: Chesapeake, VA

Grade: 8th

What is your favorite marine animal? Sea Turtle

What is your favorite movie? Finding Nemo!

What is your favorite food? Tacos!

What inspired your interest in marine biology? I have always been interested in animals and at one point I wanted to be a vet, but I  love  the ocean and last year I started looking into Marine Biology and after camp I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

What drew you to Sea Turtle Camp? I was looking at Marine Biology camps for the upcoming summer when I found Sea Turtle Camp and it looked so interesting and fun!

What is your favorite Sea Turtle Camp memory? My favorite Sea Turtle Camp memory well, that’s a hard one because I have so many, but I would have to say was getting to know everyone while we helped at the hospital. I also loved getting to brush the turtles back.

What kind of music are you listening to right now? Well right now I am listening to Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles, but in general I like Jack Johnson, Sarah McLaughlin, and Coldplay.

What hobbies or activities are you involved in? I am on a swim team, play soccer, in drama club, take piano lessons, and play the clarinet.

What current conservation projects are you involved with? Well I am starting with my own family. The slideshow we saw on plastic while we were at camp really inspired me, and I have been reading a blog by a women who lives on an almost entirely plastic free life. So I’ve been trying to convince my family to use less plastic and it is slowly working. For my sister’s birthday I got her glass straws, we use reusable bags at the grocery store, and I absolutely refuse to use plastic water bottles. I think it has been almost four months since I’ve used a plastic water bottle. My family has also been recycling so much more and even reusing. Instead of just throwing away plastic/glass containers we will use them over. I also try to pick up trash when I see it.

What would be your dream Sea Turtle Camp adventure? I would love to go scuba diving and to see sea turtles and other creatures in their natural habitat

What are your future aspirations? I hope to get accepted in a science and medical program and to go to college for Marine Biology and Environmental Science. I am also making a slide show to raise awareness on pollution and how it affects marine life.

What would you do to change the world? I would get rid of plastic bags and plastic water bottles. I would also help clean up the gyres in the oceans.

Things To Be Thankful For

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Things that we are thankful for this past year:

Twenty-five turtles released in June.

Seven sea turtles released in September.

Over 100 nests on Topsail this summer.

Sand dunes that protect our coast and the sea turtle nests.

Salt marshes providing nursery habitats for lots of juvenile fish – including some that find their way to our dinner table.

Oyster and mussel beds that helped filter our waters.

A new 10,000 square foot facility with labs, surgery, and education rooms.

A radiograph machine allowing each turtle to be x-rayed for obstructions and foreign objects.

An incredible, caring group of volunteers that unselfishly give all that they have.

Interns that inspired and encouraged our students at the hospital.

A staff committed to sharing their passion for the marine world.

Campers interested in changing the world, one turtle at a time.

New programs, including the Costa Rican Ecology Camp.

Jean Beasley.

All our oceans.

Please let us know what else you are thankful for this season by posting on our Facebook wall.

Will new gear result in safer turtles?

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

One of the greatest threats facing sea turtles is their deadly interactions with fishing gear. Any student who has volunteered at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital has seen this first hand. Two new gear devices, aimed at different fisheries, seek to minimize bycatch – allowing fishermen to maintain their livelihoods and sea turtles to maintain their lives.

The first gear change is a new, mandated scallop dredge on the East Coast from New England to North Carolina. Last month, the New England Fishery Management Council called for the implementation of dredges with fewer bars (to keep turtles from getting stuck) and a special deflection device (to keep them from getting into the nets). The changeover must take place by March 2013, though many scallop fishermen are not happy about it. They claim that the new dredges reduce their catch, force them to use more fuel, and are unnecessary since changes implemented five years ago already reduced their bycatch. And they’re expensive – at least $4,000 for a single dredge.

The other gear change is voluntary in nature. An Australian tuna fisherman, Hans Jusseit, has designed a new tuna hook for the longline fishery that comes with a shield to prevent turtles and seabirds from becoming inadvertently hooked and subsequently drowned. This shield of the “smart tunahook” guards the barb and bait until it falls below a certain depth, at which point the shield detaches and falls to the ocean floor. The designer claims that this shield will rust away within a year. The guarded hook only costs 20 cents, but since longline fishing fleets set thousands of hooks on each set, the cost and waste can certainly add up.

For years fishermen have been tracking the tasty treats of the ocean – shrimp, scallops, tuna, etc. – and resulting in billions of tons of bycatch, some of which are endangered and threatened species. While new gear and innovation are always appreciated, it may be time to simply turn down these tasty morsels, starting at your own table.

Traveling to the Turtles

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Some of the most special moments of Sea Turtle Camp are the night nesting walks we perform at Topsail Island. Whether scanning the dim horizon for a turtle’s head popping out of the surf or surveying the sands for the telltale turtle tracks, the magic of those still moments are etched in our memories. Most students wanted even more of this experience, so we are thrilled to announce the addition of our Nesting Ecology program in Costa Rica!

Very few places are better suited for studying sea turtles than Costa Rica; 6 of the 7 species can be found there. And during the summer months, nesting season is extremely active. The stretch of beach we monitor is the largest nesting aggregation of greens in the entire Western Hemisphere! We’ll work alongside a grass roots, non-profit organization to collect data on nesting females, identify turtle tracks, record tag numbers, perform egg counts, and assist with nest relocations.

After following in the footsteps of famous turtle researchers like Archie Carr, we will have the opportunity to study some of the turtles’ terrestrial relatives as we travel inland to get the full “pura vida” experience. We’ll take some time away from the beach to explore another extremely diverse habitat – the cloud forests of Monteverde. Working alongside researchers we’ll learn about this incredible rainforest habitat that is supported by the moisture of the clouds. In addition to learning about rainforest ecology and all of its inhabitants we will take a 2 day raft down the Pacuare River, a zip-line treetop tour, and walk through the clouds on canopy bridges.

We look forward to exploring all the diverse ecosystems that Costa Rica has to offer. As with all Sea Turtle Camp programs, we minimize enrollment to maximize each participant’s experience. To learn more about this new and exciting offering, visit the Costa Rica Turtle Ecology page here or call the office at 910.686.4611 to speak with one of our reservation specialists.

Dolphins Beat the Bends

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Dolphins share many similarities with us terrestrial mammals. We both breath air, give birth to live young, nurse our offspring, have hair, and are endothermic. One further similarity is that both cetacean and human bodies feel the impacts of diving to depth.

As our scuba participants can tell you, care needs to be taken when diving and especially when ascending. Nitrogen dissolves in the bloodstream with increased pressure. Bubbles can form if a diver ascends too quickly forcing this gas out of solution and inducing what scuba divers call the bends. Despite adapting to a life at sea, dolphins and whales are also susceptible to this off-gassing of supersaturated blood and tissues.

Recent research from scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has provided new insight into dolphin’s ability to recover from events of bubble formation. A study of live stranded dolphins found gas in their internal organs. Nine were unable to recover, two were released and subsequently restranded, and the remaining eleven were released and returned to seemingly normal function – thereby adequately managing the bubbles.

Scientists have found stranded beaked whales whose tissues and blood were riddles with bubbles – many found near naval sonar testing areas. It has been long speculated that acoustic stressors seem to change the normal bubble management of these aquatic mammals. While these stresses may be too extreme to recover from, cetaceans inherent ability to manage bubbles in the blood and tissues could provide insight into further treatment in humans.

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