For the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, World Turtle Day (May 23)J this year was a celebration of epic proportions. The Center was celebrating two big event--a day devoted to an animal that has great meaning for them AND the 2 year anniversary of the Center's grand opening.
The Georgia Sea Turtle Center, located near Jekyll Island, is devoted to conserving, caring for, and spreading awareness of the wild sea turtles that inhabit the beaches of Jekyll Island, Georgia. The Center is also a marine turtle rehabilitation, research and education facility that provides emergency care to sick and injured sea turtles, while providing opportunities for scientific research and long-term treatment.
We had the chance to talk to Alicia B Marin, education coordinator, about her reasons for joining the Center and why the plight of the sea turtles is such a worthy cause.
Did you grow up near the ocean or loving marine life?
Yes, I did grow up near the ocean. I grew up on Long Island, New York and lived about 5 minutes from the beach. The beach is where I spent most of my time, and have always loved the coastal environment.
How did an interest in sea turtles start?
My interest in sea turtles first began while working as an Environmental Educator at the Suffolk County Marine Environmental Learning Center (SCMELC), on Long Island, New York. I was intrigued by “Ace” a cold stunned Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle SCMELC was caring for at the time. I quickly developed classes and activities on sea turtles and knew that I had found my niche.
While at Duke, you focused on endangered species conservation, specifically sea turtles, in the Caribbean region. Why focus on that particular area and what did you learn?
My advisor at Duke University, Dr. Karen L. Eckert, focused her efforts in the Caribbean region. While taking a summer course at the Duke Marine Laboratory, I had the opportunity to meet and work with many international sea turtle enthusiasts. It was then that I learned about opportunities in the region and began making plans to conduct my master’s research on the island of Nevis, West Indies.
As part of your master’s project, you created a sea turtle camp. What was that like?
Incredible! I spent the summer of 2006 in Nevis, interning with the Nevis Department of Fisheries and the Nevis Turtle Group. That summer, the Nevis Turtle Group was approached by the Four Season’s Resort to create some sea turtle related activity for local children. I suggested a Sea Turtle Camp and created it on the spot! The Camp was so successful that it became the inspiration for my master’s project, where I created an easy to use Guide, intended for any interested person to be able to use to host a Sea Turtle Camp of their own! I actually just returned from St. Kitts and Nevis, where I spent 3 glorious weeks assisting with Sea Turtle Camps in the region. This was the 4th consecutive year Sea Turtle Camp was offered! The Guide is currently pending publication and should be available by the end of the year.
What does an educator do that perhaps other people who work with sea turtles or endangered species don’t do?
While Educators do get the opportunity to work directly with the animals (which is pretty cool), our main responsibility is taking complex, scientific information and converting into a form that the general public is able to understand. We get to be extremely creative in developing unique games, crafts and educational programs! And we get to interact with people of all ages, and all walks of life.
Is Jekyll Island where you are located now, swarming with sea turtles and marine life?
The waters surrounding Jekyll Island, Georgia are indeed rich with marine life, including sea turtles! The Veterinary staff are currently caring for 16 sea turtle patients. While that is a lot, believe or not, we have had more! We just released Mydas, one of our green sea turtles today! We are also nearing the end of the nesting season, and at this time we have 72 nests on Jekyll Island, 70 Loggerhead nests and 2 Leather back nests.
Tell me about the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and the work you do there specifically.
Through sea turtle rehabilitation, research and education programs, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center will increase awareness of habitat and wildlife conservation challenges, promote responsibility for ecosystem health and empower individuals to act locally, regionally, and globally to protect the environment.
As the Education Coordinator of the GSTC, I am responsible for supervising the education department. I also coordinate all reservations for school field trips, group tours, special events and public outreach.
What did the Center do for World Turtle Day (May 23)?
We celebrated our 2 year anniversary! May 23 marked the 2 year anniversary of the Georgia Sea Turtle Centers grand opening! This year, we celebrated in true sea turtle style with a week of fun filled activities! All events were filled to capacity and we were bursting at the seams with guests ready to celebrate with us!
Why have you become so passionate about sea turtle conservation?
That is an easy question…because sea turtles are simply fascinating creatures! They have been around longer than we have and face extremely difficult lives. I am constantly amazed by their resilience to the many threats they face. To see the condition that some of our patients are in when they first come in, and then to be able to see them released back into their ocean home, is incredible. I am also amazed by the entire nesting process. To witness a nesting female depositing her eggs in the sand is a life changing experience and no matter how many times I have seen this, I am taken aback every time!
How do you spread awareness of the problems facing sea turtles today?
As an Educator, I deliver educational programs to the public, those that are able to make it to the GSTC and outreach programs to those that can not. Visitors to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center will explore exhibits on sea turtle conservation, rehabilitation, and their amazing journey from egg to adulthood. School field trips, public programs, and special events will highlight Georgia’s unique coastal ecosystem and the mysterious world of these ancient reptiles. I also host Teacher Workshops, to provide teachers with additional information that they can take back with them to their classroom and share with their students.