Sea Turtle Ecology

All work and no play, sort of
by -- April 30th, 2012

Our visit to the University of Puerto Rico at Aguadilla and the Isabella coastline.

I’ll start by saying that not all of us were exactly happy to have to sit in a lecture hall listening to presentations on a beautiful sunny day in Aguadilla (sorry Wendy but it is true). However, the talks given this morning by Wendy, Jen, Santos, and Dr. Mayer were very interesting and informative as always. It was nice to get to hear all about what Dr. Mayer and Santos are doing with volunteers at the university as compared to how things work back in Culebra. We also got to hear Jen lecture for the first time about her work with sea turtles in Barbados and Florida, and Wendy finally told us about her research on auditory abilities of sea turtles. It was a long morning, but learning can be just as fun as snorkeling and catching turtles, right?

Among many other conservation efforts, Dr. Mayer and his volunteers do a considerable amount of sand dune reconstruction and restoration on the Isabella coast in the northwestern part of Puerto Rico. We got to see this firsthand this afternoon when we visited the beach and were able to connect the actual work completed with the lectures earlier this morning. Along with biological factors, a lot of what they deal with on the beaches are social and political issues that affect the dunes, as if it wasn’t hard enough to reconstruct a dune, keeping people from destroying it again is way harder. While we walked the beach, Dr. Mayer pointed out some of the progress that had already been made on the dunes and Santos, a grad student at UPR, showed us this season 12 leatherback nests that he has marked off, and provided protection for, with beach wood. The wooden barrier mostly stopped ATVs from driving over the nests and we were happy to discover that you can safely walk over the nest (which a couple of us may have done to the fresh nest on Zoni two nights before) without harming any hatchlings.

We returned to the same local restaurant as the night before for another delicious dinner. I am sure most of us were able to utilize the variety on the menu, just as long as the dishes didn’t contain nuts, various fruits, gluten, lactose, any meat that wasn’t kosher, or grease. I will admit that everyone’s crazy allergies were starting to get on my nerves, but that can only be because I have never had to deal with them and don’t know how horrible they must be on a daily basis. While at dinner, a few of us shared some cultural differences with Santos and Gabi, an undergrad, who were both eager to teach us some local spanish lingo as well as more detail concerning their conservation efforts. We shared some knowledge with them too, but it is always interesting and a little disheartening how people from outside of the continental US know way more about our culture than we know about theirs.

We were able to get a small taste of the Aguadillan night life after dinner, but I will omit the details for Wendy’s sake, (nothing bad happened I assure you, but we definitely had some fun).

Tomorrow we head back to San Juan, hoping to have at least another 24 hours of island time and some relaxation before we have to return to the real world and all of our schoolwork.

Top: Leatherback nest marked of by Santos on the Isabella Coast; Bottom: Sand dune on the Isabella Coast, wooden palette on the left was placed by Dr. Mayer's team in order to facilitate reconstruction

 

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