We kicked of the day with an engaging presentation by Suzan Lahkan on the history and development of Nature Seekers and wrapped up with an intense evening on the beach.
After a late night of turtle tagging, getting up in the morning was pretty painful, but the amazing breakfast food helped. At 10:30 we moved into the classroom next door for Suzan’s lecture. We were afraid we might not be able to stay awake, but the speech gripped everyone’s attention from the very beginning. She gave us a tour through the history of nature seekers. It started out with one woman, her passion for sea turtles and a vision for the community. With incredible commitment, determination and courage it became what it is today, an internationally acclaimed sea turtle conservation organization. She talked about the early days, when she worked as a volunteer with no funding or support from the government, about how she and the early members patrolled the beach every night after a full day’s job to stop people from poaching eggs and killing turtles. She recalled the long battles with the government that are in some ways still continuing. Through tremendous effort, they were able to change the community members of Matura. The stories she told of turtle poachers turning into conservationists, and how the community members came together was incredibly inspiring. The passion and intensity of her character was both moving and encouraging.
We often opt safe and passive paths, thinking our own strengths are not enough to make a difference. Suzan, on the other hand, with limited resources and a plain education, imagined a future and set out to change the world around her. Ghandi once said, “you must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Today we witnessed the truthfulness of those words.
Tonight student groups began their independent projects. Nate, Christina, and I were looking at changes in body temperature both internal and external as the leatherbacks nested. Carrying wires, probes, and lube we set out to find leatherbacks as they emerge from the surf. We soon found out that taking a turtle’s temperature was going to be harder than it looked. For more than an hour we followed a female turtle we nicknamed Helga up the beach, during the excavation process, back to the sea. As Christina and I dodged flying sand and flippers Nate was fortunate enough to spend romantic evening at the tail end of our lovely lady making sure the thermometer stayed in place. Exhausted we were relieved to wish Helga a safe journey as she returned to the sea and headed in from another late night.