Day on the Job
Sea turtle conservationist: 'Buried Treasure'
I work for the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program (operated through a grant from Nova Southeastern University and the Department of Planning and Environmental Protection) in Broward County, Florida.
My job is to relocate sea turtle nests from developed stretches of beach and move them to a restraining hatchery where the turtles hatch and then are released back into the wild.
The reason we do this is that in nature the hatchlings tend to go the brightest spot on the horizon after emerging from 45 to 55 days of incubation. On an undeveloped beach, that spot will be the sea. But on a developed beach with thousands of house lights, the hatchlings can become disorientated, run into the street and be run over by cars.
All seven extant sea turtle species are endangered to some degree, so this program helps to ensure their survival in the wild.
How long have you been in this position?
For three years.
Age and sign.
I'm 33 and a Libra. (Maybe this explains why I have such a difficult time making decisions.)
I have a BS in biology from Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio, an MS in marine biology from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
How did you get your current job?
By being a graduate student at Nova Southeastern University. Graduate marine biology students there get to do the most awesome things. I was able to dive on the Johnson Sea Link Submersible to a depth of 2,000 feet, I spent two weeks aboard the NOAA research vessel Albatross IV, I've logged 1,000 hours in underwater scuba diving and I've even tracked spotted eagle rays in the Florida Keys from a parasail.
How many hours do you work per week?
The hours really vary throughout the nesting season. It's important that I'm up well before sunrise to locate the tracks the adult female left the night before.
Once I locate a nest I start to look for the eggs. This can be quite time-consuming because the egg chamber is usually some 24 inches deep. I spend a lot of time digging holes in the sand before finding the eggs.
The eggs then are transported to the hatchery where they're reburied. The hatchery needs to be checked a few times each night in case a nest has hatched. The baby turtles are released into the water where they begin a perilous and not completely understood journey.
By the way, I see some very interesting things at this hour of the morning.
What's the first thing you do when you get to work in the morning?
Grab a cup of coffee and check my e-mail.
What time do you have lunch? What do you usually eat?
Lunch is usually on the go and I don't eat any animal with a central nervous system.
What time do things get tense around the office? What makes it that way?
Office? What's that?
If you're having a good day at work, what is it that makes it good?
Meeting all the interesting people I encounter along my way each morning. I patrol the beach on an ATV (all-terrain vehicle). Digging holes in the sand prompts some interesting questions and reactions from people. Most people think I'm searching for some buried treasure. I love sharing the entire turtle experience with everyone while educating them about the plethora of problems (most of them caused by humans) that plague sea turtles.
How much work, if any, do you take home?
Well I have to take baby turtles home all of the time since they must be released at night. If I find them during the day, I have to wait to release them. My dog Bella loves taking care of them temporarily.
What does your work contribute to society?
This project helps to ensure that these creatures will be around for the next generation to see and interact with in the wild, rather than in a zoo.
Do you expect to finish your working life in this career?
Yes, I hope to always be involved in the field of marine science
If you could have two more careers, what would they be?
I'd love to be a forensic anthropologist helping to solve intriguing mysteries. And I'd jump at the chance to be a paranormal psychologist (a real life ghost-buster).
What's an unforgivable trait in a colleague?
Laziness and taking shortcuts at the expense of the turtles.
What do you do to relieve stress?
I really don't have too much stress with my job (maybe that directly correlates to the question about the "office"). But if I feel I need some recreational time I enjoy scuba diving.
What have you been reading lately?
I only read non-fiction. I'm currently reading "Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission" (Doubleday, May) by Hampton Sides. I feel this should be mandatory reading for all high school students, to encourage them to better appreciate their freedom, their lives and their potential, owed in part to the men and women who fought in World War II.
When you have one of those days on which you don't think you can face the job again, what is it that gets you out the door in the morning and off to work?
Knowing that I will see the sunrise each day!
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Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program
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