Sunday, February 1, 2009

Climate Change and Sea Turtles

I can't believe it has been nearly a month since Matt and I attended a particularly interesting Sea Turtle Preservation Society meeting where long-time friend Duane De Freese, Ph.D. spoke about climate change and sea turtles. First, a full confession on my part. I attempted to video Duane's talk, and I failed miserably. I'm sorry that I don't have good video clips to show you, because it was an excellent presentation. Duane could read the phone book and hold the audience's attention - he's a skilled, knowledgeable speaker, and a heck of a nice guy.
A bit about Duane. He's a marine biologist with a B.S. degree in Zoology from the University of Rhode Island and M.S and Ph.D. degrees in Marine Biology from Florida Institute of Technology. His bio is impressive, but in my mind, his most important job was serving as the first program director for Brevard County's Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) Program from 1990 to 1998. He defined and structured a program that continues to make Brevard a leader in protecting its natural habitats. Among his many projects, he led the effort to secure a donation of the old Chuck's Steak House Restaurant property on the south beaches from the Richard King Mellon Foundation in the early 1990’s, with a vision for the EEL Program to build a barrier island center for conservation and education. The dream was fully realized in 2008 with the opening of the EEL Program Barrier Island Center.
His presentation at the Sea Turtle Preservation Society meeting reflected his focus on ocean conservation, climate change, sea level rise, and Florida's ocean and coastal economy. His message was a pragmatic one - the oceans and their living resources are an engine that drives the economy and quality of life of Florida and the nation. He warned that climate change is a complex, real issue, and that we need to mitigate, adapt, and be prepared for surprises, but he did not send us home to have nightmares. Instead, he listed postive actions we can all take - keep an open mind, be involved, support coastal land acquisition, learn to renourish beaches better, and support such organizations as the Sea Turtle Preservation Society.
Since I messed up the video, Duane was kind enough to provide me with some photos. The first is one of him on a waterway he is fighting hard to protect - the Indian River Lagoon. This one shows (left to right) Dr. Llew Ehrhart (Godfather of sea turtle research in Brevard County), Paul Tritaik (former refuge manager at Pelican Island and Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge) holding a sea turtle, Jack Hanna , and Duane.
A Space Coast Climate Change Initiative Forum is scheduled for Monday, February 9, at the Brevard Community College Melbourne Campus, 7 - 9 p.m., FREE. Duane is a member of the SCCCI Task Force. I hope you'll take the time to wander through the SCCCI web site and get involved. I'll see you at the Forum!

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