Sunday, May 31, 2009

Leatherbacks, Heroes, and Urchins - Oh My!

Jay Wherley, Sea Turtle Preservation Society (STPS) volunteer and fine nature photographer, sent a link to a heartwarming story. The CNN Hero story begins With its white sand and clear, blue water, Trinidad's Matura Beach looks like a postcard. It's a far cry from its recent past, when leatherback sea turtle carcasses littered the ground and kept tourists away. The column then goes on to describe Suzan Lakhan Baptiste's 20-year effort to help end the slaughter of leatherback sea turtles and turn a turtle graveyard into a maternity ward - one of the largest leatherback nesting colonies in the world. It's a terrific story, and shows what one person can do to make a difference. Apparently, Ms Baptiste is known in Trinidad as The Crazy Turtle Woman - sounds like a supreme compliment to me. There's a link to the full story at the end of this post. I believe Ms Baptiste would be a worthy candidate for Disney's Conservation Hero award, and I hope the CNN story jump-starts that effort. As far as I can tell from my research, Disney Conservation Heroes must be nominated by an organization supported by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. You may remember that Brevard's own Cindy Dolaway was a 2007 Award winner, nominated by the Marine Resources Council for her work in right whale monitoring as well as her efforts for the STPS. (This leatherback sea turtle photo is one of many that the Paquettes and the Norths shared after their once-in-a-lifetime experience of witnessing a daytime nester several weeks ago.)

Martha Wolfe sent a sea-bean listserve inquiry a few weeks ago about finding a large number of urchin skeletons on the beach in South Brevard, saying There were hundreds yesterday. In the 4 years I've lived here, I have only found two before yesterday. There was no definitive answer to this interesting question, but a listserve response from Christopher Boykin, Awareness and Appreciation Coordinator at Florida Department of Environmental Protection, suggested that maybe the population exceeded the available food source from a boom/bust algal bloom or maybe it was dredging or maybe we’ll never know. Martha is Doherty Visiting Professor in the Marine and Environmental Systems College of Engineering at Florida Institute of Technology. Her area of expertise is environmental toxicology, and her current research interest is Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs), including Florida Red Tide. (We'll hope to avoid another Red Tide event like we had last year.) I have, of course, added Martha's name to my mental roladex of reliable sources of information. (I understand from others who have made the list that this is a dubious honor.) I appreciate her sending these photos with permission to share them. Remember that these show just the skeletons. Live urchins are round things with spines - they look kind of like mini Koosh balls.
Congratulations to the Orlando Magic and all of us that stayed up late enough to watch them whomp the Cavaliers last night! It's on to LA, but not until next week, which should allow us to catch up on our sleep.

1 comment:

Cactus Jack Splash said...

Hurray for the crazy turtle lady. I read that story on CNN and thought immediately of this blog for some reason.