The Tour de Turtles: Fun and Educational Resources Galore

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Conservation and preservation is a critical global goal, for all of us. One of the most important areas of this goal is in working with animals. I love sea turtles, and have always followed their progress, and taught our daughter all about them. I've read so many books about people helping with turtle nesting in the southern East coast of the United States, and am just fascinated with this.

In comes the Tour de Turtles, an educational mission to highlight sea turtle conservation. In a recent email from Rocio Johnson, of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, he said, "...sea turtle conservation must be a long-term commitment to show results. In Tortuguero, Costa Rica, the site of CCC's 55-year conservation program, there has been a 400% increasing in nesting since the 1970s. This shows how decades of research, conservation and education programs can turn around a once-disappearing colony, the most important green turtle nesting colony in the Western Hemisphere in fact. " The Tour de Turtles is a three-month odyssey for students to watch selected sea turtles migrate. I was lucky enough to sit down and talk with Rocio, and here's what he had to say...

WE: Please tell us about the Tour de Turtles...

RJ: In 1996, CCC pioneered the use of satellite telemetry for educational purposes. The Sea Turtle Migration-Tracking Education Program was a huge success. Educator's worldwide registered to receive CCC's Educator's Guide, more than 16,000 to date. With the advent of new technology, it was time to give our Migration-Tracking Program new twist.

Tour de Turtles: A Sea Turtle Marathon Migration was designed to bring sea turtle conservation to life. The anticipated three-month long marathon will track eight sea turtles, representing four different species, as they travel from their nesting beaches to unknown feeding areas. Their goal is to be the first complete the 2.26 hundred kilometer marathon (a play on the 2.26 miles of a human marathon).

Tour de Turtles will officially being on August 1st, when the last participating turtle, a loggerhead named Lumiere, is fitted with a transmitter and release on one of the most important nesting areas in the world. Florida is home to 90% of sea turtle nesting in the continental United States. This makes it a perfect spot to conduct research and raise awareness about sea turtles. What makes Tour de Turtles so valuable is that data collected can be used by researchers worldwide to determine migratory patterns that ultimately help identify key threats to sea turtle survival. Not only will teachers and students be able to learn about sea turtles, but they also will be helping to support research initiatives.

 

WE: What is the Caribbean Conservation Corporation?

RJ: Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization located in Gainesville, Fla. and is the oldest organization dedicated to the study and protection of sea turtles and their habitats. CCC concentrates its conservation activities in areas containing globally significant sea turtle populations. We use research, education and advocacy to achieve its mission.

WE: How can people follow along the tour?

RJ: Tour de Turtles is a complete online experience. By visiting www.tourdeturtles.org, educators can meet our eight participants, learn more about the threats facing these swimmers, view videos of their release and download free educational materials.

Educators can also help support the marathon by adopting the participating turtles. This helps the turtles raise funds for their specific Cause.

WE: Are there educational programs online, to go with the Tour de Turtles?

RJ: Yes! Tour de Turtles offers a downloadable Educator’s Guide, which includes sea turtle biological and ecological information, lesson plans and fun activities. There are also links to a variety of other educational kits and websites that nicely complement CCC’s Educator’s Guide. Alongside information for teachers, Tour de Turtles has dozens of fun activities for kids, which includes puzzles, quizzes and games. There is even a completely interactive Tour de Turtles game where kids can create their own animated videos of all the Tour de Turtle characters and release locations. Then, kids can e-mail their personalized videos or upload them on Tour de Turtles’ online community to share with others.

WE: Who is involved in the Tour?

RJ: Caribbean Conservation Corporation created the Tour de Turtles concept and then partnered with MeGotta, a Florida-based internet software and design company. Tour de Turtles would not have been possible without the following sponsors: Four Seasons Resort Nevis, Disney’s Animal Programs, Disney’s Cruise Line, Disney’s Vacation Club, Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay, Casa Tortuga Foundation, and Hacienda San Alfredo in El Salvador. We also had several research partners, including University of Central Florida Sea Turtle Research Program, Nevis Turtle Group and the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research.

 

 

 

WE: How did the Tour come about?

RJ: The idea for Tour de Turtles was hatched (pun intended) by our executive director, David Godfrey, during his last trip to the International Sea Turtle Symposium. Inspired by conversations with sea turtle colleagues and his wife’s passion for running marathons, Mr. Godfrey felt that a sea turtle marathon would be a fun way combine the scientific aspects of sea turtle research with the educational value of satellite-tracking migrations.

 

WE: How can we help?

RJ: Educators have access to the world’s most valuable conservation resource: children. The idea of conserving our wildlife and environment is a relatively new introduction to the classroom. Today teachers are finding creative ways to incorporate conservation with basic school subjects to make it more fun and educational. By downloading our Educator’s Guide and using sea turtle conservation in subjects like science, geography and math, for example, teachers can help imprint children with the knowledge necessary to help make a difference in our world, especially for endangered sea turtles.

Teachers also can adopt the participating turtles to help engage their classrooms and create a more personal relationship between conservation and students. This method has been successful in raising consciousness about the serious threats these species face as a result of human activities. This personal connection will give students the satisfaction of having helped save sea turtles. The funds raised from these adoptions go directly back into sea turtle research, education and conservation programs.

WE: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

RJ: On July 31st, there will be an opportunity to watch a live webcast transmission of a sea turtle being fitted with a satellite-transmitter. This opportunity will surely interest educators and students, and it will provide a more in-depth look at the science behind conservation. Teachers can visit www.turtleplayer.com. The broadcast will begin at 8 a.m.

 

Tour de Turtles

 

WE: Fantastic information, Rocio! Thank you! I truly believe that the first annual Tour de Turtles is a critical event (and, as you say, a marathon, not a sprint), and applaud the Caribbean Conservation Corporation for all this hard work! Our 6 -year old daughter is all ready to tune in, and we've been studying your website to learn more. You've got some extraordinary resources! We've already picked a turtle to support, and she's very excited.

For more information on the Tour de Turtles, please see: http://www.conserveturtles.org/ and www.tourdeturtles.org

 

 

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