Saving the Sea Turtles

By: Sarah Brill  |  August 13, 2019

By Sarah Brill, Science and Technology Editor

From Grades 1-8, I attended an elementary and middle school like no other. It was a STEM school which focused its attention on science, technology, engineering, and math. I performed experiments and calculations that no other student, at any other school, was performing. By the time I was in fourth grade, I was programming my own robot, in fifth grade, I built a magnetic levitation car and rocket, in seventh grade, I mapped hurricanes through a simulation brought to us through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), while also studying marine biology in San Diego, and in eighth grade, I went on a trip to Costa Rica which changed my perception of our world.

It was a wonder I even went on the trip. I was the last person who signed up, and quite honestly, I thought the applications had closed. But with a bit of luck, six months later, I was on a plane flying to Costa Rica. For the majority of the trip, our class stayed at the Osa Conservation for Sea Turtles. Their research focuses on rehabilitating and releasing sea turtles into the wild, while also educating the public about the major role these creatures play in our ecosystem. 

Once we arrived to the beaches, we were split into groups and those groups served as our conservation sections. Each group took an evening shift, and it just so happened that my group chose the 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. block. I complained profusely to my conservation section about how we had both the earliest and latest shift. Little did I know, our shift was the most transformative one.

At 1 a.m., our flip-phone alarms went off and the journey began. Our group walked the beaches for over three hours with a red light, while our guide pounded our skulls with facts about sea turtles. It wasn’t until 4 a.m. that we found our first sea turtle. I was surprised to see how enormous it was. Our guide taught us how to use the measuring tape on the sea turtle without hurting it, while he collected the eggs. The purpose of the egg collection was to ensure that the turtle’s offspring would successfully make it back into the ocean. Costa Rica is notorious for poachers, and as a result, many eggs have gone missing. The sea turtle population is too low for this to happen. The eggs were also collected because of the dangerous impact of light pollution. In the past, hatchlings would follow the moon to get to the ocean, but now, baby sea turtles often get confused and cannot find their way to safety. Because of the increased risk, Osa Conservation waits until the turtles are hatched before releasing them to the wild. 

Since that trip, I have dedicated myself to informing my friends and anyone else who will listen, about the cautious measures we must take to ensure a future complete with sea turtles. For this reason, I have pursued a science degree, which will allow me to be educated in topics concerning humanity and its environment. 

The new Observer Science and Technology section is meant to tackle topics which are rarely lectured about in classrooms. I am honored to play a part in contributing my knowledge to this year’s Observer and am excited to see what my peers will contribute in the name of science throughout upcoming semesters. 

Photo: Sarah Brill