Student Blog Raises Awareness of Endangered Kemp Ridley Sea Turtle
Anna Frankel, a junior biology student at Southwestern University, interns with Sea Turtle Inc. on South Padre Island.
The following article was reprinted with permission of the Island Breeze (South Padre Island, Texas)
By Theresa Najera
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Anna Frankel, a junior biology student at Southwestern University, never thought she would discover her passion for a future career on the beaches of South Texas.
The 20-year-old student decided to intern at Sea Turtle Inc. after visiting South Padre Island with friends over the winter.
“After I came with a friend and took a tour [of Sea Turtle Inc.], I was so incredibly fascinated that I applied for an internship,” Frankel said.
“It has been so inspirational working with a species like this.”
Frankel and five other female interns arrived on the Island almost three weeks ago with hopes of receiving hands-on experience with the endangered Kemp ridley sea turtle species.
“It is fulfilling at such a young age to make a difference,” Frankel said.
She had initially planned on a career in food science genetics but discovered she preferred marine biology.
“With this experience, I have recently reconsidered what I plan on doing in the future. I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed working with the large reptiles,” Frankel said.
“I could see myself continuing this as I get older.”
Frankel soon decided to share her adventures with others, displaying a day in the life of a Sea Turtle Inc. intern through a online journal — http://seaturtleinc.livejournal.com — that includes details of her experiences tagging turtles, her first stormy beach patrol and saving nesting baby turtles from the ghost crab.
She determined that a blog would help reach an age group that she believes is uninformed of the endangered reptile.
“I decided to target a different demographic,” Frankel said.
She began posting her experiences for her family and friends but soon decided to let other students in on the journal.
“…people are responding,” Frankel said.
Sea Turtle Inc. Curator Jeff George believes the heightened attention informs the public.
“I think the attention has helped the visitors become savvy on the sea turtles and how to protect the endangered species,” George said. “It is also evident that the conservation program is paying major dividends.”
The number of nesting sea turtles has increased since previous years, George said, with Mexico having found approximately 10,000 nests.
In the Island’s beaches, an estimated 13 nests have been discovered since April.
And approximately 95 nests have been discovered along the entire Texas coast.
The anticipated hatch and release date for the first South Padre Island nest, which was corralled May 24, should be June 13.
But George says the day is still tentative.
“We really can never tell until that morning,” he said.
Interns and educators are trained to watch for a caving of sand that will mean buried eggs are beginning to hatch.
“We are running substantially ahead of last year’s numbers,” George said. “And we still have a few good weeks of nesting to go.”