Hi Amy, tell me a little bit about what you do.
The sea turtle volunteers for Highland Beach work under a permit issued by Florida Fish and Wildlife Department. All volunteers are required to attend continuing education classes to remain on the permit. Highland Beach covers about 3 miles which we have divided up into 5 zones. Each morning we survey the beach for new turtle crawls, hatches, animal predation, lighting and beach furniture violations. All crawls are documented noting location, nest number, species and date. If the turtle nested, we mark the nest with a stick that includes date and species. Not all turtles who come ashore actually nest, some may encounter people, animals or lights that discourage them and they return to the water with out nesting, these are documented as false crawls. Nests are monitored for hatching evidence, usually indicated by the tracks of the hatchlings exiting the nest. When a nest has hatched we mark it as such and three days later we will dig the nest and count the shells, count any whole eggs and sometimes even a few live hatchlings that did not make it out. The average size nest has about 80-120 eggs. All the crawls and excavation data is compiled and sent to Florida Fish and Wildlife Department. Along with the beach surveying you will usually find the volunteers collecting trash, especially those items harmful to the sea turtles like plastic which they mistake for jelly fish and digest and fishing lines and ropes which they get tangled up in.
Who is this commission for and why did you choose to have all 3 hatchling species? Tell me about how each one is a little different.
This commissioned piece is for our permit holder, aka "Turtle Boss Barb". Along with surveying the beach with us she makes sure we have supplies, schedules and keeps track of all our data which she sends to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Department. We wanted the piece to include the three species we see on the beach, Leatherbacks, Loggerheads and Greens.
Leatherbacks are the first to show up and are the largest of the sea turtles some weighing up to 2,000 pounds. They are black with white stripes or spots and do not have a hard shell like the other species. A Leatherback track is easy to identify due to it's large track that curves it's way up the beach rather then a straight line. After she nests, she crawls over her nest in an attempt to camouflage it.
Loggerheads get their name from their large head. The hatchlings are the smallest, brown in color and have a beak like nose. The Loggerhead turtles use alternating flippers when crawling on the sand leaving a comma like track which helps us identify it. Their nest is usually more shallow and tidy then the others.
Green turtles are dark in color with white under bellies and white trim around their flippers. They are the liveliest little hatchlings. The Green crawls using a breast stroke and they have longer tails that often leave dots down the middle of the track which help us identify it as a Green nest. The Green turtle nest are very deep and they often go up high into the vegetation making them the most challenging to dig. If you run across a volunteer on their stomach with their head deep in a hole you can almost be guaranteed they are digging a green nest.
What is one of the best stories of the nesting season, or one from the past
Each volunteer would probably have their own "best story". Some are documenting a rare Hawksbill nest, watching two Leatherback nests hatch, helping a juvenile turtle washed ashore entangled in fishing line, helping a mamma turtle who got stuck underneath a lawn chair. The truly best story though comes at the end of the season when we tally up the data and see it was another good year for turtles (Greens had a really good year). On average only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings makes it to adulthood. The mamma turtles do not start nesting until they are about 20-25years old. The last few years the numbers have been improving and that makes us all feel good and excited for the next season.
Highland Beach Sea Turtle Volunteer
Thanks so much for sharing with us, Amy! Thanks to all the Highland Beach Sea Turtle Volunteers and Turtle Boss Barb for everything that you do! I am so happy that I could share your information and stories with the world!
The "Highland Beach Hatchlings" will be available upon request as 16"x20" limited edition prints on watercolor paper. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to order.
I am extremely excited to introduce one of my personal heroes, Jillian Morris, (Sharky Jillian) and the commission she had made for her awesome husband's birthday present! I was following her on Instagram, admiring all of the amazing things that she does and hoping to meet and collaborate with her someday, when she contacted me about this special gift! I present to you another amazing, ocean lover, that will wow and inspire you after reading her interview!
Tell me a little about yourself and what you do?
I was born and raised in Maine and have loved the ocean since I was a baby ( according to my parents). I am a marine biologist, videogpraher, photographer and ocean advocate who is obsessed with sharks and by obsessed I mean I had a shark themed wedding! I now travel the world filming for various networks like BBC, Animal Planet, Discovery and National Geographic. My husband Duncan and I run a conservation media company called Oceanicallstars, producing conservation media with a focus on sharks. I have also recently launched a new non-profit called Sharks4Kids designed
to provide materials for teachers and students about sharks and shark conservation. We want to create the next generation of shark advocates through education, outreach and adventure. This is my passion project and something I so thrilled has become a reality. Most of my days are spent doing something involving sharks and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Why did you want this specific commission?
Duncan and I live on the tiny island of South Bimini in the Bahamas and each winter the great hammerheads migrate through this area. Duncan and I have both loved hammerheads before we loved each other. We each have hammerhead tattoos and have some incredible moments with these animals. They are our favorite animal on the planet and we feel extremely blessed to dive with this endangered species as often as we do. When I saw Carly's work I knew she could create something special to add to our collection, a one of a kind piece that highlights our love and passion for the ocean and these animals. Diving with a great hammerhead is probably one of the most amazing things I have done in my life and something I hope we can share with our children in the future.
What is one of the best stories you have to share about your work with sharks?
I love every moment in the water with sharks, but there are two particular experiences that really stand out. The first would have to be diving with great whites out of the cage at Isla Guadalupe. I had a large female swim over me and we made eye contact. Even as I type this it gives me goosebumps. To connect, for just a moment, with such a large and magnificent predator is one of those moments that truly take your breath away.
The other was the opportunity to see a lemon shark give birth. Lemon sharks give birth to live young and the pups must break free from their umbilical cords and instantly fight for survival. It is remarkable to see perfect miniature copies, weak and vulnerable, come into the world and within seconds become a shark. It reminds us that even the ocean's mightiest predators start out small and fragile.
What else would you like to share with people about sharks and their importance to our planet?
Sharks are amazing creatures that get a very bad reputation. They are not man eating monsters, in fact they are critical to the health of our oceans. Approximately 100 million are being killed each year. They do not lay thousands of eggs like other fish, so it is difficult for them to recover from this kind of devastation. They really need our help and very simple things such as recycling or doing a beach cleanup can make a difference for not only our oceans, but sharks. Also being an educated consumer and knowing where the products you buy are coming from. Major US retailers sell shark cartilage pills, fish markets or specialty grocers sell shark fin, shark meet and other medicines made from ground up shark cartilage and souvenir shops sell shark teeth, jaws and embryos in jars. As smart consumers, we can all make the choice not to spend our money on these products. Our money pushes the demand and when we stop spending the demand will drop. We all have a voice and we can all make an expert. I would also encourage people to snorkel or scuba dive with sharks. Seeing them in the wild and having you own personal experience is really the strongest way to combat against ridiculous stereotypes. They are graceful and magnificent to watch and spend a moment with, so dive in and explore their world.
Thank you so much for sharing, Jillian! I am so happy that I was able to get to know you through this experience, and I know you and Duncan will continue to educate and inspire others to also help protect the Ocean through everything that you do!
Photo Descriptions and credits:
1. Sharky wedding cake. Credit: Matthew Potenski
2. Jillian filming a great hammerhead in Bimini. Credit: Grant Johnson
3. Jillian filming a tiger shark ( bio pic) Credit: Duncan Brake
4. Jillian and Duncan in Bimini
Carly Mejeur is a floridian artist, inspired by her ocean hobbies and travels. This Blog is for news, events, and just for fun. Click here for the artist's Bio.