Grant: 15-023E
Project Title: Tour de Turtles 2015 Educational Program
Project Manager: Daniel Evans
Organization: Sea Turtle Conservancy (Non-Profit Organization)
Grant Amount: $11,825.00
Completion Date: 2016-02-23

Summary: Sea Turtle Conservancy will continue its successful Tour de Turtles Educational Program through 1) deploying satellite transmitters on four post-nesting adult loggerheads in and around the Carr Refuge; 2) conducting educational activities at two live releases; and 3) providing free up to date educational materials for educators on the Tour de Turtles website. To enhance local excitement and media coverage of the program, STC will coordinate two live “starting” events around the released satellite-tagged sea turtles. These releases have been attended each year by over a thousand spectators and include sea turtle educational activities, such as a crawl-through TED, sea turtle research station, and a lighting awareness game. The Tour de Turtles successfully raises awareness and is promoted by targeting previously-registered educators, schools and educational associations via emails, websites, social media, and through program partners.

Results: Over the first weekend of August, 2015, four post-nesting loggerheads were attached with satellite transmitters and released at two separate public release events. The outreach benefits of this project are shown by the number of visitors to the Tour de Turtles and STC websites, as well as the turnout and coverage of the live release events. As of the date of this report, all four post-nesting loggerheads have been tracked for over 100 days, and three of the four continue to be tracked (over 160 days). Three of the four loggerheads took very similar pathways by initially heading south, then curving north (possibly as a result of encountering the Gulf Stream), then turning back south and eventually ending at three different foraging areas in and around the Bahamas, while the fourth headed north to a possible foraging area off of Cape Hatteras, NC and remained there until her transmitter stopped sending signals. The Tour de Turtles site (from mid-July to mid Nov, 2015) had a reach of over 26,700 visitors and nearly 200,000 page views. The two live releases of the post-nesting female loggerheads were very well attended; an estimated 1,000 people attended the events, providing the opportunity to increase awareness about sea turtles, their habitats and threats to their survival. People at the live releases are able to follow the migration of the turtles online and continue learning through a direct connection with the turtles. The loggerheads that were released with satellite tags helped to raise awareness about the threats of artificial beach front lighting, marine debris, plastic bags and balloons, and commercial longline fishing. STC has conducted an average of 1.5 InterAct Programs per month, with additional program scheduled. (Photo by Ben Hicks)