Recently, I resigned from my position as Science and Technology editor with the Manitoban to participate in an once-in-a-lifetime experience with an Australian marine turtle conservation program. Over the next six months I will be documenting my experience with the program and struggles with Australianisms at Gnaraloo Bay in the column, Notes from Gnaraloo.
Gnaraloo is a wilderness tourism business and working pastoral station on the Ningaloo Coast in Western Australia, located approximately 1,000 km north of Perth, and adjacent to the Ningaloo Marine Park. The goals of the Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program (GTCP) are to identify important nesting rookeries of the endangered marine turtles, and monitor and protect them.
Gnaraloo is special because it is one of only three full season turtle monitoring programs in Australia, and being the home to more than 500 nests per season, is also the largest rookery in Western Australia.
The Gnaraloo Feral Animal Program (GFAP) has played a role in reducing the predation of turtle nests by feral animals, and has successfully prevented predation completely for the last four years. The program protected 47,000 loggerhead turtle eggs last season, with a running total of 188,000 loggerhead eggs since the program commenced in 2010.
My interest in sea turtles was sparked at a young age; I once saw a documentary where divers in Hawaii were cutting sea turtles loose from fishing nets and I immediately decided that I needed to save sea turtles too. However, growing up in a land-locked area I found that my career goal wasn’t taken very seriously. My first step was to get to the coast.
I completed my undergraduate studies at Vancouver Island University, a program which included field schools and excursions. I attended a five-week tropical ecology field school in Belize which changed my life forever and provided me with the hands-on skills I needed to break into the “turtle world.” Currently, my master’s thesis in Aquatic Toxicology is on hold so I can “chase turtles” in Australia.
Since 2008, the GTCP has recruited scientific interns nationally and internationally every season. My specific role is data quality control and assurance. I will be responsible for the meticulous management of all data collected, further development of the turtle tracking training module, and liaising with other international turtle organizations.
I will live as part of a small team at Gnaraloo station, and be involved in all aspects of turtle monitoring, including species identification, nesting activity determination, monitoring predation of nests, identification of feral animal tracks, conducting on-site and off-site presentations, and writing a scientific report of the findings.
I will also be involved in community engagement activities. These activities of the GTCP connect the program with the younger generation and educates them about marine conservation. Through this program, 4,589 individuals were reached last season, and more through media outlets such as radio, publications and online.
I am thrilled for the opportunity to participate in such a valuable program in this pristine and untouched part of the world. Gnaraloo welcomes all visitors and strongly encourages community participation in the GTCP.
For more information please visit gnaraloo.com