Turtle tales and climate change

It was September of last year and the tropical morning air sat thick on my skin. I had just finished getting ready for a day of training and was about to head out and catch a van into town when my host mother, standing next to the fridge with her hand on the door asked me, “Do you eat turtle?”

“Turtle?” I asked, very confused.

“Yeah, turtle. You know what that is?”

“Turtle, like the animal from the sea?” I asked, gesturing small circles with my hands to mimic swimming in the water.

“Yeah man, I got some this morning,” she answered as she opened the refrigerator door. I saw a mysteriously wrapped package on the bottom shelf that I deduced was going to be Ms. Toney’s dinner.

“Oh… no… I don’t think I can eat that,” I responded awkwardly.

She laughed affectionately and her sympathy for me in this moment of cross-cultural exchange was obvious. “Okay, you don’t worry. I’ll just make that for myself and I’ll cook you something different.”

 * * *

In May I reflected on this experience as a group of us made our way towards La Soufriere volcano for a very early morning hike. Walking across Richmond Beach around 2:30am, we unexpectedly encountered an enormous leatherback turtle nesting on the shore. We stopped for a while, observing its movements in amazement as it packed sand down on top of its nest, protecting its developing young from predators. As we continued on our journey, one from our group said, “Boy, it’s lucky for that turtle that we found it. If it was anyone else, that thing would be dead.”

Then in June I traveled with a group of volunteers down to the Tobago Cays, where swimming with sea turtles is a must while visiting the marine park. During my travels in Costa Rica I had learned that turtle eggs are a hot commodity on the black market but I had never known that turtle meat was too, much less that it would ever be a potential dinner item during my homestay in St. Vincent. Away from the mainland, the turtles in the Cays were safe, happily grazing on sea grass and swimming alongside fascinated snorkelers.

Around that time I had been put in touch with a woman named Beth Simmons in Massachusetts, an educator and co-author of Sea Secrets: Tiny Clues to a Big Mystery. As Beth’s work focuses on improving science curricula in classrooms through the exploration of ocean ecosystems, the Chateaubelair Methodist School was approached with an opportunity to participate in her project with the Palmer LTER network.

With the principal, a grade 6 teacher, and a group of inspiring young students, we spent three and a half weeks this  summer exploring the relationship between climate change, human activities, and sea turtles in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

This video highlights our time together and the very important things we learned…


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Harriet Linskey
    Sep 08, 2011 @ 18:10:46

    Camille: I love this video. I am so glad that this partnership with Beth Simmons worked out so well! All the best, Harriet, Hands Across the Sea


  2. Frances
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 14:50:14

    Camille, this is an amazing video! It is wonderful to see the children enraptured by the information about the sea turtles and how much THEY can be a part of preserving them. Oh yeah and the kids are just so darn CUTE!
    Missing your smiling face, Frances


  3. Jessica
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 20:41:03

    Very cool!! Loved the video, looks like the kids actually got a lot out of it 🙂


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