Turtle Spotting Do’s and Dont’s

So I thought I would start a series on the do’s and dont’s that are associated with wildlife. For the first one I thought I would go with turtles. Now as you may know, I am a marine biologist with a huge love and passion for conservation. This has led me to take multiple trips around the world with focus on conservation and eco tourism. One thing that I noticed a lot was animal eco tourism trips and specifically those with the focus on sea turtles.

So over the years I have been on multiple trips where turtle spotting has been part of it. Whether it was working on a turtle conservation project with Archelon in Zakynthos or turtle spotting in Tobago. I have picked up certain behaviours from tourists that inspired me to write this.

So lets start with the Dont’s:

  1. If you are fortunate enough to see one in the ocean whilst on a boat…do NOT go near it with the boat…keep a safe distance and don’t drive over them!
  2. If you see one whilst swimming/snorkelling/diving…again keep a safe distance. Turtles can be very quick swimmers so if they get stressed by you, they will swim away but always give them space. DO NOT touch them!
  3. If you encounter an adult on the beach, give her space as it will most likely be an adult female who is getting ready to lay her nest. This will occur at night (or very rarely at sunrise) so do not shine your torches as that stresses them out and again give them plenty of space. Do not use any light at all, this includes phone lights, flashes from cameras and normal torches.
  4. If you are lucky enough to see hatchlings coming out of the nest. No matter how tempting it may be. DO NOT pick them up. They use their journey from the nest to the ocean to ‘learn’ where to come back to to lay their own nests.
  5. Don’t litter…This is an easy one. Even if you aren’t seeing any turtles, the litter you drop on a beach will inevitably affect a turtle at some stage. Whether its an adult or a hatchling, they all are effected by litter on the beaches and in the ocean.
  6. Do not buy turtleshell products when travelling. They are normally caught by poachers and are always illegally and inhumanely sourced.

Now for the do’s:

  1. If you are fortunate enough to see them…enjoy the moment! Do it responsibly but enjoy it none the less! They are beautiful creatures and I will never get bored of seeing them.
  2. If you spot a hatchling going the wrong way…pick them up and turn them around. If it is during the day…try and shade them so that the sun doesn’t roast them. And if it is at night, try and block out the lights that are disorientating them.
  3. Do a beach clean every time you go to the beach. Even if you only pick up 5 pieces of litter each time it will make a huge difference.
  4. If you decide to go on a turtle spotting boat…make sure you go with a reputable company that is known for its eco tourism. If you aren’t sure which company to chose, there are companies in most countries that are there for the sole purpose for turtle conservation, such as Archelon in Greece and Save our Turtles in Tobago, they will be able to tell you companies that they recommend.
  5. Use recyclable straws or reusable straws. Straws are some of the biggest culprits of turtles dying. Making a small change to reusable straws or no straws at all will make a huge difference.
  6. Eat locally sourced sustainable seafood. Companies that are locally sourced tend to use better fishing techniques so less turtles get caught in fishing lines. The sustainable companies will use more turtle friendly fishing gear.
  7. Last but not least. Donate to local turtle conservation projects. Most are NGO’s and need the money to keep running. If you can’t give money, maybe you can give some time and volunteer with them. I can’t recommend that enough. My time volunteering with Archelon in Zakynthos was one of the best summers I’ve had. The information I learnt then have stuck by me and have changed my daily habits.

Overall, enjoy them! They are truly beautiful creatures, so lets protect them so that we and the future generations can still enjoy them!

Camera 14MP-9PC
Camera 14MP-9PC

Song

One of my favourite songs is the well known hymn ‘this is my Fathers world’. It tells me that no matter what He is in control!

It does not always feel that way…. the week started out with me being stuck in France for a day due to a cancelled flight. The plane had something wrong with its software and was not cleared to fly. I arrived a day later at my destination Costa Rica. And that while my work is so busy… a day makes a difference!

On Wednesday England lost the semi final football game to Croatia… I am not a football fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I also got swept up in the hype and the ‘catch phrase’: it’s coming home! Instead we get to support either France or Croatia in the finals… and England gets to wait another 4 years..

My back is slowly getting better…

and on Friday it was the 13th… not that I am superstitious, but don’t you sometimes wonder? And avoid black cats?

That’s when that song comes back in my thoughts… the last couple sentences are as follows:

This is my Father’s world:

why should my heart be sad?

The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!

God reigns; let the earth be glad!

And that is exactly what I am doing…. be glad!! Enjoy nature… He is in control!!

Why Are We Afraid of Sharks…Should We Be?

When you think about the ocean…what words spring to mind? Water? Fish? Dolphins? What about words such as fear? Scary? Deep? Intimidating? Everyone has their own opinion on the ocean and what words they associate with the ocean. One word we all have in common though…and that is sharks. Everyone can name at least one species of shark, whether that is the famous Great White Shark or Whale Shark, we all know one.

Now when it comes to sharks what word springs to mind? Killer? Scary? Fear? Have you ever wondered where that fear came from? Why are we so scared of sharks? Should we be scared of them? Now I am no expert on sharks, but I have extensively studied them recently and have been fascinated by them since I was 10 years old. The one question that everyone asks me is ‘are sharks really the ruthless killer we think they are?’. Isn’t that the question everyone wants to know?

I know for myself that it was the question that I wanted answered 16 years ago. At that point all I really knew about sharks was what my parents knew (the internet had only just become widely available but it was still dialup so it was either the phone or the computer…the phone won). My parents realised that I had a hunger for knowledge on sharks and ended up buying me a book on them and I remember so clearly that the pages on shark attacks and survivors is what really held my attention. Specifically it was the story of Rodney Fox and how he survived. Now what really surprised me was that after his attack, he became a shark advocate…he admitted that he was not the victim in this attack, the shark was!

This set me off on what I thought was a great detective story. Turned out that the majority of shark victims didn’t blame the shark at all and actually became advocates themselves! Now if people who were attacked by them aren’t afraid of them…why should we be?

So the big question is, where did this fear come from? Many would say, and I would agree, that the media have made sharks these ruthless killers that we are all afraid of. Whether this all started with the film ‘Jaws’ or not is another question. But the author of ‘Jaws’ Peter Benchley also became a shark advocate and regretted writing his book so much that he wrote another book talking about how important the oceans are and what lives in them.

Yes sharks look scary, they are apex predators so they are ‘designed’ to perfection for their environment. But just because they look scary it doesn’t mean that they are ‘cold-blooded killers’. In fact the chance of a shark killing you is so small, you are more likely to die from a cow or a coconut falling on your head! Those that do get attacked are mainly surfers, and that is because surfers tend to go out at dawn and dusk, prime shark feeding time. Plus the major reason surfers get attacked, is because they look like seals in the water, seals being the number one food source for many sharks.

So does this mean we should be scared of them? To an extent yes, they are the apex predators of the oceans and it is their environment. When we step foot into the ocean, we are going into their environment. But, that fear shouldn’t stop us from exploring or understanding the oceans and especially studying and understanding sharks more! The media has made us scared of sharks with behaviours that aren’t natural to them, we love being scared of monsters, they intrigue us. But instead of being scared of seeing them in the wild, lets be amazed! It is not often that you can come face to face with these beautiful creatures!

Sharks are truly incredible creatures and I will spend my life protecting them and making people aware of just how amazing they are and that we shouldn’t be scared of them.

What about you? What about sharks scare you? What about the oceans scare you? Let me know in the comments below!

~ Fear is only as deep as the mind allows – Japanese Proverb ~

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Some Much Needed Vitamin D

Spring has FINALLY arrived here in the UK!!! I have been keeping an eye on the weather forecast for the last week already and the promise of sunshine and warm weather stayed! Waking up this morning I was welcomed with the suns rays through my blinds and the excitement grew!

After a quick walk to the doctors (still in the process of getting my fibroids sorted – read ‘Living with a hidden – not so hidden illness’ if you want to know more) and then buying some fresh bread at the local bakery…I am now sat in the garden in the glorious sunshine, enjoying the weather!

I’m not the only one who is enjoying the outside life…the cats are both thoroughly enjoying it…lazing around in the sun, catching all the flies and being stung by wasps…

One thing I realised whilst being sat here in the sun is that even when life is dark and there are moments when I can’t see the end of the tunnel…just sitting outside in the fresh air, in the warmth of the sun and no threat of rain…life isn’t as dark as I thought. There is light at the end of the tunnel…whether that tunnel has led you to where you thought you were going to end up or not…isn’t that the exciting thing about life? You never know where your journey will take you!

Since finishing my masters degree I have been looking for a PhD or a job…not finding much luck in either…so right now I don’t know where my life is going to lead but I am excited to find out!

What about you? Is it sunny where you are? If so, what do you enjoy doing when its sunny? Let me know in the comments below!!

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Christian in Science

Being a christian in a science world can be hard…it has led to many questions and led to me doubting my faith and everything that I thought I knew. My experience really started when I left for university for my undergrad degree.

Moving hours away from my parents (I studied in Bangor, Wales whilst living near London) meant that I would be far away from my parents and my church. It was the first time that I would be living out of my parents house, so not only would I have to adapt to  living on my own but I would finally be studying something that I have always had a passion for, knowing that it would be difficult.

I remember one of my first lectures so vividly, it was an introduction to the course and an overview of what the module would be teaching. I knew going in that there would be a lot of evolution but what threw me was that the lecturer in a class of 500 said ‘those that believe in creation are stupid’. I know I was not the only christian sitting in that room…I felt personally attacked.

Yes I believe in creation but I also believe in evolution. I don’t think that we all come from monkeys but there is evidence of microevolution and theres no denying that! What irritated me was that the lecturer had no respect for other points of view. It tainted my opinion on scientists…However, after speaking with dad that evening I realised that not all scientists would think that way…I was now a scientist and I wasn’t like that!

Yes I am one of the rare few that are christian in a scientific world. A world that teaches us to question everything and only believe something that we can see or undeniably prove. This contradicts the christian part of me…the part that blindly believes in something that we cannot ‘see’. Would I change either side…no! Absolutely not!

My scientific side has taught me so much. How to question things, how to prove things, how to argue my point, and it has opened my eyes to all the wonderful things on this planet. My christian side has also taught me a lot though. It has taught me that I am never alone, that I am always loved, no matter all my mistakes, and that there is hope in my darkest days. I am a miracle baby, science couldn’t understand how I came to exist, but here I am…26 years old, healthy (ish…) but alive and well.

Do I have all the answers? No. Do I still question my beliefs every day when science makes so much sense? Of course! But I also believe that you can’t grow in your faith unless you are tested. Not everyone will get tested in the same way…For me my journey isn’t anywhere near being done. But I think its important to be a christian in science. It has given me a whole new perspective on life and made me very open to new thoughts and ideas. Lets see what the rest of my life will throw at me…no doubt there will be plenty of questions! One thing I know for certain…my faith and science do not contradict one another…they go hand in hand and help me understand things in a deeper level.

What about you? Are you a christian in science? What’s your experience? And if you’re not a christian in science…what do you struggle with in your daily life? And if you’re a scientist…have you had to deal with any christians in science…and if so…whats been your experience? Let me know in the comments or message me privately!

~ The more I study science…the more I believe in God – Albert Einstein ~

Science is a Gift