WAVE Foundation at Newport Aquarium and Thomas More College welcome third speaker in the Marine Biology & Conservation Lecture Series. The lecture series is part of Thomas More College’s partnership with Newport Aquarium and the WAVE Foundation, which formally began in August 2014 when the school launched its new marine biology degree program, the first of its kind in the state of Kentucky.
Dr. Lucy Hawkes is a physiological ecologist whose work focuses on the costs and drivers of migration in vertebrates using emergent technology. Her lecture theme is “Thirty-Four Years of Tracking Sea Turtles: What We Now Know and How We Can Use it in Conservation.”
We asked her a few questions about her background, what you can do to help sea turtles, and what to expect in the upcoming lecture series.
What is your background? How did you first become interested in sea turtles?
I graduated from the University of Plymouth, UK, in 2001 with a degree in Marine Biology and I wanted to get out and do something useful with my degree. I looked widely for volunteering and fieldwork experiences and applied to a seahorse conservation project as well as a sea turtle conservation project in Cyprus (in the eastern Mediterranean) with a UK based organization but didn’t get either position. I didn’t give up though as I had wanted to be a “proper” marine biologist since about the age of 10. I also wasn’t specifically seeking a career working with sea turtles, but I had written one of my final year reports on them during my degree and thought they were really cool because they were so tropical, so enigmatic and SO old! It was just so exotic to someone in a rainy lab in England! I kept looking and then came across an internship at the Bald Head Island Conservancy, North Carolina, monitoring sea turtles nesting on the beaches of Cape Fear. I headed to North Carolina in May 2001 and that’s where it all began.
What is the single most important thing someone can do in the Midwest to help protect sea turtles?
We know for almost all populations of sea turtles that the single biggest threat to them is being caught accidentally in fishing nets at sea. This can be in all sorts of fishing operations – long lining for tuna, trawling for shrimp and scallops, and gill netting for fish. And it’s not just turtles that get caught in fishing nets, dolphins, seals and all sorts of “non-target” fish (fish the fishermen aren’t trying to catch) get caught and injured or killed too. So, I think that everyone should make a pledge to eat a lot less fish. Keep fish for only special occasions, for example. It’s a controversial debate but it is very clear that almost all fish stocks across the planet are overexploited and we all need to eat less fish, and by doing so, we can also reduce the numbers of turtles being killed! Personally, I don’t eat any seafood at all, and I LOVE cod and shrimp, so it’s a big sacrifice for me!
What will you talk about at the WAVE Foundation Lecture series on May 18th?
I was really lucky to be the first person to track several populations of sea turtles that we otherwise didn’t know anything about. We would wave goodbye to the nesting turtles of North Carolina, for example, and not really have much of a clue where they would be, come the winter. Actually, tracking turtles started much earlier than that, with great innovators in the 1980s, and since that time we have made lots more discoveries to the point that sea turtles are now probably the best understood of all of the marine vertebrates. I’ll tell the story of how we managed this amazing feat, with some entertaining stories on the way and some lessons for the future!
Tickets for the lecture series are $20 for the public, or $15 for Newport Aquarium Annual Passholders and students. Registration for this event is available at wavefoundation.org/education/lecture-series.