Each project starts with observations, questions, and a bit of sleuthing, more observation, answering the questions, asking more questions, and so on as we figure out just how we will solve the project’s challenges. Usually working with the turtles is the easy part and the technology and permits are the tough challenges. In the case of little leatherbacks, both the turtles and the tracking technology represent a combined set of challenges and many more questions. Our lab raises leatherbacks for weeks to months with the goal of tracking them when they leave our lab. This sea turtle species, like many pelagic sharks and rays does not respond to tank walls and so has very special requirements in our labs. We solve the barrier problem while the turtles are with us by putting each on a lead or tether line. For the visiting public this view is quite a sight. We are asked if they are generating power for us as they swim along incessantly; others ask, if we take them for “walks”. For us, the turtle “lead” questions lead us to talk about pelagic animals, which for many people are as strange and fascinating as life can get. Starting the conversations about the oceans and marine life is the beginning of doing conservation. The turtles lead us into some of the best conversations we can have. We end up observing people and answering their questions, seeing the world as they observe it, and helping them see the world as our turtles might.
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