Turtle Tuesday: Conservation Hero Edition

The Houston Zoo just returned from another Monday assisting federal sea turtle biologists from NOAA Galveston with their weekly beach patrols. Unfortunately, this has been a tough time for local sea turtle conservationists. Numerous deceased turtles have been washing ashore for the past several weeks, and more keep coming in. The numbers of turtles washing in are not typical. They have included mostly Kemp’s ridley sea turtles and loggerheads.

Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.


Loggerhead sea turtle. Photo courtesy of the Georgia Aquarium.

In addition to this, there has yet to be a nesting Kemp’s ridley turtle on our upper Texas coast.  Nesting sea turtles usually arrive in our area by mid-April. With the month of May right on our tails, we’re all wondering-where are our nesting sea turtles?

Even though there aren’t any nesting sea turtles (yet…),  sea turtle biologists are keeping busy…VERY busy, and not with the easiest of tasks.

Meet Lyndsey Howell.

Lyndsey Howell-NOAA sea turtle biologist holding a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. Photo courtesy of Crystal Beach Local News.

Lyndsey is a federal biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Galveston. Lyndsey has been working with sea turtles for 8 years, and working at NOAA for 5 years. The word dedicated does not even begin to describe her work ethic when it comes to sea turtles. Lyndsey is responsible for holding the phone that you call if you see a dead, injured, or stranded turtle on our upper Texas coast beaches (1-866-TURTLE-5), as well as caring for wild and captive sea turtles at the Galveston sea turtle barn. She is also responsible for answering that phone-no matter what time or day it is, and responding to the turtle as soon as possible. Whether it is 2:00am on a Saturday or 11:00pm on a Tuesday-7 days a week, 24 hours a day, Lyndsey is there to help a sea turtle in need. A turtle could be called in from Surfside and the next one along the Texas/Louisiana border-in the same day! No matter the distance, the turtle will be picked up and taken care of. She will even take time out of an already long day, roll the windows down in her vehicle and answer questions about sea turtles from beach goers, say hello to ferry workers and tollbooth employees, all while maintaining a smile.

Lyndsey rescuing another car stuck in the sand during a beach survey-just another day on the job!

From April through July, sea turtles keep biologists in Texas very busy. This means long, long hours (our day yesterday lasted 14 hours), and not a lot of days off. The passion and drive that wildlife biologists/conservationists/researchers (call them what you may) have is unlike any other field. They work endless hours, often times without praise or breaks, and usually for very little pay. They do this job because they love it, and they know it is important.

Time in the field often requires a lot of caffeine. Image from Ecogreenbags.

Unfortunate events, like the loss of many sea turtles over the past few weeks can make it difficult to work in wildlife conservation. However, having the pleasure of knowing people like Lyndsey and other biologists and conservationists around the world reinforce the idea that environmental issues can be overcome.

If you would like to help with local sea turtle conservation efforts, please visit the Houston Zoo’s sea turtle page, or come to the zoo to see our rehabbed sea turtle in the Kipp Aquarium!

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