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Faculty Sponsor

George Meindl

Abstract

In order to cope with the historic unsustainable use of resources and lack of concern that humans have for the environment, scientists and educators have “elected” species they believe can help to conserve natural resources. As a beloved and charismatic species, sea turtles are often chosen as ambassadors to encourage a change in public perception of the importance of healthy ecosystems. Sea turtles are some of the most vulnerable species in marine ecosystems, yet the roles they play as habitat engineers, predators, prey, and facilitators of nutrient cycling are becoming more apparent as human activities have reduced their numbers worldwide. Poaching of their nests, bycatch in commercial fisheries, and capture for meat and carapaces are drastically affecting critical turtle populations and placing them closer to extinction. However, by playing vital roles in the delicate balance of marine ecosystems, they help educators encourage changes in behavior that help protect sea turtles and the marine ecosystems that rely on them. This paper highlights the importance of education in conservation and demonstrates the use of charismatic megafauna, like the sea turtle, in the fight to save the environment by showcasing the role that sea turtles play in marine ecosystems as well as the success of Equipo Tora Carey.

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