This week we are interviewing Jessica, a teen volunteer at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, about her experience traveling to Costa Rica to study nesting leatherback sea turtles.
Q: What is your past experience with sea turtles?
A: My experience with sea turtles began in the fourth grade with a school project on endangered animals. Randomly, I chose to do it on the sea turtle. During my research, I came across the Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project and decided that my mom and I should check it out. That summer we got involved and saw our very first nest hatch. It was the leatherback nest in 2009. My mom and I are still hooked even after 7 summers of being involved.
Q: What made you want to go on the Aquarium’s trip to Costa Rica?
A: I wanted to go on this trip because I knew I would get hands-on experience with something that not everyone can here in NC. I already knew I wanted to go into a marine science field in college, and this trip would give me a lot of experience with dealing with scientific research and getting animal data that is so needed.
Q: What were you most nervous about?
A: I was most nervous about the plane ride. This was my first time on a plane and my mom is terrified of them. Her fear sort of landed on me. But after the first flight, I was so calm and ready to get back up in the air! Everything was so beautiful from that view. The take-off is a little nerve racking, but not scary after the first time because you know what to expect.
Q: What were you most excited about?
A: I was most excited about being in the rain forest and seeing all of the animals. Animals of all types have my heart and soul. I knew I would see monkeys, turtles, sloths, poison dart frogs and so much more on this trip.
Q: Did you learn anything new about sea turtles?
A: I learned a lot about sea turtles. I had the knowledge from working with the Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project and from volunteering with the Aquarium at Fort Fisher but that was mostly general knowledge. I learned specifically about leatherback sea turtles. I learned about their eggs, their nesting patterns and their importance to the ecosystem and culture in Costa Rica.
Q: Did you learn anything new about yourself?
A: I learned a lot about myself on this trip. I learned that I have the ability to make the most out of something for myself. When we went zip lining I was so scared that I was in tears (because I am scared of heights), but once I got to the top, I realized that was the way I was getting back to the ground. I knew I was perfectly safe there, but I was still afraid I was going to fall. After the first few, I realized I was fine, and on the very last line down, I was spinning on the line and not holding on! That was the best feeling. So I learned that there is no need to keep yourself scared. If you dive into something head first, you are more likely to enjoy it, because only you have the ability to make the most out of something for yourself.
Q: How has your experience in Costa Rica changed you?
A: Going on this Costa Rica trip has made me more outgoing and confident. Before this trip, I couldn’t really have a normal conversation with someone my own age that I didn’t know unless I was telling them something that I knew as a fact or just helping them do something. But I knew three people on this trip, but I never talked to them in school. But now I can tell them almost anything, and we can all just laugh about it or have a really meaningful conversation about it. I can now do that with most people I talk to that are my age and I have this trip to thank for it!
Q: Do you have any different views on the sea turtles commonly found in NC?
A: My views are not really any different on NC sea turtles. They are all still beautiful, but the things we do to protect them, I appreciate more because I realize how safe they are here due to federal protection and local projects that are here to help.
Q: Any advice for other teens your age that may be thinking about embarking on a similar trip?
A: If you are thinking about going on this trip, know that if you ask anyone that went on it last year I they would go again. They would all say “yes” one thousand times. This trip gives you something you will remember for the rest of your life. If you are not that interested in going into the marine science field, I would still go just because you learn so much!
While Jessica and the rest of the group were in Costa Rica, they wrote a live blog straight from the field that was posted daily. Check out their blog posts to relive what the group did each day. Are you a teen like Jessica that is interested in joining us next summer? Contact our Education Curator, Jennifer, at 910-772-0505 for details about the Fort Fisher Aquarium’s upcoming summer trip in 2016.
Our loggerhead yearlings are still growing by the week! Turtle A weighs 2239 grams and is 25.0 cm long. Turtle B weighs 2430 grams and is 25.6 cm long. For more information on what to do with those numbers, please check out our lesson: Hatchling to Yearling.