- Hawaiʻi Hawksbill Turtle Recovery Project, UH-Mānoa Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit
- Wildlife Research Supervisor
- High School Attended
- Kauaʻi High School; Lihue, Kauai
- College Attended
- Colorado State University and University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
I coordinate a sea turtle recovery project based at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The primary objectives of our project are to protect and monitor the nesting hawksbill sea turtles on Hawaiʻi Island and manage their habitat. Each year, we have a full-time staff of over 40 volunteers who monitor several beaches every single night from June to December. A typical trip in the field consists of camping seven consecutive days at a remote beach, staying up until the wee hours of the morning to monitor for turtle activity, watching 180+ pound turtles lay 150+ eggs, hiking 50+ miles over rugged lava fields, protecting nests from non-native predators, and helping turtle hatchlings reach the ocean. Despite all the work that we do, we still find time to play in the ocean, relax on the beach, and enjoy our pristine surroundings.
Interest in Field:
Growing up on Kauai, I have always loved camping and being outdoors. However, what really got me interested in doing this type of work as a career was getting experience in the field while still in college. I spent a summer volunteering for the turtle project, where I learned a lot not only about the turtles and conservation, but also about what it’s like to be in a professional environment. In addition, volunteering was extremely important because it helped me to make contacts, open myself to new opportunities, and realize that this is truly what I want to do.
How did you get there?
For me, definitely the big thing was going to UH Hilo and studying Biology, specializing in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation. I had some great professors who really inspired me and did an outstanding job in preparing me for a career in this field.
To do this type of work you need at least a bachelors degree in a related field plus experience. There are a lot of conservation projects here on Hawaiʻi Island that are always trying to hire people to do all types of work, from trapping pigs, to out-planting native plants, to counting native birds, to removing non-native vegetation, to raising critically endangered plants in a nursery. There are a lot of opportunities out there in a wide variety of roles and it’s not that difficult to find them.
Rewards of Work:
There are many invaluable rewards, too many to list. Foremost is helping to protect an endangered sea turtle that is literally on the brink of extinction and the legacy that this will hopefully leave for future generations. Also, protecting the turtles means protecting their habitat, which is some of the last pristine beaches on the island. Right behind this is the positive impact I have on many people’s lives. A lot of our volunteers leave the project completely changed because of the experiences they have with us, they feel empowered because they realize that they can make a difference in the world. Finally, the experiences that I have while in the field are beyond words. There is nothing quite like watching a huge mama turtle lay a couple hundred eggs under a full moon or witnessing a whole bunch of tiny hatchlings run to the ocean or the peace of mind I get from being at a beach with only one other person in the middle of nowhere or backpacking for eight miles and getting to a beautiful white sand beach or watching more shooting stars than I can count…
Words of Wisdom :
If anyone is interested in gaining experience in the conservation field and would like to volunteer for the Hawaii Island Hawksbill Turtle Recovery Project, please contact myself or Will Seitz at HAVO_Turtle_Project@nps.gov or call our office at (808) 985-6090.