16 Jun Sea Ya Later
Sea Ya Later
Published by Toni Nicole Ramos, History Science Intern at Padre Island National Seashore Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery
Prior to my internship at the Padre Island National Seashore (PAIS), I was an intern for Port Corpus Christi Authority (PCCA) during Spring 2023. After many years away from my childhood town, I foraged my way back for career and academic opportunities. During my interview with Cynthia Rubio, my supervisor, we shared an intimate conversation about the importance of local initiatives and being an advocate for one’s home, community and the environment. It seemed the universe had aligned my path to bring me back to where I felt I was needed- home. Alas, my fate was sealed when I received an offer letter from the Seashore.
Before my final day at PCCA, I recall an interaction I had with one of the employees there. Lorena Parada-Valdes expressed how wonderful my internship with PAIS would be. She recalled how impactful the sea turtle releases are to witness, and how emotional the affairs can feel.
“It can be so pivotal, life changing even.”
Every summer, the Seashore releases hundreds of hatchlings in hopes they will return to us years later, safely. Sea turtles are widely known to return to where they nested to bring forth the next generations. Our nesting turtles pass the torch to us, and we pass it forth to the new coming generations of turtles. For years, we anxiously wait for our friends to come back ashore and gift us with more eggs and a promising future. The science and dedication is not an overnight process, it exhibits a foundation of passion and endless advocation to devote our careers and our lives for these creatures. Conservation has never been a career for those who lack intensity or rigor.
My first public hatchling release occurred on June 15th, at 6:45 a.m. I groggily awoke at 3:00 a.m. and commuted to the Seashore to arrive at 5:00 a.m. As we huddled in Martha Villalba-Guerra’s office, Martha assigned each of us vehicles, tasks and release sites. Afterwards, we departed to Malaquite Beach and quickly unloaded all of the equipment onto the soft, damp sand. We all worked diligently as the ocean waves crashed softly behind us, the sun was beginning to pierce through the dark horizon and softly enveloped the shore with its warmth.
Some of the tasks were to rake the beach to rid of any organic material (OM) such as sargassum, a brown seaweed that can entangle Kemp’s. We created a barricade for the public to stand at and maintain a safe distance for all parties and we unraveled a mesh netting that would serve as a barrier between birds and the Kemp’s.
As crowds of people surrounded the release sites, we began to remove the tiny Kemp’s and place them onto the sand. Some of them were awake and anxiously made a beeline towards the water. While we waited for the Kemp’s to move, me and two other interns from an external organization carried a Kemp’s for the visitors to observe from a safe distance. We witnessed 228 Kemp’s ridley hatchlings with an innate desire to reach the water as the sun continued to climb upward. The waves continued to push upward onto the shore, the crowd cheered as each Kemp’s was swept into the water and pushed onto their own journey.
Now, humans and sea turtles are pretty much on opposite sides of the spectrum. We don’t have scales, a carapace or even flippers. Yet, we both embark on journeys so unique to ourselves. We sprint to oceans of opportunities; we struggle to break for the open waters the moment we are liberated from our shells. My future is as broad and flexible as the tiny sea turtles. We swim through violent currents of water, and we persist to survive. As I navigate my twenties, I am swimming through what feels like oceans only to wash ashore where I left- home.
I don’t plan on leaving 101 eggs at the Seashore, but I can assure you that returning to Corpus Christi has brought forth more excitement and passion than when I left. My future within science and research has never felt more tangible.