Grant: 19-012E
Project Title: Guided Sea Turtle Walks With Night Vision Technology
Project Manager: Ashley Chelberg
Organization: Stella Maris Environmental Research (Non-Profit Organization)
Grant Amount: $1,300.00
Completion Date: 2019-12-19

Summary: Stella Maris Environmental Research offers guided sea turtle walks within the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. We have a large number of attendees and participants who desire photography at night and resort to cellular phone use. We wish to end this practice and replace it with night vision photography and capability. To reach our desired goal offering photography without participant use of personal devices, this project will purchase night vision scopes that can SMER staff can use to take non-flash photos. The project will also fund the purchase of turtle skull replicas in order to engage our audience better while waiting for the nesting female sea turtle.

Results: Two Bushnell 260501 Night Vision 4x50 Equinox Z Digital binoculars were purchased and all scouts were trained in their use. Visitors were able to use the scopes and were sent a picture of their observed turtle from the guided sea turtle walk. Replica skulls of Leatherback, Loggerhead and Green sea turtles were used as bio facts during presentations for guided sea turtles walks and sea turtle nest digs. Increase of communication was observed on Facebook as reflected on the number of likes, views and post reach. Likes increased greater than 2 fold, views increased 12 fold, and post reach increased 4 fold from the 2018 turtle walk season to the 2019 turtle walk season. Screen shots of these figures are included in the supplemental C. section. Reduction to nearly 0% of lighting infractions was achieved from registered participants/ beachgoers choosing to participate in guided sea turtle walks. Every participant was informed of the prohibition of cell phone use due to the night vision picture they would receive of their observed turtle, made possible due to the Sea turtle Grants Program. Increased audience engagement was observed with the use of night vision scopes, prohibition of personal devices, as well as turtle skull replica interaction.