I am an undergraduate from the University of Exeter about to enter into 3rd year. Initially, the thought of spending just over 8 weeks out on the project seemed daunting, but now, a month in, I wish I could stay much longer!
In the last week alone I have scuba dived, been nursing and owl and cuckoo chick back to health, snorkelled with Green Turtles, been ‘beach boss’ and managed night patrols, flipper and pit tagged turtles, taken turtle biopsy samples for genetic analysis, observed a necropsy of a dead turtle, identified and caged nests during the day, and so much more! At the project you are encouraged to get involved with as much as possible which has allowed me to pick up all sorts of new skills, experiences and knowledge.
My favourite night was also one of the busiest I have had so far. As soon as I stepped onto the beach a Green Turtle appeared and throughout the rest of the night there were at least two turtles per person on the bay at any one time. It is fascinating to watch the nesting mothers digging there body pits with the brute strength of their flippers then, delicately, and ever so precisely carve out their egg chambers with their almost ambidextrous hind-flippers. That night, 3 green turtles nested and I got to share my excitement with a small group of tourists who were just as thrilled as I was when the female began laying her eggs.
I did not know much about sea turtles before I came out here, but I now feel confident answering any questions from the public about their ecology and biology and have quickly become very aware of the threats that face them and the research and conversation efforts that have/are being put in place to mitigate these effects.
I feel privileged to have been a part of the conservation of sea turtles and the ongoing research produced from this project. I will definitely be back next season!
I am a high school student at the Near East College who took part in SPOT’s Marine Turtle Conservation Project (MTCP) in the summer 2013 where I have been to and stayed at both Karpaz and Alagadi base in the 10-day-period voluntarily.
I can honestly state that participating to MTCP was one of the best choices I have ever made in my life, where I met with various project leaders and the university students as well as learning more about the projects and efforts of conserving turtles. All of people were extremely welcoming and friendly so that I had no problem communicating using the English language and doing team work with which I enjoyed so much. In the Karpaz Base, we went to approximately 20 golden and sandy beaches where we tracked turtles’ routes and tried to find the exact location they had laid their eggs in the sand. After finding a nest, we put a cage and sticks to support the nest, with the aim of protecting the vulnerable eggs from the foxes and dogs. What’s more, on the first day of the work, I found a nest full of eggs which made me so excited and determined! At the Alagadi base, we did night work which started from 8 pm and ended at 5 am in the morning, walking and checking nests whether they contained some of cute hatchlings, whereas the work in Karpaz was in at daytime from 6 am to 1pm.
One of the most striking events I experienced was the public release of hatchlings towards the sea on the Alagadi Turtle Beach in the night time where we guided tourists of different nationalities. I gave everyone a hatchling with my project leader. It was genuinely a cool experience to investigate new-born hatchlings swimming in the water for the very first time and to guide them in their first, but long journey.
I think we, as North Cypriots, should be more aware about how beautiful and unique our country is. Before volunteering on this project, I did not even know that some beaches in North Cyprus are among the most significant turtle nesting sites in the whole world. I am honestly inspired by all of the people in the project who worked really hard with harmony and discipline in order to conserve our cute turtles, but having fun at the same time. I strongly recommend young people to participate in this project, and have no hesitation to register.
Finally, I had one of the most adventurous, social, environmental, unforgettable and healthy 10 days of my life! Even one more volunteer makes the significant difference, so why not having more and more Turkish Cypriots helping the project to protect and conserve the turtles which North Cyprus is highly reputed for? I am looking forward to my participation in this project again.
Alagadi has been my home now since July. I am currently a student at the University of Exeter in England, and this summer I was fortunate enough to secure an eight week placement on the Marine Turtle Conservation Project.
For the past few weeks I have been in the company of hundreds of baby turtles, for we are now in the midst of the hatchling season. During the night, hatchlings make their way to the surface and erupt from their nests in which they have been developing for the past fifty days or so. From then they traverse the beach, heading towards the lowest point of light on the horizon; the moon reflecting off of the sea.And there we are, privileged enough to witness the spectacle.
Each night we patrol the beaches, monitoring activity and protecting nests from predation. The following day we will then excavate the nest to determine the success, often unearthing a few hatchlings which got stuck on their way out. These few are then held until darkness falls again, when we will release them to head out after those which left before them.
Their lives will still hold challenges. Both the Green and Loggerhead turtles (the two species which nest in Northern Cyprus) are under threat. Fishing nets entangle these animals frequently, and swallowed litter can kill a fully grown adult. For example, carnivorous Loggerheads easily mistake plastic bags in the water for jellyfish so attempt to eat them, leading to them lodging in the stomach and ending with starvation.
But the project here is working with the local fishermen to introduce turtle friendly nets, and the fishermen are very cooperative and respectful. And although the project runs beach cleans every week, we can nip the litter issue straight in the bud – please remove your litter from the beach and dispose of it responsibly in your nearest bin.
This aside, living here has been a dream. The work is extremely rewarding and I have seen some beautiful things. Seeing a hatchling emerge from a nest under the stars and trekking over the sands until it is swallowed by the surf is an honor to have witnessed. I have learned a lot out here and had the time of my life. When I head home I shall miss it immensely, but this can never be taken from me. I will always have been lucky enough to have made a difference, and to have experienced something truly special.
In just a week of working for the Marine Turtle Project I have witnessed some of the most amazing events of my 22 year life, so far. I am very familiar with North Cyprus and have been to its beautiful beaches and climbed the barren mountains, but seeing a Green Turtle hatchling rising from the sand to see the star lit sky for the first time is something I find very hard to describe in words.
When first arriving here at Alagadi I didn’t know quite what to expect, but I was thrown into the deep end on my first walk. An adult Green Turtle had emerged from the water and began its search for a suitable area to lay its eggs, making sure I could not be seen by the turtle I began to army crawl behind and watched it dig out a body pit with its powerful flippers. After around an hour of digging the body pit and then the egg chamber she started to lay her eggs, hopefully not in vain as only 1 hatchling in a 1,000 makes it to maturity (around 20-30 years old). Not only was I lucky to see a laying turtle on my first ever walk but this turtle needed a satellite attached which I watched in an almost trance like state, I will definitely be looking out at www.seaturtle.org/tracking where you can follow the movements of turtles which have a satellite transmitter.
The nesting season has now almost come to an end, with three days of no nesting activity we are beginning to accept that those types of experiences are coming to an end. However, the end of the nesting season marks the beginning of the hatching season which is every bit as amazing. So far I have been lucky enough to see 36 Green hatchlings emerge from a nest and other nests with one or two hatchlings appear (these nests are expected to “boom” very soon). Once hatchlings are found and measured they can be released back to the sea, each time it amazes me how their natural instincts guide them to the vast Mediterranean Sea where they will hopefully mature into adults and return to Alagadi.
I am currently an undergraduate at the University of Exeter in England and will be with the project for 5 weeks. This is my fist year volunteering on the project and I feel fortunate to be given the chance to work so closely with such majestic creatures. I did not know much about these species of turtle and the threats that they are under before I came out here, but after just two weeks in Alagadi my knowledge and appreciation for the work we do has rapidly become a passion of mine.
The area I have enjoyed and found most rewarding is interacting with the public through demonstrations of both excavations and releases of hatchlings. They give the public a chance that they would not normally have to get up close and experience the turtles first hand. Seeing the people who visit us inspired and motivated into taking action is an invaluable experience. Communication of ideas, education and enthusiasm from across nationalities and age groups has made this project more successful than we could have ever hoped for.
My time with the project had been an inspiring one and I shall leave with amazing memories and the feeling that the hard work we as volunteers have done here will impact the project now and in the future. I hope it will continue to grow in success as a unified passion for Cyprus and all who visit. The project has inspired me personally to return to my degree with a new motivation to continue to expand my own knowledge of the oceans and inspire others to do the same.
Having a thorough understanding of the biology and ecology of a species is a key component in its effective and successful conservation; an ethos that the Marine Turtle Conservation Project (MTCP) has maintained since its formation over twenty years ago, and one that was clearly evident when I first volunteered on the project last summer. Having found my first experience so valuable, I returned this year, not just as a volunteer, but to collect data for my own undergraduate research project. Now nearing the end of my three month stay, I can gladly say that the project is a home from home.
For those that think volunteering on the project is an extended holiday, think again. Given the nature of my research, I have spent the majority of the season working during the night, from 8pm through to 6am, patrolling the beaches in search of nesting turtles and hatching nests. I’d be lying if I said being nocturnal for three months hasn’t been mentally draining, but the costs of working hard are vastly outweighed by the wealth of experience I have gained and the skills I have learnt. Turtles are a remarkable product of evolution, and seeing them up close on a regular basis is a rare and amazing experience. I’m now trained to tag nesting female turtles with flipper tags and PIT tags so that they can easily be identified in the future. I can confidently take DNA samples from both adults and their offspring to determine the number of male turtles in the Mediterranean population. What’s more, I have developed my leadership skills, training new volunteers and supervising night time patrols. There’s only so much you can learn in a classroom, and the hands on experience I’ve gained on the project will prove invaluable to me in the future.
The group dynamic has also contributed significantly to my experience. The value of having a positive and enthusiastic group of volunteers around me made all the difference, the majority of whom were biology students that shared the same passions and interests for wildlife that I do, and I have definitely made some life-long friends along the way.
So what makes MTCP tick and why do I think it’s so successful? Having spent the majority of the 2012 season working for the project, I have more empathy for what it takes to run a project like this – the need to correctly train volunteers in good scientific practice whilst ensuring that all members of the group get the hands on field experience they’ve come looking for; the financial planning that is required for a non-profit organization that runs solely on donations from its volunteers and the public; and undoubtedly, maintaining the integrity of the projects vision whilst still being open to innovative change. I’m sure all the volunteers would agree that the project has ticked all these boxes and more.