Thank You From SEA TURTLE

It's been an amazing experience to work with the SEA TURTLE group for the last five months. Words don't really begin to describe it...but I'll try. From the beginning we cheered each other on during our swim tests (Reminisce here, here, here and here), supported each other during classes (More on our fascinating lecturers here, here, here and here!), helped our nervous dive buddies in the pool (See how far we've come here, here, here ,here and here), and had an incredible—and for some, life changing—week aboard the R/V Coral Reef II in the Bahamas.

We'd like to take this time to thank all the individuals and organizations that helped make this trip possible. We are entirely grateful to the New England Aquarium for supporting this idea from the very beginning. We'd also like to thank the Shedd Aquarium for also thinking this was one cool idea!

One of our supporters, Lise Weller, even hand-made glass necklaces for every student:

We would also like to thank:
Dave Goodman
Don Campbell
Don Stark
Dutch Maid Bakery
Jim McVicar
Lise Weller
Lloyd Schwengel
Mark Rosenstein
Paul Dardeno
Paul & Sarah O'Connor
Peter Silva
United Divers
And several anonymous donors

With your help we were able to learn how to dive:

Practice research skills:

Try collecting fish:

See what plankton REALLY looks like:

Meet teenagers in Bimini:

Try wreck diving:

And night diving:

And have the time of our lives:

THANK YOU. It was a great ride!



What you learn in school

Fish schooling together. It's a fascinating thing to watch. Hundreds of individuals moving together with the same common goal, the same purpose. Here's a great video of a school we saw while snorkeling over a turtle grass bed.

As SEA TURTLE winds down and we reflect on the past five months, I think of an Albert Einstein quote. He said, "Wisdom is not a product of schooling but the life-long attempt to acquire it." I think that could not be more true for this trip. While we did do some classroom work (more on that here, here, here and here), we all learned a great deal just by doing, seeing, sensing and by being submerged (literally and figuratively) into the marine world, becoming wise to the integral nature of our actions and the impacts that they create.

Ten students and four instructors, all moving together with a common purpose over the past five months. And though our school of SEA TURTLEs will eventually move in different directions, may each one of us be the lead for another school of ocean lovers, moving towards a common goal of protecting our oceans.

- Jo


Mangroves on the brain

The island of Bimini and its surrounding tropical waters had lots of amazing habitats and animals to check out. Though we did our fair share of diving around corals, snorkeling through the mangroves was great as well (check out what Jacki and Isaiah had to say about the experience here).

As they floated down the mangrove channel, the teens were able to see the prop roots, mangrove roots that descend down into the water, creating a three dimensional habitat perfect for small fish and serves as a nursery area for such animals like lemon sharks (click here for more on our shark experience).

Prop roots = good homes

These areas are so important because they can provide a great habitat for animals to grow, many of them will leave the mangroves and head to the coral reefs as they get bigger. And we did see lots of animals here. There were schools of small silver fish everywhere, darting out into the channel only to swim back towards the safety of the mangroves if we got too close.

There was also a lot of spotted sea hares, big gigantic underwater slugs, all throughout the channel. They were great to watch...though you needed some time to observe them-they didn't move too fast!

The importance of the mangroves was not lost on the teens. On a section of Bimini's coastline, the mangroves have been removed due to outside development. The teens were constantly reflecting on the destruction they had witnessed and wondered how this could be allowed to happen to such an important habitat. It was great to see and hear this reaction. It's hard to connect with an environment that is far away from home and seems to have no impact on your daily life. But the teens were able to do this--connect in a way that hopefully will have long lasting impacts on their lives. They are the new stewards of this blue planet--this trip has hopefully helped them along the way.

New fans of mangroves

- Jo


Virtual Scuba Diving

I took this little movie during our last dive (click through for more on this plunge at Bimini Road). Just thought it would be nice to share an underwater experience with our blog readers. I love how the soft corals sway back and forth with the wave action. I hope you enjoy this virtual scuba dive:



Visiting the Bimini Biological Field Station

During the SEA TURTLE trip, we had the good fortune to visit the Bimini Biological Field Station - otherwise known as the "shark lab" on the island. We learned a great deal about shark biology, shark conservation and shark tagging techniques. We also got to walk out into the shallows to see the pens where they house juvenile sharks for research purposes. (The sharks aren't harmed during their studies.)

The field station does a lot of work with a very small budget (something I can certainly relate to!) Here's the entry into the field station:

Here's the SEA TURTLE team (including Capt. John on the right) outside the shark lab:

The principal investigator of the shark lab, Kristine, spent time with us to explain the work they do at the station. They tag sharks to understand their distribution and migratory patterns. They look at where sharks go as juveniles and as adults. They study their diets and how humans have impacted sharks in Bimini. We learned how the mangroves were ripped out when construction began on a new hotel and how that negatively affected the shark population in Bimini. (And as we all know, we need healthy sharks to have a healthy marine environment!)

After our lecture inside the lab, we ventured out to the shark pens where they currently have juvenile lemon sharks and nurse sharks (but no turkey sharks ;-)

Here's a juvy lemon that Kristine brought over to us.

And here's a short movie that shows some of the interesting information that Kristine shared with us:

It was an amazing morning. Personally, I had always wanted to visit the shark lab and it was one of the highlights of the trip for me. We are very grateful for the time that Kristine spent with us. Thank you shark lab!



Final thoughts from Nick

The trip was simply in a word-amazing. I have thought a lot about the things I want to do with my life and this trip as really shaken those thoughts to the core.

Kylie and Nick underwater

I got to experience the world of water accompanied by many great and passionate people. It has really taught me that opportunities are out there and with the right attitude, friends, and luck you will be able to explore them all. I left this adventure enthusiastic about the world and the treasures it holds.

Jane and Nick in the mangroves

In my final posting I want to convey my extreme gratitude to everyone involved in this program and for all of those who have supported our efforts. I have gained a new respect for the natural world, and a new appreciation for all those who fight to protect it. I do not know what the future will hold for me (maybe marine biology) but I do know I have a past that I can draw from and a new family whose support I will always cherish. Thank you SEA TURTLE, I owe great deal of growth to you.

- Nick


Final Thoughts from Tori

Kylie and Tori prepare to take the plunge

For lack of better words, SEA TURTLE has been a truly life-changing experience. Looking back on the expedition, I have learned so much about the life and the world above and underwater, about my teammates and instructors, and most of all, about myself. Every adventure we've had on the Coral Reef II I know I will never forget.

Getting ready to dive

Tori under the waves

- Tori

See one of Tori's previous posts from the Bahamas here and flashback to her initial moments scuba diving in a Boston-area pool here!


Final thoughts from Jacki

Bye-bye R/V Coral Reef II! The 10 days spent aboard the vessel are days that I am never going to forget. Spending day after after day being completely submerged in an entirely different realm under the water has completely confirmed that I want to pursue marine biology as a major in college next year.

Jacki the marine biologist

After being engulfed in marine biology with our eat-dive-eat-dive-eat-dive-sleep schedule, there is no other major I could consider declaring. Hopefully the next time I learn about the Coreolis Effect I won't get splashed with a bucket of water as a prank (thanks Captain Lou-you got us good)! From seeing dolphins, to sharks, to turtles, to night diving, to just diving and learning in general, SEA TURTLE was an experience of a life time that I truly hope others have the opportunity to experience. Not only was the diving and learning experience phenomenal, but over the course of the past six months I have forged friendships with my fellow SEA TURTLEs that will last long beyond our stay on the Coral Reef II :).

Jacki and Jane

SEA TURTLE for "I'm excited"

- Jacki


Final thoughts from Alex

Alex hangs out underwater

Well, it's been almost a week since the trip ended and now we are sadly getting back into the routine of our normal lives. All I can say about this experience is that it was beyond my expectations and beliefs, and I would gladly go there again and do it all over. Besides the great diving, shark lab visit, and mangrove snorkeling, there were all of the people that I went on this journey with. By the end of the week living together on a boat, all 10 of us became more than just close friends, we all became a family. I would recommend this trip to any and everyone. It was a truly life changing experience for me. Before this trip I was uncertain about what I wanted to do in my future, after this trip I know that I want to become more involved in the marine sciences. I want to work with the ocean and the animals that live in it, and all of the things that rely on the ocean.

It was the best experience of my life, and the most fun I have had in a long time. Thank you Sarah, Jenna, Jo, Captain John, Captain Lou, Chef Matt and of course, Mom.

Alex helps out with the plankton tow experiment

Alex climbs the rock wall at the Bimini All Age School



Final thoughts from Isaiah

Isaiah and Kylie during the beach seine

I'm writing this the day before we go back to the places we call home. Although we are all sad to leave Bimini and Miami, and the beautiful weather that arrived for us, it is important that we all remember the awesome memories that we has made on this expedition. Last Thursday when we arrived on the R/V Coral Reef II, I remember seeing how nervous everyone was. And now as we look at one another, we have become a family. I will miss you all; however this is not the end! SEA TURTLE 2010 will once again reunite and collaborate to help make an impact in today’s world. Thank you SEA TURTLE for an excellent and inspirational trip. We have so many stories to share, and let us remember them all.

Isaiah and Sarah getting ready to dive

Isaiah and Mary inside the wreck of the Sapona