The Importance of Combining Service and Research
During my spring break, I had the amazing opportunity of participating in a service trip, focused on sea turtle conservation in Costa Rica, through Eckerd's Office of Service Learning. Myself, a group of Eckerd students and an Eckerd Professor (Dr. Nancy Smith), spent 9 days in Parismina, Costa Rica volunteering with Asociació Salvemos las Tortugas de Parismina (ASTOP). ASTOP is a non-profit organization, ran by the Parismina community, with a mission of “protecting the sea turtles which nest on the beaches of Parismina, educating the local population on the importance of protecting local biodiversity and contributing to the development of the region in a sustainable manner”. Throughout our time in Parismina, we assisted with ASTOP’s research and conservations programs by conducting nightly beach patrols to protect Leatherback eggs from poachers, collecting and relocating eggs, identifying turtle tracks, recording tag numbers, and assisted with hatchery duty.
Here are some pictures of leatherbacks:
Participating on the service trip showed me the importance of combining research and outreach, as well as the connection between social and economic inequalities and environmental problems. As a scientist, it is extremely important to me (& hopefully other scientist ), to educate the public on new discoveries within my field, in a way that gets people engaged and motivated to protect the marine environment. One flaw I've notice repeatedly within my field, is the inability of some scientist to get 'non-scientists' interested/engaged in their research/work. Most scientist LOVE going to conference and symposiums, and presenting their research to their fellow scientist, yet fail to show the same enthusiasm when presenting their research to the public. I believe this is extremely detrimental to our field, if we (as scientist) are unable to get the ‘every-day’ person engaged and interested in science and conservation, what’s the point of the work/research we’re doing? Additionally, I think it's EXTREMELY important for us (as scientist) to put the same effort we put into educating out fellow scientist, into educating the public. This is were non-profits, such as ASTOP, become 'key players' in our efforts to involve/engage 'non-scientist'. They enable scientist to involve the public in research and conservation, in a way that is engaging and interactive, as well as allowing them to make a difference in a certain field, such as marine science. I encourage/challenge all my fellow scientists to take greater strides in presenting scientific research in a way that is interactive and engaging to 'non-scientist'. I also encourage/challenge all of the non-scientist to get involved with science, whether that be volunteering with a local non-profit, donating to research facilities/projects or attending local science festivals or museums (i.e. St. Pete Science Festival, N.C. Museum of Life and Science, MOTE Marine Lab, etc.)
Check out the summary video below, of my time in Costa Rica! (p.s. because all the of work we did with sea turtles was at night and in the dark, I didn't include any footage in the video, buttttt we did see a total of 5 leatherbacks and collected over 300 eggs!)