Nichols, WJ, JA Seminoff, C Lockwood and L Jimenez. Sea turtles, science and surfing: riding the Internet from the classroom to the field. Submitted paper, Proceedings of the 17th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, Orlando, Florida, March 1997. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SEFSC-415.
The Internet can provide a powerful means for biologists to share and communicate their findings with teachers and students. Teachers find that when students have access to "real" data, the students' learning experience is enriched. In this collaborative effort we have made satellite tracking data from a loggerhead turtle available on the Internet and have encouraged teachers to incorporate it into their curriculum. The project has been used across curricula to teach geography, math, biology, and art in several schools around the country. The educational potential for such student-scientist collaboration is without limits.
On the 10th of August 1996 a loggerhead turtle, "Adelita", was equipped with a Telonics ST-3 satellite transmitter and released into the Pacific Ocean off of Baja California. Since that day, her position data have been made available to students and teachers via the Internet. The homepage of the Coastal Conservation Foundation has posted and updated her position weekly along with regular comments on her behavior. A link to the Turtle Trax homepage provides a map depicting her track across the Pacific Ocean. Hundreds of teachers and tens of thousands of school children have joined the project via the Internet. Many teachers have developed creative approaches to integrating this turtle into their curricula.
BIOLOGICAL CONTEXT IN BRIEF
The presence of juvenile loggerhead turtles along the coast of Baja California has long been an enigma: the closest known nesting beach for loggerheads is over 6,000 miles away in Japan. Recently biologists discovered that Baja California's turtles are genetically similar to those from Japan and Australia, thus supporting the theory of a trans-Pacific migration (Bowen et al., 1995). Only two flipper tag returns are known that support this theory, one from a turtle released in Japan and found in California (Uchida and Teruya, 1991) and another from a turtle released in Baja California and found in Japan (Resendiz et al., in press). In an attempt to shed some light on the trans-Pacific migration of loggerhead turtles we satellite tagged "Adelita". Since her release, "Adelita" has traveled more than 3,000 miles and recently crossed the International Date Line. The full results of this satellite telemetry project will be presented at next year's symposium.
By tracking this turtle, students not only learn about sea turtles but about marine conservation, oceanography, charting techniques, data analysis, algebra and a variety of other topics. This collaboration exposes students to the entire scientific process: asking questions, gathering information, developing hypotheses, analyzing data, and learning about uncertainty. Several schools have begun an interdisciplinary study of sea turtles which involves their science, art, geography, language arts, and math classes. This has resulted in a more complete appreciation of the marine environment. Other teachers are using this data to create semester-long Solution-Based Learning projects. Students from all over the planet interact with biologists and each other through e-mail, answering questions and sharing information. The results have been that uninvolved students have become motivated, students are excited about learning, many students stay after school to learn more about biology, and a positive, pro-nature virtual community has been created.
We have plans to increase the number of turtles being tracked by our research program. As that occurs, those turtles' tracks will also be posted on the Internet. Sycamore Junior High School and several other schools have been raising funds to sponsor one of those tags. It is our hope that other scientists will open their projects to teachers for the betterment of education, to help our children explore nature, and in the long run to help conserve sea turtles and their environment.
We would like to thank Antonio and Bety Resendiz for their Herculean efforts to protect the turtles of Baja California, Richard Byles and the USFWS for providing the satellite tag, Bob Snodgrass, Martin Arce, and Dana Lowry for logistical support prior to and during the release, Bill Savary for his technical support, Turtle Trax for mapping "Adelita"'s progress, and the teachers and students who have made this project lots of fun.
Bowen, B.W., F.A. Abreu-Grobois, G.H. Balazs, N. Kamezaki, C.J. Limpus, and R.J. Ferl. 1995. Trans-Pacific migrations of the loggerhead sea turtle demonstrated with mitochondrial DNA markers. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 92:3731-3734.
Resendiz, A., B. Resendiz, W.J. Nichols, J.A. Seminoff, N. Kamezaki. In press. First confirmed east-west transPacific movement of a loggerhead turtle, Caretta caretta, released in Baja California, MÃ©xico. Pacific Science.
Uchida, S. and H. Teruya. 1991. Transpacific migration of a tagged loggerhead, Caretta caretta. Uchida, I. ed., International Symposium on Sea Turtles in Japan. Himeji City Aquarium, Himeji City, Japan. pp 169-182.
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