Micah Ashford - Barbados Sea Turtles
Graduation: Summer 2018
Hello, everyone, my name is Micah Ashford and I am a Postbaccalaureate eCampus student here at OSU. I currently live in Barbados where I work with the ongoing conservation efforts of hawksbill sea turtles.
Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN Redlist due to poaching for their colorful and intricately detailed shell. Nesting habitat for this species also continues to degrade due to coastal development, climate change, invasive species, and loss of viable beach habitat due to beach erosion. This is where the Barbados Sea Turtle Project comes in. My job here is to collect important data that can help spur local authorities into action to prevent further loss of habitat and enable laws that grant this species the protection status it needs to survive and thrive while nesting on Barbados, the second largest nesting population of hawksbills in the western hemisphere.
This experience has taught me a number of things in regards to wildlife conservation and management. First, I learned that wildlife management often involves managing people. Ensuring locals and visitors to the island know what to do and what not do when encountering a sea turtle can mean all the difference between a female nesting or going back into the ocean and performing a "false crawl" (too many false crawls and she could jettison the eggs in the sea!). Second, I learned that when collecting data, the animals and the environment don't often cooperate. Patrolling outside as Hurricane Maria was passing just north of us exemplified the meaning of inclement weather. Lastly, I learned that science isn't perfect and this isn't a lab setting. Variables will occur outside of your control: turtles will return to the sea before you're ready to tag them, a beach may not get patrolled for 10 days because of pending emergencies that need to be dealt with and then you may miss nests.
What matters is that in these situations you do your best and prioritize what you can. At the end of the day, we're not Superman (even though we may want to be). When my time at OSU and this project is complete, I hope to gain employment with a state or federal agency that works in wildlife management. I feel this experience, in addition to previous internships I have been fortunate enough to participate in will prepare me for a career conducting fieldwork, entering data, writing reports and papers, and also interacting with other special interest groups in order to present scientific findings as best as I can.