Sea Turtles 911 offers 4-10 day school field trips in Hawaii, USA and Hainan, China for school groups looking to offer students the chance to experience conservation work firsthand. Students are able to gain hands-on experience through activities geared toward saving one of the world’s most ancient creatures: sea turtles. Since education is a major part of species preservation and restoration, students are exposed to many different aspects of conservation efforts throughout their stay. While on these visits, focus will be put on introducing students to the scientific work involved in sea turtle conservation, including community volunteer services that support conservation. Students will also learn about sea turtle husbandry, rescue, and rehabilitation. Throughout the trip, various discussions and activities would take place at different locations around Hawaii and Hainan Island. These activities are aimed at preparing students to think ahead about extinction and conservation in a practical way so that they could be future stewards of the ocean.
Sea turtle conservation research is important in the development of management policies to protect marine animals. By introducing research techniques to students, they will have a better understanding of what marine biologists do in sea turtle conservation. Students will practice these techniques on mock turtles, which include basic morphological data collection, skin sample collection for genetic studies, stomach content lavages for dietary ecological studies, gender identification for climate change studies, and satellite tag attachment for migration and habitat utilization studies. Marine turtle research topics discussed:
Health Monitoring and Medical Treatments
Husbandry Care and Nutritional Requirements
Satellite Tracking and Identification Tagging
Migratory Behavior and Dietary Ecology
Population Genetics and Wildlife Forensics
Reproduction Biology and Climate Change
Plastic Pollution and Marine Debris
Fisheries Bycatch and Sustainable Aquaculture
Our team has deployed real satellite tracking tags to learn more about sea turtle migrations - where they breed, where they eat, and where they are spending most of their time so that we can establish marine protected areas to save them. Read about the time when the U.S. Ambassador to China helped us release two satellite tagged sea turtles named "Harvard" and "Yale":
With our research partners from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), City University of Hong Kong, and Hainan Normal University, we have published satellite tracking research.
Building community capacity is vital to long-term, sustainable conservation results which benefit the community at large. Students will get involved with community service activities, including but not limited to beach clean-ups, raising public awareness, and teaching ocean biodiversity in Chinese or English at the local schools to children.
Volunteer Teaching. Educating kids through sea turtle story-telling have been successful because sea turtles are naturally cute animals to children, serving as the perfect ambassador for the ocean environment. As kids learn about sea turtle conservation, they can also affect their parent’s attitudes and behavior toward the environment. We have heard of true stories in which children have influenced their parents not to purchase sea turtle products and to discard trash properly.
The pollution in our ocean is killing hundreds of thousands of sea turtles and other marine life each year, as they mistaken it for food such as jellyfish. Some of the pollution wash up on the beaches and can be swept back into the ocean. Thus, your group will help clean up the trash along a stretch of beach. To be as efficient as possible in the cleaning process, the group can break up into different roles for collecting the trash and disposing it properly. By performing beach clean ups, students will learn how they can organize each other to work effectively and be able to lead beach clean up events when they return back home. Read more about a beach clean-up done by these student volunteers.
Raising Public Awareness.
We can set up tables for students to raise awareness for sea turtle conservation in our partnered hotel resorts, where they can speak with tourists about the importance of protecting sea turtles. The more people who learn about the reasons why sea turtles are going extinct, the more turtles we can save, as people begin to adjust their own behaviors. We will train students on how to promote sea turtle conservation to the public, which they can continue to do when they return to their home school. Students can also use their artistic creativity to raise awareness, such as building numerous sandcastles in the shape of sea turtles on the beach. Read this article from a past student group about this experience.
Experience Local Hawaiian and Chinese Culture
Sea turtles are global species whose migrations bring them in contact with many different countries and cultures. Cultural values ultimately shape human behavior, decisions, and priorities for environmental protection. Students will be exposed to local cultures to better understand how cultural traditions influence the consumption of sea turtles and local conservation efforts in Hawaii and China. Through better understanding of the complex cultural issues, students will be able to work more effectively with others from different cultural backgrounds, dispelling the myth that people in China are insensitive to animals, while Westerners are perceived as being overly sensitive to animals. The development of cross-cultural goodwill through endangered species protection would enhance international relations in one of the most urgent environmental issues worldwide.
Sea Turtle Release and Ecotourism
In Hawaii, students have the opportunity to encounter sea turtles in nature on the beach and while snorkeling or diving underwater. This is a spectacular ecotourism experience to see these majestic animals in their natural habitat, while witnessing first-hand the success of sea turtle conservation efforts in the U.S., which brought these endangered species back from near extinction 40 years ago. It's no wonder we can now find them so easily in Hawaii! Students will help lead eco tours to educate tourists, especially visitors from China, while viewing these magnificent animals in the wild to provide an emotional experience that garners more support for their protection in China.
In China, students are limited to viewing sea turtles only in captive environments, hardly comparable to the experience of beholding animals in nature. However, the students will personally name a rescued sea turtle and have the opportunity to release their adopted sea turtle back to nature! This is a wonderful moment to witness an endangered animal given a second chance in life, returning home to the ocean. Releasing a turtle draws a lot of public spectators, so it also becomes a good opportunity to raise awareness to the public. During this time, it is also a great opportunity to raise public awareness by taking excellent photos and videos. After the turtle is released, students can share the photos and videos on social media to raise more public awareness online.
Conservation Project Planning
Human imposed threats to the environment are of the greatest concern to sea turtle populations. Conservationists are often faced with the task of developing new ideas and strategies to save sea turtles. Having a variety of perspectives is valuable and necessary for a successful conservation plan. During the trip, the group will learn about marine conservation problems and be asked to discuss the problem as a group to devise a research project or plan of action to solve the problem. The group will draw upon their knowledge from the activities with sea turtles. Creating a conservation plan will challenge the group to be creative and utilize their pre-existing knowledge and skills in an innovative way, advancing communication and teamwork among group members. The group will then present their solutions to Sea Turtles 911 staff and members from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and they will then discuss the feasibility of the plan, make any necessary adjustments and put the plan to action. It is our hope that this could lead to future conservation research projects for students as they advance in their academic studies.
Group Registration Requirements
Ideal group size for optimal hands-on experience is 10-20 students, however we have worked with much larger groups and can be arranged per request. We request a 6-week minimum registration deadline prior to date of arrival. Because we only host one group at a time, we recommend reserving your school trip dates as early as possible. For sample itineraries and all other inquiries, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We will provide each student with a Certificate of Volunteer Service for the community service they provide during the course of this trip.
Groups have the opportunity to take additional trips around Hainan and Hawaii to visit major landmarks, ecological parks, hiking trails, rainforests, surfing, diving, museums, cultural tours, or simply lounge on the beautiful beaches!