PhD Research on Sea Turtles

$16,340 of $75,000 goal

Raised by 352 people in 33 months


I am a third year Marine Biology PhD student with Texas A&M University doing research on sea turtles in Costa Rica.
http://plotkinlabtamu.wixsite.com/plotkinlab/christine-figgener

In 2015, a video I posted showing a straw being removed from a sea turtle's nostril received worldwide attention.
This sea turtle is just one example of many.
No biologist, regardless of his or her location, is actively seeking out injured wildlife as seen in my video. But we are on the front-lines of reality looking at thousands of animals and we are consistently witnessing the by-products of human consumerism and its consequences.

There are many more things we want to do and CAN do, but funding is difficult to come by, and there are consequences to this fact.
People forget that in order to protect any species effectively, this protection must be based on observations of the species' biology, ecology, and behaviour.

Many people asked me how they could support my work after seeing the video or where they could donate and it inspired me to launch this campaign to ask for funding to continue my research to reveal the secrets of sea turtles and protect them and their habitat. 

Over the course of the next years, I will study females and males at numerous sites to discover important mating strategies and foraging habitats of sea turtles and investigate migratory behaviours of sea turtles.
My findings will help inform conservation management plans and help to ensure that sea turtles continue to swim freely in our oceans for generations to come. Your funds will help to pay for my research and fees, as well as provide essential equipment for this study.
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FIELD WORK
We are spending several months each year in the field and the next season is coming up fast. Due to the recent political climate our funding situation is worse than ever.

We are planning more boat trips for this season to collect data on females before they are starting their nesting season. Historically, that has also been the time (together with the actual nesting events) where we are finding most of the animals affected by fishing nets or plastic (see videos below).

We will also continue to install satellite transmitters on females to follow them on their migration through the ocean after they are done nesting in Costa Rica. The latter will help us understand their migratory routes and will also tell us which threats they are likely facing on their travels. Are they travelling through one of our plastic gyres (info), or are they travelling through areas with a lot of fishing activity and could fall victim and end up as fisheries by-catch (info)? Our results will help to inform governments adjacent to the Pacific Ocean and provide valuable information that can be integrated in future management plans and geographic outlines of protected areas.

Unfortunately, none of this is particularly cheap. Each satellite transmitter costs about US$1,000, and we need US$10,000 to install the ten transmitters so we would have a significant sample size. We would like to ask for your support to make it happen!

Every donation over US$ 50 will receive a necklace with a sea turtle or a whale/ dolphin made by a Costa Rican artist.

Every donation over US$ 200 will finance a boat ride, which will potentially save more sea turtle lives.

Every donation over US$ 1,000 will adopt a turtle and finance one satellite transmitter. The donor can name the turtle and will receive an adoption certificate with the turtle’s picture and name.

We encourage especially companies to donate and adopt a turtle and we would be happy to publish a logo and/or link together with the turtle’s profile on ocearch.org, where our tracks will be publicly visible in real time.

All of our tracks can be followed live on OCEARCH.ORG .

With your help, we have already been able to do so much during the past years.  Your donations will continue to contribute to the research of sea turtles and the effects of human actions on their populations and ecology, as well as spreading awareness of the plastic pollution in our oceans.  

Please donate and share this page! Any donation amount is greatly appreciated and will bring us one step closer helping to conserve these charismatic animals!!





RESCUES FROM THE 2016 SEASON




THE ANTI-STRAW MOVEMENT!
#SkipTheStraw #StopSucking #1LessStraw

Since I have published the viral video, our turtle has become the poster-child of an ANTI-STRAW MOVEMENT. Straws are considered a gateway plastic for all the other single-use plastic products used by our society. 
http://abc7news.com/science/viral-sea-turtle-video-fuels-campaign-against-plastic-straws/1942663/

Several people and organisations are trying to raise awareness and combat the issue of single-use plastics, and especially plastic straws, which I would like to acknowledge here.

The Last Plastic Straw - http://thelastplasticstraw.org/

Surf Rider Foundation - Plastic Straws Suck

Lonely Whale Foundation - Strawless Ocean

One Less Straw - https://onelessstraw.org/


Plastic Pollution Coalition launched a "No Straw" campaign in collaboration with us in November 2015.

Have a look and take the No-Straw Pledge here: 
http://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/no-straw-please

STRAWS the Documentary Film
My video and I have been part of the documentary STRAWS that has premiered in spring 2017. If you would like to know about it and check out screening dates, visit their website.  http://www.strawsfilm.com/






A THANK YOU TO AARDVARK STRAWS!
Over the past two years AARDVARK STRAWS has been contributing to my GoFundMe Campaign by donating 15% of the sales of their sea turtle straws! A BIG THANK YOU!








THE STORY BEHIND THE VIRAL VIDEO

Research @ Texas A&M has produced a video telling the story behind our video. Enjoy!



FIRST AID KIT FOR SEA TURTLES!


Coming across injured sea turtles in our line of work is very common. So after talking to my university veterinarian about the incident we have come up with the idea to develop a first-aid kit for sea turtles together with a guide-book and a training, which researchers can take with them into the field, when they are working on studies with sea turtles in remote areas. The first aid kit would be for cases like ours where a sea turtle is found with injuries or foreign objects attached to them, such as fishing hooks or fishing line or -as in in our case - a straw, and medical attention is unavailable or too far away. I will use money from this GoFundMe campaign to develop the first-aid kit together with our vet.
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It has been quiet on our campaign page during the past months as we have been busy working in the field. I hope you have been following our work on our blog http://plotkinlabtamu.wixsite.com/plotkinlab/blog .

We launched a successful outreach project (Texas A&M Sea Turtle Tracking Project #TAMUTurtles) that is using our turtles and their tracks to educate local school children about the importance of healthy oceans, the threats sea turtles face on their long journeys through our oceans, and the ways how everyone can make a difference in protecting our oceans (e.g. reducing single-use plastics). You can follow our turtles on their journey on www.ocearch.org (choosing olive ridleys as species).

The No-Straw Movement has gained momentum in the past year and many different players have come together to campaign for a plastic straw ban in communities and even entire countries. I have been invited to several events and I also wrote a little piece for the Lonely Whale Foundation and their #StopSucking #StrawlessInSeattle Campaign that you can read right here http://bit.ly/2p2kGdm ( https://www.lonelywhale.org/strawless-in-seattle/).

The documentary I have been part of ( www.strawsfilm.com) has also been a huge success ever since it has been screened for the first time last year, and it has provided more fuel to the anti-straw campaign that has been making major breakthroughs in the past two years. The next screening of STRAWS will be at the International Ocean Film Festival ( http://intloceanfilmfest.org/) in San Francisco Saturday, March 10th, 2018.

We are deeply indebted to everyone that has supported CrowdFunding Campaign in the past and/or will do in the future for the next year and field season.

Many thanks!



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Results from Last Field Season and the past 12 months

I would like to start my update with a big THANK YOU! Thank you to all my past and ongoing supporters. I am deeply appreciative of all that you have helped me to accomplish during the past year.

With the help of your donations we were able to realize several boat and dozens of beach surveys, and besides collecting data, we helped several females in distress.
We found one female in the water that was badly entangled in fishing line and we were able to cut her free and release her ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVPSTkYihCY&t=24s).
We found another turtle on the beach nesting that had her front flipper wrapped up in fishing line and a heavy weight that she had been dragging around with her for a while. We cut her loose and she was able to continue back to the sea somewhat relieved.( https://youtu.be/1OeC_u37Xbs).
We found two other females on the beach, one that had a lollipop stick in her nose (which we removed within seconds) and the other turtle had fishing line badly wrapped around her back flipper and we cut her free. Unfortunately, we don’t have footage of the last described incidents.

Additionally, your donations helped to pay for nine satellite transmitters with which we were able to follow the migratory routes of nine female olive ridley turtles after their nesting season in Costa Rica. Where did they travel to and which dangers might they come across on their long journeys? (see the map below)

Last but not least, I was involved in the filming of the documentary STRAWS ( http://www.strawsfilm.com/), which is shedding light on the problems with plastic straws and what we can do about it. I was interviewed and provided most of the sea turtle footage seen in the movie. It has been screening during Earth Day 2017 at several locations in the US, and it will be shown at more festivals in the upcoming months. Check out the screening schedule to see if it might screen somewhere near you ( http://www.strawsfilm.com/screenings/).

Thank you again for your support and we hope that you consider making another donation for the upcoming field season!
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So much has happened in the past months and I will soon share a more in-depths update, but yesterday abc7 news published an article about the on-going Anti-Straw-Movement. Our video and turtle has become a poster child for the movement and I am very proud!

http://abc7news.com/science/viral-sea-turtle-video-fuels-campaign-against-plastic-straws/1942663/
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Only a few weeks after a female was found by our research team entangled in fishing-line ( https://www.youtube.com/edit?video_id=lVPSTkYihCY), we found another female during the synchronized mass-nesting in Ostional this August, also badly entangled in discarded fishing-line (also called ghost net) with her front flipper.
The female was found while nesting and had dragged a bulk of fishing net up the beach with her, including a 1kg lead weight.
Parts of the net were wrapped around her right front flipper and had started to cut into the flesh. Luckily circulation didn't seem to haven been cut off and she was able to move her flipper normally, so we cut off the line and disinfected the cut with iodine.
Given our knowledge of the scarcity of sea turtle rehab facilities and lack of expert care for injured sea turtles in Costa Rica, the decision we are usually facing is either leaving the animal as is or trying to help as much as we can by removing obstructing objects.

As biologists we don't actively seek out injured wildlife, but our research happens to position us at the front-lines of reality looking at the detrimental effects of human impact on wildlife.
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At this point I would like to thank again everyone that donated to my GoFundMe Campaign ( https://www.gofundme.com/wuhvd6zj)! Without you this field season wouldn't have been possible and we wouldn't have been to the right time at the right place to help again. Thank you!
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Read a Previous Update

$16,340 of $75,000 goal

Raised by 352 people in 33 months
Created August 14, 2015
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CT
$20
Catherine Thomas
18 days ago

Keep up the important but often distressing work you do.

$20
Anonymous
1 month ago
VK
$8
Vanessa Krakau
2 months ago

Thank you for doing what you do!

$5
Erika Hernandez
3 months ago

I wish I could donate more. I'm also a PhD student, currently researching human-animal relations. Your work is inspiring. Thank you for all you do.

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