REFLECTIONS ON THE 33rd ANNUAL SYMPOSIUM ON SEA TURTLES
I just came back to Greece after attending the 33rd Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation that took place in Baltimore, USA, from 2 to 8 February 2013. The Symposium is organized by the International Sea Turtle Society (ISTS), and this year it was devoted to CONNECTIONS. Since I started working in conservation, I always gave a great deal about the human factor as we always work within communities. Whether we work with volunteers, local fisherman or school children we must get them involved. In order to find solutions connecting together is the only way to go.
I arrived on the Sunday 3rd of February, big day for Baltimore since it was the final of the Super Bowl 2013: San Francisco 49ers v Baltimore Ravens. Local supporters and symposium participants met in the main bar of the Marriot Waterfront Hotel to watch the game. The South Americans started playing, singing and dancing to support the Baltimore team: Go Ravens!
The Mediterranean Meeting
Next day was dedicated to the regional meetings. As every year, those meetings take place before the actual symposium. They are traditionally divided into 4 regions: Mediterranean, Indian Ocean - Southeast Asia, Africa, and Asia. Slight innovation: a Pacific Islands regional meeting was added his year.
Since 2000 a Mediterranean Meeting is organized in the context of the Symposium in which Mediterraneans come together and discus various issues of regional interest. I took part in this meeting which was chaired by Paolo Casale, in charge of the Mediterranean group of IUCNʼs MTSG (Marine Turtle Specialist Group). Other participants from Greece were Smaro Touliatou, Aliki Panagopoulou, Alan Rees, Tom Riggall, Tom Backof, and Samir Patel, all associated in one way or another with ARCHELON. Some of the discussed regional issues follow.
It was announced that the 4th Med Conference will take place 28-31 October 2014 in Spain (Menorca Island). Paolo summarized the presentation he is going to address at the MTSG General Assembly in the context of the Symposium. This included some important regional concerns occurring in some countries of Africa, in Greece and Turkey. Concerning Greece, Aliki mentioned the critical situation at the very important nesting area of Kyparissia Bay caused by the lack of official protection, Smaro showed a video of the negative repercussions by the many turtle spotting boats roaming Laganas Bay in Zakynthos, Alan gave an update on his in-water work at the foraging area of Amvrakikos Gulf, and I provided the latest figures concerning the rescue network. Updates were given about Egypt. Antagonisms with fishermen were addressed in Greece, Turkey and Morocco. New research was promoted regarding satellite telemetry, areal surveys and fishery interactions (socioeconomic studies).
Five Workshops were organized the same day, thinning out the audience to the regional meetings. A short description of each workshop follows:
Statistics & Data Analysis Workshop. In this workshop, were discussed statistical techniques that are not taught in basic statistics classes, thereby expanding our analytical toolbox.
Dive Behavior & Data Analysis Workshop. This inaugural workshop serves as an opportunity to explore the applications of sea turtle dive behavior analysis and the advantages and disadvantages of different types of data analysis. During the past few decades much work has been done on the study of marine turtle dive behavior to better understand their dial behavioral patterns, habitat use and energy management strategy.
NMFS‐Permit Workshop. The National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Protected Resources, Permits and Conservation Division will host a workshop before the 2013 ISTS in Baltimore on ESA permitting for inwater research on sea turtles. This workshop is geared toward researchers who are looking to apply for a permit or modify an existing permit
Sea Turtle Medicine Workshop. This Workshop was another important reason for me to attend the Symposium. This year the theme was: Striving for Success - from the simple to the sophisticated.
“A successful sea turtle rehabilitation program depends on integrating multiple aspects of animal care as well as developing support within the local community. Vets and care personnel are integral to this process at every level of organizational growth and to them this workshop would be address. The workshop will highlight the importance of developing strong basic skills (the so‐called ʽsimpleʼ aspects of success) and how these relate to pursing other levels of care (the so‐called ʽsophisticatedʼ). The full‐day workshop will combine a series of short lectures with an open forum format to allow for free‐flowing discussion between lecturers and attendees and it will be divided into 3 lectures in the morning followed by an open discussion, a short lunch break, and three lectures in the afternoon followed by a second open discussion.”
I found this workshop particularly interesting because these topics are important to any Rescue Center. Also the lectures were very clear and the cases easy to relate to.
I have found new techniques to use in order to improve our protocols. I also mentioned the numerous cases of head trauma we encounter in Greece. The lecturers were genuinely interested and came to me later on to offer their assistance. I was really glad to make these new connections which I hope will benefit greatly our Rescue Center in Glyfada.
Cultivating Resilience: Processes and Skills. This workshop will build on the ideas presented in the talk on Understanding Resilience, and will offer a mindfulness‐based approach to cultivating internal processes and self‐regulation skills that support resilience.
The day before the actual opening of the Symposium we were conveyed to an opening Social. This was organized by/at the notorious National Aquarium of Baltimore. After a welcome speech we were offered beverages and snacks while having a look around the different sections of the aquarium. I particularly enjoyed the shark display. It is a great occasion to people you wish to meet since the atmosphere is very casual. The funny fact was that there were Greek spinach pies at the buffet!
The main Symposium
Opening and introductory talks
On 5 February, Ray Carthy, President of the International Sea Turtle Society, officially opened the 33rd Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation. He reminded us that 33 years ago the World Conference on Sea Turtle Conservation was held in Washington, 40 miles away. He also commented on how connections made our community of biologists and conservationist grow through the years, reaching today over 1000 participants from 80 different countries. This yearly event makes it possible to create more connections helping us solve issues together. Ray was followed by interesting talks by sea turtle experts, as Barbara Schroeder from National Marine Fisheries Service, and Earl Possardt of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as Wallace J. Nichols. The introductory presentations were followed by a facilitated question and answer session. The panel represented specialties spanning biological disciplines and conservation practice, and welcomed questions from an audience of symposium attendees, the general public, young students from local schools, and the media.
Symposium main topics
The following 3 days were dedicated to oral presentations and poster sessions on various topics such as:
- Social, economic and cultural studies
- In-water biology
- Conservation, management and policy
- Fisheries and threats
- Population biology and monitoring
- Education, outreach and advocacy
- Satellite telemetry special session
- Nesting biology
Below I have summarized the work presented about Greece and involving ARCHELON.
IDENTIFYING BEHAVIORAL STATES IN LOGGERHEAD TURTLES USING SATELLITE TELEMETRY DATA
Samir H. Patel, Aliki Panagopoulou, Helen Bailey, Stephen J. Morreale, Frank V. Paladino, Dimitris Margaritoulis, and James R. Spotila
LOGGERHEADS AND MEDITERRANEAN MONK SEALS: TWO FLAGSHIP SPECIES CLASH IN ZAKYNTHOS
Dimitris Margaritoulis and Smaro Touliatou (presented by Smaro)
CONNECTING RECORD LEVELS OF LOGGERHEAD NESTING IN KYPARISSIA BAY, GREECE, TO LONGTERM NEST PROTECTION
Dimitris Margaritoulis, ALan F. Rees, and Thomas E. Riggall (Presented by Alan)
CHARACTERIZING THE INTER‐NESTING BEHAVIOR OF LOGGERHEAD TURTLES (CARETTA CARETTA) AT KYPARISSIA BAY, GREECE
Thomas F. Backof, Stephen J. Morreale, Thomas Riggall, and Frank V. Paladino.
USING MULTIPLE METHODS TO LINK THE LOGGERHEAD FORAGING POPULATION IN AMVRAKIKOS GULF, GREECE, TO SOURCE NESTING POPULATIONS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN
ALan F. Rees, Annette C. Broderick, Carlos Carreras, Dimitris Margaritoulis, and Brendan J. Godley
EFFECTS OF INCREASED CONSTRUCTION ON THE DISTRIBUTION OF LOGGERHEAD NESTS IN SOUTHERN KYPARISSIA BAY, GREECE
Thomas E. Riggall, ALan F. Rees, and Dimitris Margaritoulis
MICROSATELLITE ANALYSES SHOW RESTRICTED MALE‐MEDIATED GENE FLOW BETWEEN MEDITERRANEAN ROOKERIES FOR LOGGERHEAD TURTLES
Marcel Clusa, Carles Carreras, Marta Pascual, Andreas Demetropoulos, Dimitris Margaritoulis, Alan F. Rees, Abdulmaula A. Hamza, Mona Khalil, Monica Aureggi, Yaniv Levy, Ogüz Türkozan, Alex Aguilar, and Luis Cardona
ARCHELON VOLUNTEERS: AN ARMY OF HOPE
Theodoros Benos-Palmer, Theoni Karkoulia, Aliki Panagopoulou, Anna Kremezi-Margaritouli, and Dimitris Margaritoulis.
Adventures from the Field
This was a new event at the symposium and an opportunity to share with others fun, scary, crazy, tough stories of doing sea turtle fieldwork in remote, amazing locations.
Speed Chatting with Turtle Experts
This fundraising event aims to provide a means for symposium newcomers and veterans alike to spend time chatting with a stellar collection of turtle enthusiasts and ISTS Symposium veterans. This event is intended to be the “ice‐breaker” for getting to know people youʼve always wanted to meet but have never approached.
The video night has been running for several years and has become a popular event at the symposium. Video night attracts a large crowd, and it is always a fun evening, with a variety of different multi‐media presentations.
In a multi‐faceted approach ISTS is sponsoring: a sea turtle art contest in the Baltimore schools, a teachers and educators workshop conducted by the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center and hosted at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, school visits by ISTS conference participants, Symposium attendance by Baltimore school children and teachers, and live streaming of special sessions to local schools and universities.
Silent and Live Auction
These 2 events are always full of fun. It is a good way to help the Symposium provide grants to students and researchers in order to present their findings.
ISTS Annual Plenary Meeting
Traditionally in the afternoon of the last day, the International Sea Turtle Society holds its annual plenary meeting. The annual operations were discussed and voting on some resolutions, followed by annual elections of vacant positions in the Executive Committee and Board of Directors. Prof. Yakup Kaska from Turkey was elected president for the 35th Symposium.
Last but not least, the farewell banquet ended the meeting and was followed by the award ceremony. This year, the volunteer award was given to Daniela Freggi from Italy. She is a dear friend and deserved this recognition for all her hard work. Grazie Dany!
ARCHELONʼs motto “We can live together” join this year theme for the Symposium “Connections”. Together we can save the turtles.
ARCHELON will celebrate its 30 years of achievement this year and we hope to take “new steps for a better future”.
By Pavlos Tsaros, Coordinator of ARCHELON Rescue Centre