The lower Rio Grande Valley was an interesting place to grow up, for a lot of reasons. One of them is the climate; it’s an interesting mix of temperate/coastal/desert/subtropical environments, which can lead to exposure to a wide range of biological diversity, even if one isn’t inclined to go out and look for it. My mother was a high school biology teacher for 20 years before she entered the library world, so I probably had a few more opportunities than most to see some of it.
One of my earliest memories involves South Padre Island- specifically, visiting the home of the person we knew as the Turtle Lady, and of course, her turtles. The Turtle Lady, whom I now know as Ila Loetscher, was an amazing woman who dedicated the latter part of her life to saving endangered sea turtles, particularly the Kemp’s Ridley. I remember attending a show in her backyard, where some of the turtles that lived there performed for us, and we got to meet and touch the giant creatures. It was, to put it simply, awesome.
The Kemp’s Ridley is one of the endangered species that makes its home in the Gulf of Mexico for its entire life. One of my first reactions to the BP oil catastrophe was about these turtles- the Gulf is the only place they live, and the oil will certainly reach their nesting grounds. I decided to look up the Turtle Lady’s charity- Sea Turtles, Inc, and see if there was anything I could do in even some small way. Both Sea Turtles, Inc., and another great site, seaturtle.org allow you to “adopt” sea turtles to help in their rehabilitation or research. And you get some pretty nifty stuff as well when you donate- pictures, magnets, a plush doll, and so on, depending on the org. One of the really interesting technologies that wasn’t around when I was a kid is access to an online map that shows where the turtles are, based on the tracking device on the turtles. For example, here’s Lafitte, the Kemp’s Ridley I “adopted” from seaturtle.org. I hope other people find that technology interesting. I really hope that people pay attention to the environmental effects- so much of what I’ve seen on the news either downplays or doesn’t address the issue at all. These ecologies are fragile. I hope to attend one of the turtle hatchings at South Padre next year. I hope we still have these hatchings in the future.