What inspired you to research sea turtles?
Ever since I can remember, I was always fascinated by two things: the ocean and dinosaurs. It is therefore fitting that I eventually began working with sea turtles.
Sea turtles first evolved some 200 million years ago when dinosaurs still roamed the land. Yet even though these species have shown incredible resilience and survived over many a millennia, their numbers are now decreasing in many locations worldwide due to human-impacts. Studying the ecology of sea turtles therefore not only provides us with a unique glimpse into prehistoric marine life but can also help us to discover ways to ensure that these charismatic animals continue to swim in the world’s oceans for many generations to come.
Describe a great moment in the field.
While researching leatherback turtles in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa, I had a very close encounter with a nile crocodile. Sea turtles tend to nest at night and so that is when we try to find them. I had been walking all night trying to find a leatherback turtle onto which I was planning to deploy a satellite transmitter. After finding a turtle and deploying the transmitter, I started walking back to the campsite in a great mood. However, as soon as I turned around I saw the glimmer of a crocodile’s eye just a few meters ahead of me. Little did I know but it appears that the 3m long crocodile had been walking along the exact same path that I had been walking before finding the turtle!