28 May Padre Island, Sea Turtles, and UTVs – Oh my!
I didn’t think my first day of work would have me speeding down the beach in a UTV, but that’s where I found myself that morning. I am an intern with Mosaics in Science, a diversity and inclusion program facilitated by NPS Youth Programs and their partner Environment for the Americas. My work is in science communication and social media at the Padre Island National Seashore and it’s already involved a lot of first hand experiences.
Training started the moment I stepped foot inside the Headquarters and I couldn’t be happier to have real world experiences. Like many, I have spent most of my time inside my home these past weeks, but suddenly, I was in a gym-turned-classroom with other interns and ready to learn the in’s-and-out’s of a Utility Task Vehicle (UTV) driving. This vehicle is important for traveling the 70 miles of beach in the national park, the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world.
Many people from volunteers to permanent park staff use UTVs on turtle patrols where they keep an eye out for visiting or nesting turtles. The most frequent turtle visitor is the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, an endangered turtle that nests on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico with 100 to 350 nests are confirmed on the Texas coast annually. When turtles are founding nesting, it’s important for a trained person to quickly get to them, making the UTVs essential for the Division of Sea Turtle Science & Recovery.
Even though I immediately splashed myself and my driving partner with a large puddle while UTV driving near the headquarters, I had a great time driving down the beach during training. The beauty of the area is really striking and anyone who has visited will tell you how peaceful this beach is. If you have an interest in sea turtles and other endangered species or you’re interested in relaxing during these stressful times, I encourage you to check out Padre Island National Seashore, its websites, and social media accounts.