This week, National Aquarium is co-hosting the 33rd annual International Sea Turtle Symposium, which has brought together more than 1,000 scientists and conservationists from over 75 countries to discuss collaborative efforts to save all seven species of endangered sea turtle.
Currently, turtle populations worldwide are in dramatic decline due to issues like habitat destruction, cold-stunning, debris entanglement, incidental capture in commercial and recreational fishing. The symposium is a tool to share knowledge and encourage discussion around sea turtles in our local community and how we create and/or affect these issues. This meeting provides Baltimore and the state of Maryland with a rare opportunity to participate in an international dialogue and gain exposure to new pathways in conservation science.
General Curator Jack Cover was on hand during the Aquarium's "Welcome Social" for symposium participants to talk about the many species of turtle we have in our collection.
The theme of the symposium is "connections" and throughout the week, they hope to create connections not only with fellow researchers and conference attendees but also with the community and local students.
To encourage involvement, the symposium is providing teacher and educator workshops, live streaming of special sessions to local schools and universities as well as a sea turtle art contest in Baltimore City schools.
The art contest in particular is a powerful way to reach students and encourage them to express their love for sea turtles. Further, it presents an innovative avenue to reinforce the community's need to respect and save these majestic creatures. Each school submitted art pieces in the hopes of winning an opportunity to learn more about the importance of turtles at special expert Q&A sessions at the symposium. The following local schools have their art featured at the symposium:
- St. Demetrius Bilingual Day School
- Poolesville High School
- South River High School
- Furman Templeton Prep
- Dr. Rayner Browne Academy
- Friends Meeting School
One local school in particular, St. Demetrius Bilingual Day School, took this art project a step further! Students did a month-long science unit on sea turtles leading up to the week of the event. During their visit to the symposium, students had lunch with biologists and conservationists and even took a trip to the Aquarium!
After learning even more about sea turtles, 4th and 5th grade classes at St. Demetrius were inspired to actually adopt a turtle at the Aquarium through our adoption program!
Want to learn more about the dialogue happening at the symposium or the Aquarium's efforts to save sea turtles? Leave us your questions in the comments section!
You can also join the conservation on Twitter (for symposium-specific news, follow the hashtags #ISTS33 and #ISTS2013).