Returning to the beach strand near Johnnie Mercer’s Pier this summer is the free Tuesday evening Turtle Talk program, presented by the Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project (WBSTP).
Mellissa Dionesotes is a program assistant at the University of North Carolina Wilmington Center for Marine Science, and volunteers with WBSTP and serves on the board of directors. She also leads the Tuesday Turtle Talks and will coordinate other volunteers to do so throughout the summer.
“Basically, I do an overview of the different species we have here in North Carolina, what makes them different from land turtles, and I discuss their nesting habits and lifecycles,” she said in an interview on Monday, June 10.
Dionesotes said that while the talks are great for anyone who wants to learn more about sea turtles, most audiences have been made up of younger kids, who enjoy seeing the baby sea turtle replicas and a large, real carapace from an adult loggerhead sea turtle.
“Toward the end of the summer last year we actually had two educators most nights, because we’d have a pretty varied group of developing teenagers and young children that we’d separate,” she said.
While many unique questions surface during the talks, attendees will have some of the same inquires each week, like how old sea turtles can get.
“That’s one of those questions that’s kind of hard, because it’s very convoluted and difficult to answer. … It’s true that the larger the turtle is, the older they can live, but you have to factor in all possibilities and complications they run into,” Dionesotes explained.
With threats like pollution or getting hit by a passing boat, Dionesotes said that the peak age of a sea turtle is a constantly changing number.
“Another hard question to answer is out of so many eggs, how many will make it to adulthood,” she explained. “You hear the statistic that one in 1,000 make it to adulthood, and I’ve even heard one in 10,000 make it to sexual maturity. So, those are very bleak odds, especially when you’re teaching a little child that’s full of awe and excitement.”
Despite the look of sadness that can then blanket the crowd of young faces, Dionesotes said the conversation then to turns into, “What can I do to help?”
“The children start making that connection and it’s fun to watch them get excited again,” she said.
The free Turtle Talks will be every Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. until Aug. 27. Attendees should meet at the gazebo next to Johnnie Mercer’s Pier. Visit the WBSTP Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/wrightsvilleBeachSeaTurtleProject for updates.