The Sea of Change Foundation recently announced the winners of a sustainable sea turtle nest box design.
This past summer, in partnership with the Science Exchange, the Foundation initiated an exciting new project that directly addresses both issues while promoting citizen science.
The “Build A Better Box” Contest invited international students and the general public to propose improved designs for sea turtle eggs incubation boxes using affordable, easily obtainable, and sustainable materials to replace the Styrofoam coolers currently used by many sea turtle conservation projects around the world.
Finalists’ designs ranged from plywood and papier mache boxes to modified water buckets and rustic baskets; all were built, and field tested at a sea turtle nesting beach in Mexico. So as not to endanger any sea turtle hatchlings, the experimental boxes were tested using data loggers buried in moist beach sand within each box.
College interns Cora McClelland and Ellery Newcomer built the prototypes, collected the data and analyzed the results to determine which would perform the best within the parameters of the competition. After 45 days (the average time for olive ridley sea turtles’ nests to hatch), McClelland’s data analysis revealed that the winner was a sphere-shaped basket made of a common tropical vine, cuauhmecate lined with natural palm fiber. It was found to be cheap and easy to build, sturdy with good gas exchange, and maintained a viable temperature. The addition of a secure lid and cinnamon to deter insects may also be tested moving forward. In the future, making the baskets could involve the local community and provide them with a source of income while contributing to sea turtle conservation.
The winning design was submitted by Karla De La Pena, owner of Boca Divers ecotour company and Jorge Bolivar, founder of the Puerto del Sol Restaurant. Both live in Jalisco, Mexico where they are surrounded by the wild vines and palms that inspired their entry. The two friends heard about the competition on Facebook and decided to combine their mutual passion for nature with their backgrounds in architecture, art, and marine biology to create a woven basket as a sea turtle egg incubation box. They have been awarded a cash prize and a visit to the sea turtle nesting beach in San Pancho, Mexico where their design prototype was built and tested.
Katherine Comer Santos, Director of the Science Exchange International Sea Turtle Internship Program, said:
“I’m so proud of our interns, grateful for all the innovative design contest entries, and excited about the results of this first step in finding a sustainable alternative for incubating sea turtle eggs.”