Meet the The Miami-Dade County Sea Turtle Conservation Program
Analisa Duran, Program Volunteer
The Miami-Dade County Sea Turtle Conservation Program surveys a stretch of approximately 19 miles of sandy beach in Miami-Dade County, Florida where approximately 600 sea turtle nests are laid each year. Teal Kawana (above) is the new Program Manager and Marine Turtle Permit Holder.
The Miami-Dade County Sea Turtle Conservation Program (MDCSTCP), housed under the Education, Outreach and Conservation Division of the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department, has been actively collecting information on sea turtle nesting in Miami-Dade County for the past 30 years. The program surveys the majority of beaches throughout the County, encompassing seven municipalities and two County parks over a stretch of approximately 19 miles of sandy beach. The program also responds to strandings, participates in outreach events and works with oceanfront municipalities to educate on sea turtle conservation practices throughout the entire county. Prior to the 2017 nesting season, Teal Kawana took over as the program manager and marine turtle permit holder for MDCSTCP.

Kawana received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology at Westminster College and continued on to earn her Master’s degree in Marine Biology with a thesis project involving sea turtles from Nova Southeastern University in 2013. Throughout her career, Kawana has gained extensive experience working in sea turtle lighting code compliance, sea turtle nest surveying, and wildlife conservation. As the permit holder and program manager for MDCSTCP, Teal has aided in obtaining funds for new equipment, trained staff and volunteers, and has improved communication between the program, county and local entities, and the public in an effort to encourage better beach management practices.
Program Manager Teal Kiwana and an assistant release
a rehabilitated green sea turtle back to the wild.

A key goal for Kawana and the program during her first season was to focus
on educating local oceanfront governments, residents and tourists on the threats sea turtles face along the Miami-Dade coastline.“One of the unique tasks involved with working in Miami is balancing sea turtle nesting with the multiple uses and impacts associated with a densely populated metropolitan area,” Kawana stated. For this reason, MDCSTCP focused on building its outreach efforts through increased participation in public awareness events, hosting community presentations, bolstering its online
MDCSTCP personnel carefully monitor the success of sea turtle
nests in Miami-Dade County.

presence, and educating beachgoers. The program also fostered close relationships with beach maintenance crews, beach furniture vendors, event planners and local government staff including environmental, police, ocean rescue, and code enforcement to provide more information on sea turtle nesting behavior and to create safer beaches for sea turtles. MDCSTCP will continue to build on these efforts in the years to come.

Another distinct characteristic of Miami-Dade County is its status as a melting pot of different cultures and languages, with both residents and visitors hailing from around the world. In order to bring sea turtle nesting and conservation awareness to such a diverse audience, the program has applied for grants that will look to support the development of nest signage and brochures printed in the County’s top 5 spoken languages. “We want to provide the most accessible platforms possible in order educate as many people as we can”, says Kawana.
The program is also helping to tackle lighting issues and their impacts to sea turtles throughout the County. Many of the local municipalities have established lighting ordinances and have been working with the program to update their code to current standards and technology for sea turtle lighting. There have been several sea turtle lighting compliance trainings offered to local code enforcement and the program strives to communicate regularly with the municipalities in order to address any concerns that may arise. In addition, the program has been working with other County park staff to retrofit fixtures within Haulover Beach Park in an effort to minimize lighting impacts within the park. “Our goal is to make Haulover Beach Park completely sea turtle friendly so it can serve as a model for further lighting improvements within the County,” Kawana said.
Each year approximately 600 nests are laid on Miami-Dade County beaches. In 2017, MDCSTCP recorded 527 Loggerhead nests and 35 Green nests for a total of 562 nests. Hurricane Irma, which affected the region on September 10th, had an impact on all beaches. Fortunately, the storm hit late in the nesting season after many nests had since hatched. Approximately 8% of the total nests for the season were washed out in the storm, Key Biscayne was the most affected, with 17% of the total nests laid on the island completely washed out.

In addition to nest surveying efforts, the MDCSTCP team responded to over 60 stranding events in 2017. A highlight of the year were two live strandings of juvenile green sea turtles that were rescued at the beginning of 2017.
The MDCSTCP outreach team focuses on educating the
community about sea turtle conservation.
These green sea turtles were reported only a month apart to MDCSTCP because they were observed in canals with visible external fibropapilloma tumors. Named Jade and Grover upon being transferred to Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, the two were diagnosed and selected as candidates for tumor removal and rehabilitation. After several months of treatments and tumor removals, there were no signs of regrowth and the turtles were determined healthy for release. They were brought back to Miami on World Turtle Day and it was an extremely happy and serendipitous moment for MDCSTCP staff when they were released back to their home.

The upcoming 2018 season will officially begin on May 1st in Miami- Dade and Kawana and her team at MDCSTCP are looking forward to spreading knowledge on sea turtle conservation throughout South Florida. The program expects to carry on efforts with local municipalities and wants to work to educate as much of the community as possible through outreach initiatives.
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National Save The Sea Turtle Foundation
4419 West Tradewinds Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale Florida 33308
(954) 351-9333 – Toll Free (877) Turtle 3
State of Florida Registration Number CH-2841. Internal Revenue Code 501 (c) (3)
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