Southeast Regional Sea Turtle Network Hosts Its Third Regional Meeting in Mobile, Alabama
Kim Sonderman, President, Southeast Regional Sea Turtle Network/
Lawrence Wood, SERSTN Member
The 3rd Southeast Regional Sea Turtle Meeting was held February 9th – 12th at the Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel in Downtown Mobile, Alabama, birthplace of the Grandfather of sea turtle biology, Dr. Archie Carr, and the original Mardi Gras!
Embracing the theme of “Changing Attitudes: Meeting the Challenges of Sea Turtle Conservation”, this year’s program featured a Special Session on Regionwide Research, a Special Session on the Kemp’s Ridley and the Gulf of Mexico, and a Special Session on the Deepwater Horizon Spill focusing on the ongoing Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration of Sea Turtles.

Two dynamic keynote speakers highlighted the meeting, Wallace J. Nichols and Carl Safina, known worldwide for their scientific research and thought-provoking publications. Their top-selling books were featured in the meeting’s “Author’s Niche”, along with authors Anne Ake and Blair Witherington. The authors were available throughout the meeting for book signings.
SERSTM members were treated to great accomodations at the Renaissance Riverview Hotel, and helped raise money for the Network at a silent auction filled with items donated by Network Members.
Prior to the commencement of the general sessions, various workshops were offered that included Sea Turtle Rehabilitation and Health; Education, Outreach and Social Media; Using Drones for Research; Volunteerism; and Dr. Nichol’s Blue Mind Workshop. Following these introductory workshops, general session topics focused on (1) Foraging and Developmental Habitats, (2) Nesting Beaches and Hatchling Production, (3) Population Modeling and Stock Assessments, and (4) Using Advanced or Innovative Technology to Study Sea Turtles. Dr. Larry Wood of The National Save The Sea Turtle Foundationpresented a talk at the Rehabilitation and Health workshop summarizing his work in developing updated concepts of enrichment and wellness for sea turtles being held in long-term and/or permanent captivity.
The meeting culminated in a ceremony honoring two long-time sea turtle champions, starting with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Recovery Program Coordinator Barbara Schroeder. Her long and distinguished career has earned her the respect of everyone she’s worked with in the sea turtle conservation community, and she is well-deserved of SERSTN’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Following this honor, Dr. Thane Wibbels of the Unversity of Alabama at Birmingham became the subject of the first-ever Sea Turtle Celebrity Roast, during which several of his esteemed colleagues got to poke him with some good-humored fun. Thane’s hyper-speed, always positive personality made it easy for his “roasters’ to recall hilarious stories of their experiences of working with him, and we all thank Dr. Witherington for his unforgettable introduction to the latest remedy for “reptile dysfunction”.

Many thanks to the organizers and volunteers that made the meeting a great success, and particular thanks to Kim Sonderman who has so succesfully served as the Network’s President since its beginning.
The Southeast Regional Sea Turtle Meetings provide an opportunity for those who work with sea turtles in the Southeast meet with their colleagues and peers, learn about the latest research, and support sea turtle conservation.
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