Monthly Archives: April 2014

With love to Ann

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Ann Smith

Ann Smith, one of the most loving and supportive fans of the CSTN, died suddenly just over a week ago. We are so sad.

Ann was there for the very first talks about whether Mike James, then a new graduate student, should take the risk of starting a thesis on leatherback turtles—a species that no one at that time could imagine actually came to Canadian waters with any regularity.

And from the beginning, Ann did the most important thing she could: She believed in us. Right away. She was always enthusiastic. “Now what’s up with the turtles?” she would ask each time we saw her—hundreds of times over the years. She would listen intently. She was genuinely delighted by our successes and had perspective on our challenges. “It will all work out,” she’d say.

Ann was one of the people to whom we most wanted to tell things. It was as though when she knew, those things were more complete somehow. Fully celebrated. Properly thought through. Firmly placed in the heart of someone who cared.

Sometimes conservation work can be lonely. Sometimes you can get lost in that feeling that all you are fighting for is in vain—strangled by entrenched ideas and apathy and politics and a lack of imagination.

The trick, of course, is to stay relentlessly positive. To focus on all that is extraordinary about sea turtles. To remember the many people who are also trying to help. To think of the ocean. To trust that honest, hard work will matter and be magnified. To believe that the world is ultimately full of more light than darkness.

Ann helped us do that, too.

We miss her.

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Margaret nests!

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It was almost 4 a.m. when my cell phone rang. We had been up late following Margaret’s tracks over the previous few days, so I was sleeping soundly. It took me a minute to figure out what was going on. It was Stephen Poon, from the wildlife division of the government of Trinidad and Tobago, on the phone with the great news that Margaret was, at that moment, nesting. The team from Grande Rivière had seen her as she hauled up onto the beach and were waiting until she had begun laying her eggs before they removed her transmitter.

Dr. Mike James, our scientific advisor, talked to Nicholas Alexander from the Grand Rivière team shortly after Margaret was finished her nest and had returned to the sea.

“Your turtle looked great!” Nicholas said immediately.

One of the things I love about sea turtle people is how they intuitively know—amongst all of the things that there are to talk about on an occasion like this—what is most important: How was Margaret herself? Because as critical as the data and the transmitter are, it is the turtle we care about the most. And Nicholas, with years of experience observing leatherbacks on the beach, was an excellent person to judge.

Next, Nicholas assured Mike that the transmitter was also in good shape. Stephen Poon would make sure we received it. At some point soon, we hope we will also get photographs of the event. (I’ll post them as soon as we have them.)

Margaret laid her eggs, covered up her nest, and headed back out to sea. She’ll be off in the ocean for another 10 days and then will come back to nest again—about eight times in total this season. With luck, the team at Grande Rivière will see her again, allowing us to hear a little bit more about our girl—and to know that she’s safe out there.

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