Aniela and her family had the most amazing Girl Scout summer. They spent most of the summer watching Aniela, a Girl Scout Junior, perform community service and earn her Bronze award. After much consideration the summer before, Aniela decided that she would volunteer her time and talent to help with the Sea Turtle Conservation in Florida. In order to accomplish this, Aniela worked very hard to sell more than 400 boxes of Girl Scout cookies, almost double the amount of cookies that she had sold in the past. Aniela would use some of this money to pay for the turtle activities that she wanted to do while in Florida and the additional money would be donated to support the Sea Turtle Conservation.
Aniela’s summer began with a visit to Savannah, Georgia, Juliette Low’s birthplace. From there, Aniela and her family drove down the coast to meet some sea turtles. They stopped in Jekyll Island, Georgia at the Georgia Sea Turtle Hospital where Aniela met a turtle named Phantom. At the time, Phantom was receiving rehab and would soon be released into the wild with a GPS tracker attached so that scientists could watch his movements and study his behavior. Aniela chose to adopt the turtle by giving some of the money she earned to help biologists pay for the expenses of his rehab and the costly GPS tracker that they attached to Phantom. Aniela is able to track him as well at
After her visit in Georgia, Aniela traveled to a sea turtle hospital in Marathon, Florida. There, Aniela donated more money to adopt a resident turtle named Montel that could not be released. “He [Montel] had been through a lot and he looked pretty banged up. He’d been attacked by a shark, hit by a boat, and was missing an eye,” Aniela said. She felt it was important for Montel to have a good life even though he would live in a swimming pool for the rest of his years.
Traveling to the turtle hospitals has helped Aniela learn a lot about sea turtles. “I can now identify different species of sea turtles, I know how many eggs they lay on average, and I know how long it takes for the eggs to hatch,” said Aniela. She also earned the Turtle Watch patch from the Girl Scouts of Gulf Coast Florida Council.
Next, Aniela started her volunteer work near Sarasota, Florida under the guidance of permit holders registered to work with sea turtles. She helped three different times on night patrols that began at 9pm where she rode up and down the beach in a golf cart watching for sea turtles coming on shore to nest. Once the females started laying their eggs Aniela would help check the turtle for tags and record data. Her nightly patrols totaled about 12 hours of volunteer work.
During the morning patrols, which began at 6 o’clock, Aniela walked a section of the beach with other volunteers to look for newly laid nests. Any new nests were then recorded and marked. If a nest was close to a public area, Aniela helped mark off the nest with stakes and yellow tape to warn people not to step on it. When nests were found partially dug up by a predator, Aniela helped carry the broken shells and yolks away from the nest to bury them near the water so that the predator would not be drawn back to the nest. During the second morning patrol, Aniela also actively helped with a nest excavation. The nest had been recorded as hatched three days prior. Aniela helped dig up the nest to count and record all eggs found in the nest that hatched or did not hatch. She was able to rescue a live hatchling that had gotten stuck in the nest and hadn’t made it out. With Aniela’s help, the hatchling was freed from the nest and was able to crawl to the water and swim away! She decided to name the hatchling Hope. “It sounded graceful and happy,” Aniela said. “A life that I hope she leads in the future.”
Aniela has always loved working with animals, but from this experience she is certain some day she will work at one of the facilities she visited to continue to help sea turtles.