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Posted: July 23, 2010 12:30 a.m.

NHS teacher tends to sea turtles over summer break

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Not all teachers take a break during their summer break. Jim Stansell, environmental science and zoology teacher at Newton High School, recently completed two, four-day workshops on sea turtles and coastal ecology on Georgia’s Sapelo Island. The Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve  offered the trainings as part of its teacher training series.

In the sea turtle training, Stansell was exposed to various aspects of sea turtle conservation, management and research. Activities and topics included GPS tracking, embryonic development, hatchling necropsies, special senses of sea turtles, and the life history of and conservation efforts related to the Diamondback Terrapin. Participants who took late-night walks along the beach witnessed a turtle crawl where a loggerhead sea turtle mother dug and laid its nest.  On the final day, educators visited the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island and enjoyed a behind-the-scenes look at the program to learn about how the center rehabilitates its sea turtle patients.

During the coastal ecology segment, Stansell and other participants investigated Georgia’s coastal systems with an emphasis on estuarine and marine ecology, coastal species identification and adaptations, commercial and recreational fisheries and management. Activities and topics included beach, dune, and low tide ecology; mapping and GPS use; tides and sea level rise and late-night turtle walks. Researchers working at the University of Georgia Marine Institute on the island, presented their projects and initial results to the teachers.

The final activity was a visit to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources office in Brunswick for a discussion of commercial and recreational fisheries management and conservation and a trip with fisheries biologists on the Research Vessel Anna.

Stansell says his students embrace the subjects of environmental science and zoology, and he is looking forward to bringing back to them all that he has learned this summer. “I’ve gathered more information than what’s in my environment al science textbook about marine ecosystems and how estuaries operate and that they’re the nursing grounds for a vast majority of organisms that feed the larger populations out into the open water,” he said. “I’m going to incorporate all that I have learned into the zoology class and the environmental studies classes.”

In addition to this summer’s programs, Stansell has participated in SINERR’s teacher workshop on shorebirds of Coastal Georgia.
“I’m always doing something. I don’t do it for the PLUs. I do it for the knowledge, the networking, and the fun of it,” he said.

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