Tuesday, August 16, 2011
A Sunset for Andrew
After driving to the Point (the western tip of Santa Rosa Island where the old fort is located) to screen a sea turtle nest a couple evenings ago, I stopped to watch the sun slowly sink into the horizon over Perdido Key and Pensacola Pass.
It made me think of our friend Andrew Diller who left Pensacola for the Washington D.C./Arlington, Virginia area just last week, and how much we are going to miss him. Andrew was the Florida Sea Grant Marine Extension Agent for the Escambia County Extension Service. He is a marine biologist and was also one of our very dependable sea turtle patrolers at Perdido Key.
Even more important was the major role Andrew took in educating the public on how beach lighting impacts our sea turtles and their nesting. He helped with workshops which offered lighting options to beach residents and worked with condominium homeowners associations. It was through his guidance, with the assistance of Jim Cox and Lois Hausman, that one of our larger complexes, Portofino Island Resort, retrofitted parking garage lights in all five of their towers with 'turtle-friendly' amber bulbs, as well as changing their balcony lighting from bright white to amber.
Next time you are on the beach, note the difference in the lighting at hotels and condominiums which have the new turtle friendly lighting and those which still use bright white light. It's an amazing contrast and you will be able to see we still have a long way to go in regard to changes.
Our sea turtle conservation efforts may actually be paying off, however. After several years of dwindling numbers, we are having record high numbers of sea turtle nests this year, and hope this is the new trend. The Santa Rosa area of Gulf Islands National Seashore has 23 nests, Ft. Pickens area has 17, Perdido Key area has almost 30, but Pensacola Beach itself has only 12 sea turtle nests - another example of how lighting impacts sea turtles which are scouting out darker areas of beach to come ashore and nest.
So, Andrew, this sunset is for you, in addition to many thanks for your amazing contribution to our beautiful beaches. Hopefully anyone who reads this will make their own contribution toward turtle-friendly lighting on the beach by clicking HERE to read more about the subject and implementing changes of your own. You may also want to read another informative article which was written by my supervisor, Mark Nicholas, Head Biologist for the Florida District of Gulf Islands National Seashore: "Light Pollution and Marine Turtle Hatchlings".
[Andrew, I'll also give you a laugh by telling you I was standing in the surf and it was washing the sand out from under me as I was taping the sunset, hence the occasional jerky moves on a tribute to you which I meant to be much more moving. ;-)]