Turtle Watch volunteer nears end of first season
SUN PHOTO/JIM YOUNG Cyndie Alderman is finishing up
her rookie year on the beaches as an AMITW volunteer.
She says she’s sad to see the season winding down.
She’s been bitten by the bug. That bug is some undefined, but benign thing that affects people who step forward to help save the sea turtles that dig their nests and lay their eggs on our shores.
Cyndie Alderman is a speech therapist by day at Manatee Memorial Hospital. Come Sunday mornings, she walks the section of the beach from Cortez Road to 15th Street South in Bradenton Beach.
“I wanted to do something on the beach because it’s a place I love, and I wanted to meet people and get involved in something that was good for the environment,” Alderman said recently.
She ran into AMITW Director Suzi Fox at an art fair on the Island and found herself interested in what the organization does.
She stepped forward and went to the turtle volunteer training this past spring.
“I was really looking forward to helping out, but then there wasn’t a spot for me,” she said. “All the walking days were full, but they took my name anyway.’
Alderman said she was thrilled when AMITW Section Coordinator Susan Wilson called a couple of weeks later to ask if she’d be willing to take the Sunday morning walk.
So after working five days a week, Alderman said she sets her alarm for 6:10 and tries to be out of her house on Perico Island by 6:25 and on the beach 10 minutes later. Volunteers walk at dawn looking for signs of nesting early in the season. Now, as the season winds down, they look for the tracks made by hatchlings as they scramble out of their nests all together and hustle down to the Gulf.
“I didn’t think I’d like it as much as I do,” Alderman said. “Our section has the fewest nests, probably because of all the lighting there, but I found one nest, one false crawl and one hatched nest.”
Alderman said she was interested in doing more, so Wilson has invited her along to help excavate nests after they’ve hatched.
Volunteers dig up the eggs so they can get a count of how many turtles hatched out of each nest. At the end of the season, that data is forwarded to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“That’s really interesting, and sometimes there’s a live hatchling left in the nest,” she said. “I actually got to hold a real live baby turtle in my hand. I never expected that!”
Alderman said she’s starting to get a little sad as the season winds down.
“I’m going to miss my Sunday walks,” she said. “And at least once a month, a group of walkers meet for breakfast. I’ll miss that, too.”
That’s sadness as the season ends, is a classic symptom for committed turtle volunteers. They also start to get restless, happy and excited as the May 1 start to the season approaches.
It’s clear that Alderman has been bitten by the turtle bug. She’ll likely be a longtime volunteer.
And yes. She does plan to be out helping save the ancient sea creatures come next year’s nesting season.