FGCU students organize cleanup to help sea turtles
A Captiva native and marine science major at the Florida Gulf Coast University recently helped organize a beach cleanup as part of a school project to improve the shoreline for nesting sea turtles.
On July 25, a mix of FGCU students and locals met at 8 a.m. at the Alison Hagerup Beach Park, then spent the next five hours cleaning trash from the beach south of the park and north of Blind Pass.
“Thanks to our course, ‘Foundations of Civic Engagement,’ myself and a group of other students were tasked with finding an organization to volunteer with for service learning hours,” John Riegert said.
“I saw this as a perfect opportunity to partner with the SCCF (Sanibel-Captive Conservation Foundation) to help our sea turtles and to keep our beaches clean,” he added.
Fellow students Sarah Dean, Miranda Nadler and Jamie Sears helped organize the event.
“This is a special year for the sea turtle population on Captiva, and it’s our duty as a community to ensure the hatchlings have the best chances of survival we can possibly provide,” Riegert said.
The SCCF has reported that the island is having a record-breaking nesting season. As of July 22, loggerhead sea turtles had laid 240 nests, shattering the previous record of 194 nests in 2016.
Among those who volunteered their time to take part in the cleanup were Jimi Batchler, Denice Beggs, Andy Biddle, Nate Buffam, Cat Chase, Baylie Eikmeier, Dustin Formaran, Jason Garrison, Betsy Hanna, Sarah Hird, Liam Progresso, John and Betty Jo Riegert, Amanda Steele and Mark Wagner Jr.
“Keylime Bistro, RC Otter’s and ‘Tween Waters (Island Resort & Spa) provided hydration stations for the volunteers,” Riegert said. “South Seas Island Resort and Lazy Flamingo provided overflow parking for volunteers.”
By the end of the day, the group had filled roughly 20 trash bags with debris, as well as picked up several bulk items from the shoreline, such as inflatables, umbrellas, crab traps and abandoned chairs.
“Cigarette butts and plastic food waste were among the top items we found,” he said, adding that there was also a lot of fishing line. “We also found more underwear than I would care to talk about.”
Riegert hopes that beach cleanups will again become an island tradition.
“I hope the community takes this event and it grows from here,” he said. “We have a lot of tourist traffic, even now in times when tourism should be limited, and they leave a mess every week.”
“I would encourage everyone to pick up some trash every time they visit the beach and to support SCCF with all they do for our community and coastal habitats,” Riegert added. “With everything they do for us, they deserve our support – consider donating or becoming a member (of the SCCF).”
For ways to support the SCCF, visit www.sccf.org/our-work/donate/other-ways-to-help.