I am currently on expedition with Operation Wallacea at their marine research site in Mexico. We are situated on the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in the small town of Akumal, not far from Tulum. The research base is located next to a highly populated tourist area; the beaches are filled with hundreds of tourists every day, which is very different to the isolation of many research stations. The reason for all the tourism is mainly due to the turtles that live here, which is also our main study focus. The turtles, mostly Chelonia mydas (green sea turtle) with some Caretta caretta (loggerhead sea turtle) feed on the sea grass in the bay, they come in large numbers and therefore attract a lot of attention from tourists.
We work closely with the Centro Ecologico Akumal (CEA) www.ceakumal.org/, whose mission is to produce and promote ecosystem management in Akumal. The main projects we currently have underway are; turtle behaviour, turtle nesting, monitoring programs, damselfish behaviour, tourist/turtle interactions and water quality testing. The monitoring program includes surveys to assess reef health, fish numbers, diadema, lionfish, coral recruits and seagrass. All marine ecosystems are linked and in a delicate balance with one another. This interdependence can be seen in the species interactions in any given habitat.
Our overall aim here, as with all conservation research, is to use our data to make a difference to these endangered communities.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: indeed it is the only thing that ever has” Margaret Mead