Why I Began Researching:
A couple of weeks after visiting the pristine waters of the Padre Island National Seashore beaches, I read an article about budget cuts that the park would be undergoing. The article highlighted numerous occurrences that would negatively affect the park as a result of the upcoming budget cuts, and its passionate words moved me. Soon, after, when I had the opportunity to research topics of interest, I did not hesitate to learn more about the terrible budget cuts of the Padre Island National Seashore. But after deep research, I realized that there was more to the story than I had first realized. The three main categories that I researched were, the sea turtles that nest/appear in the waters/on the beaches of Padre Island, and two contrasting arguments over the idea of a budget cut.
Where My Research Came From:
Most of my research on sea turtles came from information from the NOAA (National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration) website and was reasonably easy to locate because of its factual foundation. However, when researching the budget cuts and what that would mean to the padre island national seashore, the content of most articles depended on the opinion of the author. While the vast majority of the articles I found while researching the cutbacks strongly opposed any idea of budget cuts, in a review of the Sea Turtle Science and Recovery Program at Padre Island National Seashore (or PAIS), I found several arguments that showed how a budget cut might help the park. my research of both sides of the argument on the budget cuts of padre island national seashore helped me grow to understand the problem in a more complete and honest way.
What I Learned:
The three most common sea turtles in padre island national seashore are the Kemp's Ridley, the loggerhead, and the green sea turtle. While the loggerhead and the green sea turtle have wide ranges that stretch all over the world and nesting sites in a wide variety of countries, the Kemp's Ridley sea turtle is only found in the Gulf of Mexico and on the Atlantic seaboard. In fact, its range is only a fraction of that of the loggerhead's and green's range. While the Kemp's Ridley sea turtle nests in several locations in Mexico and the United States, its largest nesting site is in Tamaulipas, Mexico. Due to threats to the Kemp's population survival as a result of egg harvesting on various Mexican beaches, a new nesting site was established in Texas on the beaches of Padre Island as an attempt to preserve the dwindling population size. All three turtles are listed as either endangered or threatened and are facing serious threats by bycatch, nest disruption, beach development, plastic pollution, and habitat destruction.
Along with many other organizations and programs around Texas and the Gulf of Mexico, the padre island national seashore sea turtle science and recovery program works to protect, preserve, and restore the natural marine environment and the threatened turtles within it. although the budget cuts of the sea turtle science and recovery program at PAIS have only been proposed and have yet to be enforced, discussions have arisen about the pros or cons of the potential cutbacks. in a report about the financial position of PAIS's program, it is said that "PAIS funding for Kemp’s recovery is disproportionately high compared to the number of partners involved and the percentage of the turtle population being addressed.” And because of this, the report suggests that a cut is a more sustainable option for the NPS and would also help streamline the park's areas of impact. The report also offers several ways for the park to use its finances in a more conserved and sustainable way. The suggestions include:
Reducing overtime hours and staffing costs
Reducing beach-patrolling fuel costs
And relying on long-term program funds instead of short-term project funds
While these suggestions were presented in the best interest of the park's financial position, there have been many counterarguments as to why a budget cut to the park would be detrimental to the survival of both the park's ability to function effectively and also the sea turtle populations, especially the Kemp's Ridley sea turtle populations, which is currently listed as critically endangered. Although the park might not be using its finances in the most sustainable way and might use more money than other respective national parks and seashores, the Padre Island National Seashore Sea Turtle Science and Recovery program is heavily involved in the preservation, protection, and restoration of sea turtle populations. By participating in intense sea turtle research, stranded sea turtle recovery, egg incubation, beach patrolling, and community engagement in the sea turtle releases, the park depends on its budget to effectively carry out its mission of conservation, and with a cut, there is a pressing concern that their effectiveness will be limited to the detriment of the sea turtles. Many of the time and money expensive actions that the park is currently carrying out are argued to be critical for both the national sea turtle conservation community and for the sea turtles themselves making the topic of a budget cut emotional and challenging.
Where I Will Go From Here:
For a long time, I have wanted to help the conservation community protect the natural world, but without understanding the situation, it is often hard to effectively help it. during my research, I spoke with an employee of another national seashore in the Gulf, Gulf Islands National Seashore, and although our conversation greatly benefited many aspects of my research, one of the most important things that I learned from her was the importance of community involvement to the success of the park. With the intention of connecting art and conservation, I would like to start a community engagement project within my immediate community to both get the experience of working to connect society with nature and to also more thoroughly understand the intricacies of conservation and community outreach work.