Knowledge of Beachgoers to the Presence of and Threats to Sea Turtles in the Gulf of Mexico; Results of a Survey of Visitors to Galveston Island, Texas
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The Gulf of Mexico (GOM) is home to five of seven extant species of sea turtles: Lepidochelys kempii (Kemp’s ridley), Chelonia mydas (green turtle), Caretta caretta (loggerhead), Eretmochelys imbricata (hawksbill), and Dermochelys coriacea (leatherback). Knowledge of Galveston Island residents and visitors regarding these species is relatively unknown. Our objective was to quantify, through surveys, the public’s knowledge of sea turtles on Texas beaches and in GOM waters. Specifically, we were interested in: 1) awareness of threats to sea turtles in various life history stages and habitats; 2) peoples understanding of their own role in mitigating threats to sea turtles; and 3) their willingness to support programs whose foci include: protection and conservation of sea turtle habitats, outreach and education, and legislation designed to facilitate the conservation of sea turtles in the GOM. A random survey of visitors to the Midtown Beach and Galveston Island State Park (GISP) on Galveston Island was conducted during Summer and Fall of 2012 (n=132). Participants were asked to provide responses to 17 questions. We found that Texas residents exhibited greater awareness of the sea turtle hotline phone number compared to non-Texas residents. Both resident and non-resident visitors to GISP also exhibited a greater awareness to the sea turtle hotline phone number compared to all visitors surveyed at Midtown beaches. Though the majority of participants lacked overall awareness of sea turtles and their habitats, 80% of the total number of people surveyed expressed their willingness to support regulations that protect sea turtles and their habitats. Identifying the demographics of visitors is vital as we refine materials used in outreach, and the survey results clarified what visitors and residents are unaware of, thus providing a foundation of topics and concepts for future education and outreach.
Horn, Sarah E (2013). Knowledge of Beachgoers to the Presence of and Threats to Sea Turtles in the Gulf of Mexico; Results of a Survey of Visitors to Galveston Island, Texas. Honors and Undergraduate Research. Available electronically from