Making the Connection: Finding the Love between People and Turtles

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Nason, April
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Mount Saint Vincent University
The Canadian Sea Turtle Network is a charitable organization based in Halifax, Nova Scotia that works with scientists and fishermen to conserve endangered sea turtles in Canadian waters and worldwide. During the summer months it opens an educational kiosk, the Canadian Sea Turtle Centre (CSTC), on the busy Halifax waterfront to educate the public about leatherback sea turtles. For my thesis, I wanted to know the motivational factors behind adult public visitors entering the CSTC, connecting with elements of the CTSC and how that visit affected their environmental awareness and conservational efforts. I also wanted to know the motivational factors for an individual to pursue a career focused on sea turtles. I used a quantitative online survey that was posted on the Canadian Sea Turtle Network social media sites and limited to previous visitors to the CSTC over the age of 19 and qualitative phenomenological interviews of 8 previous CSTC visitors identified through the survey as well as 10 sea turtle experts identified through previous connections. From the online survey, 52 respondents showed 69% of visitors were aware of sea turtles in Canadian waters prior to their visit, 50% of visitors stumbled across the Centre and 44.2% had a previous interest in turtles, 63.3% of visitors connected more with the human aspect of the Centre rather than the turtles and 72.9% of visitors made changes in their lives because of their visit. Of the visitors interviewed, 7/8 were drawn to the Centre because of a previous interest in turtles and those motivational factors were related to larger factors valued by individual: animals, nature, family and quality of life. The sea turtle expert interviews identified 7 common motivational factors: turtles, nature, ocean, travel, animals, research and marine biology. Based on its findings, the thesis concludes that the location and staff of the CSTC are vital to their success and recommends they continue to have an enthusiastic and optimistic staff that interacts with both children and adults to help connect the visitors’ interests to the turtles and to consider adding advanced behavioural change suggestions for those visitors with high environmental awareness. It also concludes that a transformative childhood experience with turtles is unnecessary to motivate an individual to pursue a career in sea turtles.
Turtles, Canadian Sea Turtle Centre, Halifax