It was 1995, my first year in college, when I noticed that my brother was going out during weekends, making trips to the forest, caves, etc. always wearing a blue/teal polo with a sea turtle logo on it, and I was curious. That’s when I started asking, and insisting him to take me to one of those trips, Finally one day he accepted and took me to my first Chelonia meeting where there was a lecture about the coqui. I enjoy it so much that since that meeting I became a volunteer of Chelonia.
It’s been twenty three years now, and that experience represents an important part of who I am. I learned so much about Puerto Rico’s fauna and flora, that I loved even more this place I born and live. During those first years in Chelonia I went to places I’ve never been, learned to appreciate and protect all livings things around me. Shared good moments with nice people, and made new friends, that today are still good friends. At that time Chelonia was an herpetology conservation group, working projects with sea turtles, coqui and Mona iguana. But today Chelonia works specifically in the conservation of sea turtles. In 2012 “Proyecto Tinglar Dorado” was created because of the need to protect an important leatherback nesting beach in Dorado, Puerto Rico. This is when I was able to work directly with the leatherback sea turtle, an endangered specie protected by federal and state laws. And where I learned all I know today about leatherbacks and other sea turtles.
Thinking of what this whole experience of volunteering have left in me, I came up with this four things:
Environmental consciousness: This makes you work hard to make a difference in helping the planet. Maybe that’s the reason I choose the recycled paper as the principal raw material for my art work. Funny because two good friends from Chelonia taught me how to recycle it by myself. Who would have imagined it!
A sense of belonging: A special feeling when you put aside your personal benefit to do something for your community, your country or this planet. When you start feeling this, then comes the respect for the place you live in, and all that surrounds you.
Lots of good friends: Been part of a volunteer group as Chelonia gave me the opportunity to meet people with the same concerns I have, with the same love for sea turtles and nature. Despite any other differences, we put sea turtles first. They are good friends that make you feel part of a big family.
Love for sea turtles: When you learn that from one thousand hatchlings, only one or two can grow to adulthood makes you realize the vulnerability of all sea turtles, specially if we humans are responsible for make it worse for them to survive. Sea turtles, specially leatherbacks are the main reason I’m a volunteer of this group. For me is my responsibility impart the message of conservation and protection of this awesome specie to others. All this work its been done with the approval of Puerto Rico Natural Resources Agency (DRNA), with the permit #DRNA 2018-EPE-009. I really have say thanks to the DRNA and Chelonia for letting me work with this specie.
If I want to find a simple word that describe this experience, definitely there isn't just one. Instead I will try to express those words with my photography work, moments that I’ve been capturing since 2014 when I started to work directly on the field, during nesting season with leatherbacks sea turtles. I hope you like it.