Letters of Support For Stetson

Stetson University was grateful to receive letters of support from interested institutions in support of their proposal to host the Inter-American Convention. Below are included the text from those of Florida Gulf Coast University the Clearwater Aquarium. Stetson also kindly received a letter from the St. Petersburg Mayor’s Office and the Pier Aquarium.

Florida Gulf Coast University

Dear Inter-American Sea Turtle Convention:

On behalf of the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University, I am writing to endorse strongly the application of Stetson University to bring the Inter-American Sea Turtle Convention Secretariat to the west coast of Florida. FGCU is just one of many fine institutions and organizations along Florida’s west coast that has research and education programs related to marine education, research, and conservation. We would welcome having the Secretariat relocate to the region and would be eager to collaborate with both the Secretariat and Stetson University to help promote sea turtle preservation throughout the Caribbean and the world.

Florida Gulf Coast University first opened its doors in 1997 with a mission that embraces environmental sustainability. This focus on the environment is evident on the campus grounds, is embedded in the curriculum, and is built into the operation of University facilities. Over half of our 760-acre campus consists of restored and preserved wetlands and uplands, providing habitat for diverse wildlife. All undergraduate students complete the University Colloquium, an interdisciplinary environmental education course that explores the concept of sustainability and how it intersects with other aspects of living in Florida. The campus boasts a 15-acre solar field, the largest in the nation on a university campus, that reduces the University’s total energy needs by nearly 20%. In addition, the newest academic building for the College of Arts and Sciences was the first in Florida to achieve LEED Platinum certification, the highest standard of environmentally sound construction.

FGCU’s College of Arts and Sciences is home to the Department of Marine and Ecology Sciences, which offers undergraduate degree programs in Marine Science and Environmental Studies as well as graduate degrees in Environmental Science and Environmental Studies. The Department is also home to the Coastal Watershed Institute, established to address regional concerns regarding the use and conservation of coastal watersheds by supporting marine science education and by focusing research on coastal environments and the conservation of natural resources. The Department also maintains two related off-campus facilities, the Vester Marine Field Station, located on Little Hickory Island, and the Everglades Wetland Research Park, located on the campus of the Naples Botanical Garden. Both provide significant research and educational opportunities for students and faculty and conduct important outreach programs that involve local communities.

FGCU is also committed to sea turtle conservation. One of our faculty members in the Department of Biological Sciences has an active field site in Ghana, West Africa, where he and his students work with local authorities and non-profit organizations to understand threats to sea turtle populations and to develop recovery strategies for the region. Closer to home, a number of FGCU undergraduate students were actively involved in sea turtle nest monitoring this past summer through internships at Cayo Costa State Park, Florida. FGCU also has important research and education partnerships with non-profit organizations and state agencies in the area that have their own sea turtle programs. The Sanibel Captive Conversation Foundation on Sanibel Island has a program that monitors nesting sites on the coastal barrier islands and collects data on sea turtle strandings. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples is home to one of only two in-water research studies targeting the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle in U.S. waters, and its sea turtle monitoring and protection program on Keewadin Island is one of the longest running loggerhead turtle monitoring and research projects in the country. And the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve near Marco Island is working to preserve three species of sea turtles—Kemp’s ridley, Atlantic green, and loggerhead turtles—that nest or forage in the Ten Thousand Islands.

Dr. Aswani Volety, Dean

College of Arts and Sciences

Clearwater Aquarium

Dear Inter-American Sea Turtle Convention:

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA), located at Clearwater Beach, Florida, only 20 miles from Stetson University College of Law (Stetson), fosters a community of marine awareness, support, research, and stewardship.  We are currently working to establish a new $160 million dollar marine facility in downtown Clearwater, using our current aquarium to continue our rescue, rehabilitation, and release program for injured marine animals, most specifically dolphins, river otters, and sea turtles.

We are greatly interested in the Inter-American Sea Turtle Convention Secretariat being hosted in the Tampa Bay area at Stetson.  We highly recommend the Tampa Bay area as an optimal location with numerous marine and academic institutions dedicated to the preservation of sea life in both local and global waters.  As a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization, our mission is to restore and preserve our marine environment through leadership in education, research, and rescue/rehabilitation.

Since 1972, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium has inspired a passion for marine life and studies through hands-on kids’ camps, animal exhibits, boat tours, and off-site presentations.  We are perhaps best known for our rescue of the dolphin “Winter” who was been featured on the NBC Today Show, CNN, and the BBC.  Losing her tale in a crab trap line at three months of age, Winter became the first dolphin to receive a prosthetic tail and she continues to thrive at our aquarium.  Winter’s story has brought us thousands of visitors who have seen the box office hit Dolphin Tale by Warner Bros., released in 2011.

Presently, we house three species of turtles (Green, Kemp’s Ridley, and Hawksbill) rescued from local waters for rehabilitation and release.  The CMA has been selected to monitor nearly 26 miles of Pinellas County coastline to protect sea turtle nesting, averaging 120 nests per season—each nest containing on average 100-110 eggs.  Since 2005, we have protected over 60,000 hatchlings that have reached the Gulf of Mexico.

Please consider our vibrant Tampa Bay marine community to host the Inter-American Sea Turtle Convention Secretariat.  The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is just one of several institutions who welcome you to inspire passion, respect, and protection for our present and future generations of sea turtles.

Sincerely, the Clearwater Aquarium