Captain the green sea turtle has her own pool, her own team taking care of her, and she seems to love the attention. She’s the star of Nova Southeastern University’s brand-new Marine Environmental Education Center, the MEEC.
“We have a great way to reach out, tell people the story of this turtle and all turtles, how important they are to the ecosystem,” said Dr. Dick Dodge, dean of the NSU Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography.
Captain was critically injured in a boat collision and can’t be released into the wild. Of the world’s seven species of sea turtles, five are known to frequent Florida waters or nest on the state’s beaches. All of them are endangered, so the MEEC, which is a partnership between Broward County and NSU, takes it upon itself to educate the public.
“But it makes it a fun place for an educational institution and not just a lecture, it’s interactive, it allows young people to see the reason why we talk about saving the environment,” said George Hanbury, NSU president.
Located on Surf Road on Hollywood Beach, steps away from a sea turtle nesting area, the MEEC has exhibits ranging from which lights are turtle-safe, to computer screens tracking turtles that are tagged with satellite transmitters, to showing how TEDs, or Turtle Excluder Devices, work on fishing boats.
“Sea turtles are an integral part of the marine ecosystem and a really iconic animal so we hope that the children will learn about turtles but also about the broader picture of how important it is that we have a vibrant, healthy ecosystem,” Dodge said.
There’s no doubt that kids will be captivated by watching Captain in her pool. The MEEC will be a magnet for school field trips, and that’s really the whole point.
“This is huge because these are animals that people don’t get to interact with normally,” said Beth Whitman, a doctoral candidate at FIU who studies green sea turtles in the wild.
Whitman says the MEEC will leave an indelible impression on people.
“If they come and have a personal interaction with an animal like this and when they learn about their natural habitat they’re gonna have more ownership and be more invested in preserving their natural habitat,” Whitman said.
That’s certainly the hope that the light of conservation turns on for every visitor.
If you’re interested in seeing its exhibits, the MEEC is located at 4414 Surf Road in Hollywood. They converted the historic Carpenter House into the new educational center.