How This NJ Non-Profit Is Saving Sea Turtles

by Will Rittweger

We’ve seen many turtles in our lives— aquariums, trips, and so on. However, we’ve never seen a sick or injured one. Then again, do we know if we’d be able to tell? There are some people who can tell, and who do take it upon themselves to look out for the crucial species of aquatic creature. Sea turtles are slow to move and are on the slower side to recover from an injury. When they are struck by boat propellers, it can sometimes take years for them to rehabilitate. To do the trick, the turtles require a safe environment with the help of some friends.

Sea Turtle Recovery, STR, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization devoted to the acquisition, rehabilitation, preservation, conservation, and eventual release back into the wild of sea turtles. Based in Essex County and partnered with Turtle Back Zoo, which has provided the non-profit with a 4,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, STR has taken a strong stance in the care for sick and injured sea turtles. In the past, any New Jersey sea turtles that required rehabilitation before re-entering the sea were to be transported to an out-of-state facility. STR provides a local, adequate environment for both short-term and long-term sea turtle care in the Garden State.

Who They Are

Co-Executive Officers and founders of STR, Brandi Biehl and William Deerr, operate and maintain the advanced facility. The assistance from Turtle Back Zoo, medical officers, associate veterinarians, Board of Directors, and gracious donations from many New Jersey individuals and organizations make it possible for Biehl and Deerr to properly serve their charitable purpose. 

STR’s aquatic recovery work has been a dream for Biehl since she was a five-year-old, nature-loving girl from the cornfields of Indiana. Additionally, Deerr himself has maintained a consuming passion for sea animals since he was a boy. He would join his family at the beach during the summers, searching for starfish. As time passed, their love for the aquatic world has translated into their exacting work of sea turtle rehabilitation. Along with caring for the turtles hands-on, the two marine scientists also manage the fundraising, grant writing, website design, social media presence, facility cleaning, and press for STR, to name a few duties. Make no mistake, they love their work.

How You Can Contribute

Considering the workload that Biehl and Deerr manage, every donation to their organization goes directly into the resources necessary for the benevolent undertaking. In 2019, they received an “Excellence In Environmental Education Award” from The Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education. Among the maintenance costs for their work and facilities, STR also has a festival program, in which they travel to fairs, schools, festivals, and other events, giving presentations to raise awareness for sea turtle recovery. Although the mission and credibility of STR are first-rate, they are not an organization currently seeking employees. However, there are many ways for a person of any means to contribute to their mission.

In order to keep the organization running smoothly, the lifeblood of STR is financial donation. STR happily accepts donations to cover the expenses of their non-profit. In order to pay for expenses such as food and medication costs, STR also provides sponsorship and adoption programs. Merchandise and clothing items are provided by STR’s shop. There is also a wish list of supplies that are crucial to STR’s maintenance. If you want to make STR’s mission your own, another donation option is to involve your community by hosting a fundraiser. 

Volunteering & Internships

STR provides exciting volunteer and internship opportunities in 2023 for those who seek to give their time to the mission. Applicable to any individuals 18 years of age or older, you can contribute in many different ways. Some volunteer programs require monitoring the turtles’ breathing and swim patterns. Other volunteer programs involve public speaking and STR presentations. One can also volunteer with STR’s event setup and festival socialization program. The other volunteer program demands working with the laundry, food preparation, mopping, scrubbing, and feeding associated with the turtles’ maintenance and care. Also, if an internship is more up your alley rather than a volunteer program, their website will provide information in the next coming year.

If any of these programs are unsuitable for you, spreading the word and raising awareness is the easiest way to do your part and ensure STR can continue looking out for our New Jersey wildlife. It’s as easy as liking or sharing a social media post of theirs.

volunteers cleaning up

Image by Ocean Cleanup Group

The Cycle

At the end of the day, the health of sea turtles will continue to be at the mercy of human beings. Between the massive part which humans play in damaging the shells of turtles with litter or boat propellers and the solution-oriented work that Sea Turtle Recovery continues to do, the cycle will continue. There is something you can do— you can share their mission with your community.

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