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A gift for the earth: Preserving sea turtles

In honor of Earth Day, Skaneateles Middle School seventh grade science students became experts on Sea Turtles, and then shared their new found knowledge with classmates.

While reporting on their research, they held a party for the earth, complete with a "Happy Birthday" cake and "Happy Birthday" balloons.

"We are considering this our gift to the earth for Earth Day," said science teacher Lisa Kerr. "The awesome thing about this project is that for every class that participates, the Earth Day Science Symposium and the Leatherback Trust will make a donation to protect nesting sea turtles, eggs and hatchlings at Playa Grande, Costa Rica."

The students studied and reported on a variety of field stories from graduate students and used data from scientists and volunteers to make graphs and charts about what they learned, Kerr said. They reported to classmates on Thursday and Friday of last week.

"I learned that sea turtles are seriously in big danger," Courtney Walker said after giving her report.

The number of leatherback turtles nesting at Playa Grande, a broad sandy beach on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, has dropped from several thousand annually to fewer than 180 a year, the students said.

Matt Kallas and Grace Delasin said "ghost nets" are a big danger. Ghost nets are fishing nets lost at sea, Kallas said.

"If the turtles get caught in nets, they may die," he added.

Kerr said her students "learned a lot about the turtles and what's being done to help. Their generated donations will continue the efforts we all learned about."

Federal law prohibiting fishing at critical times of the year has addressed the threats to turtles, and adult turtles are safer today than they have been in decades.

Now the major threat to leatherbacks in the Pacific is loss of nesting beach and poaching of newly laid eggs.

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