We hope this message finds you all well and enjoying this warmer weather. I’ve heard from a number of you about volunteering this season and I do have some information to share. This email will bring you up to date on the current status of the program along with some more detailed plans for how we plan to handle new volunteers as they join the program in the coming years.
Last year with the pandemic, only WISTMP Leads walked; no volunteers were allowed to participate at the direction of Coastal Carolina University (CCU). At the end of last season, Dr Angelos Hannides, stepped down due to academic considerations. He asked if I would be willing to take over the responsibility for the WISTMP permit. In order to do this, a CCU position had to be created. This has been done, and I am now a CCU Affiliate under the supervision of Dr Paul Gayes. I will now hold the WISTMP SCDNR permit for the 2021 sea turtle nesting season.
The start of nest monitoring is May 1st. At this time, only the leads are going to walk since we are still governed by the directives from the SCDHEC, SCDNR, and CCU COVID guidelines. As a group we discussed the possibility of allowing a limited number of volunteers to walk starting possibly in June or July, depending on several factors:
(A) CCU is currently in Phase 2 in their COVID response. Phase 2 has a particular restriction on Research and extension applications. The WISTMP team is in place for the four person limit, meaning only four people are to be on the island each morning. This may be updated as things change.
(B) This decision will be based on the number of COVID cases at CCU which has more restrictive guidelines than the state of South Carolina. If the COVID cases spike again, we will have to reevaluate this decision. My main objective is keeping both the leads and volunteers healthy.
It is extremely important that anyone who wishes to volunteer fill out and submit the attached Volunteer Application. Since all of the leads have been vaccinated, we are going to require all of our volunteers be vaccinated. There are several other questions which will assist the leads in selecting the appropriate people to walk - short end vs long end.
Since we are currently only allowed a team of four people, you may not be walking weekly. Also, this year no visitors or family members are allowed on the island and there will be no public inventories.
Please fill out the application and submit it so we can begin to review them. Once we have decided to start bringing back volunteers, you will be contacted.