Columbia River Maritime Museum

Science on Tap

April 2, 2015
7:00 p.m.

Has an oil spill destroyed a conservation success story? Sea turtles, conservation and a little math
with Dr. Selina Heppell

When it comes to success stories in conservation, recovery can be fragile, and what appears to be a “problem solved” one day can take a sudden turn for the worst.

The most endangered species of sea turtle in the world, the Kemp’s ridley, made a remarkable comeback from near extinction in the 1980s, thanks to intensive protection efforts through a U.S.-Mexico agency partnership, financial support from industry, and thousands of hours of volunteer time. The population was rebounding at 12-18 percent per year and predicted to be “downlisted” by 2012. But recovery of an endangered species can be fragile, and the Kemp’s ridley rebound suddenly and dramatically halted in 2010, the same year as the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Dr. Heppell will reveal what we know about the population change and why we can’t determine exactly what caused it, illustrating the importance of comprehensive monitoring of endangered species even when we think we’ve solved the problem.

Dr. Selina Heppell has been studying sea turtle populations for 20 years and has served on several expert working groups and recovery teams for the National Marine Fisheries Service. In addition to sea turtle conservation planning, Dr. Heppell works on fisheries management issues in the Pacific Northwest and helped develop the fisheries ecosystem plan for the Pacific Fisheries Management Council. She is currently department head in fisheries and wildlife at Oregon State University.