Specialty: Integrative approaches (from anatomy to physiological ecology to behavior) to understanding how animals interact with their environment.
Best part about my job: Its diversity. As an academic, I get to ask questions and then figure out how to answer them. I am able to teach, or learn from really smart and creative people who help me solve some of nature’s puzzles. And, I get to study turtles.
Biggest challenges I face: Keeping the creative and spontaneous parts of my science going when working with highly regulated animals and the permitting processes.
The most unusual or exciting thing that’s happened to me while working in the field: Excitement happens every chance I get to be in the field. Exciting, to me, is appreciating the diversity among the species and seeing their beauty first hand. Perhaps the most indelible impressions I have are: how big leatherbacks are (St. Croix), how small olive ridleys are (Costa Rica), how odd green turtles look when one has spent and entire season working with loggerheads (USA), how delicate hawksbills appear, without being delicate at all (Buck Island), the demonic look in the dark eyes of a Kemp’s ridley (Western Atlantic waters), and how much flatbacks (Queensland) look as if they were put together by committee.
Why I like being a member of the MTSG: Because of the global membership (a diverse group of dedicated experts), I learn a great deal from MTSG. The members bring together diverse problems, differing perspectives and unique expertise. There is a drive to explore opportunities to understand and to protect sea turtles within varying situations and with novel solutions. And, sometimes, members find uses for my data and expertise – thus my science gains more utility. What could be better for a scientist?!
Turtle researcher / conservationist I most admire: I cannot pick just one. Peter Pritchard, Colin Limpus, and Karen Bjorndal all are among the folks I admire. Pritchard set some conservation building blocks that many of us now stand upon, and he has great taxonomic breadth that I find valuable. Australia’s sea turtles are among the best studied in the world because of Limpus’s creativity, drive, collaborative abilities, and his mentorship to many. He understands how to work as a scientist and a manager within local, national, and international frameworks. Bjorndal brings the comparative biologist’s breadth to our field, and has a keenness for seeing how sea turtles fit in broader frameworks. She brings to the field a high level of professionalism, gentleness, and a thoroughness that I admire.
When I’m not working on turtles I like to: Walk on the beach, snorkel, sail, listen to music with my spouse and friends, and sample well-aged rhum.
Ten years from now, I hope I will be doing: Work that is still important and contributing to our understanding turtles. Doing so as an academic, teaching (and learning from) motivated grad students, undergrads, and nonscientists, and collaborating with colleagues on cool and interesting questions will always be rewarding.
Relevant links to find out more about me and my work: http://www.fau.edu/divdept/biology/people/jwynek.htm