Make The Connection

July 6, 2022 | By Cole Hatcher

Ohio Wesleyan student Hannah Cox ’24 participates in her first sea turtle nest relocation while working with GVI Greece. Relocations must be done within 12 hours after eggs are laid, she says, and are done only if the nest is too close to the sea to remain viable. (Photo by Holly Huish)

Protecting Sea Turtles

Ohio Wesleyan Student Participates in Conservation-Focused Program in Greece

Professional conservationists watch off-camera with Hannah Cox as this loggerhead sea turtle returns to the water after laying her eggs. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Cox)

Name: Hannah Cox ’24
Hometown: Orange, California
Major: Environmental Science
Minor: Zoology
OWU Connection Experience: Theory-to-Practice Grant-supported internship in Greece

Cox spent the month of June completing an unpaid internship with GVI Greece, a conservation-focused non-governmental organization (NGO). She worked with a program that aids loggerhead sea turtles and used an OWU Connection grant to help fund the international experience. Greece is considered one of the most important nesting areas for the turtles in the Mediterranean.

Why I Chose This Experience

“I have always felt inspired to work on marine conservation projects, and this project offered an amazing opportunity to get me started on this path.

“Conservation work is global, and I strongly believe that obtaining knowledge, viewpoints, and strategies from people by traveling abroad is important and was a huge factor in why I decided to leave the U.S. and seek global perspectives. This was also going to be my first involvement in large-scale conservation research, and I wanted it to be a meaningful start to my career in the field.”

My Favorite Moment

“My favorite moment occurred during my last week in Greece. We were 30 minutes into our morning survey shift, walking along the beach searching for sea turtle tracks. I was in the front of the group when I saw only one track going up the beach, but no down track. That’s when I saw her.

“At 6:33 a.m., I watched a loggerhead sea turtle camouflaging her eggs. It is super rare to see sea turtles laying that late in the morning, as they typically lay in the earlier morning hours when it is dark outside. For 20 minutes, we were able to watch her from afar as she finished and made her journey back to the ocean. It was so surreal to see and I am so lucky to have experienced it.”

Lessons Learned

“I learned so much being in Greece:

  • “How to become an expert egg chamber locator: During my four weeks, I was able to get pretty good at finding egg chambers. When we find a possible nest, we have to dig a bit deeper into the sand and then start gently poking the sand. If you found the egg chamber, your finger would suddenly give way under the sand because the chamber has sand loosely piled on the eggs.
  • “No nest is the same because no turtle is the same. Their behaviors are determined by a variety of factors like predators or the environment. Some nests were super straightforward, and some were super hard to read and find. Some turtles emerge from the ocean and don’t even attempt to lay eggs, some do and even dig the egg chamber, but don’t lay eggs. We can always predict what happened, but unless we were there, we would never really know.
  • “Not all humans like what we do: The GVI Greece base assists ARCHELON (The Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece) with nest data in Kyparissia Bay. ARCHELON has been working there for over 30 years (with GVI beginning their partnership in 2016), so the conservation work is not a new thing to Greek people. I was shocked by the large number of people who didn’t actually support/understand the work ARCHELON and GVI were doing.
  • “What I learned during my time in Greece will directly influence my future plans. I would love to work for a national park in the U.S., educating the public on the importance of conservation and protecting the environment around us.”
Hannah Cox and colleagues carefully look for turtle eggs to ensure they remain viable. (Photo by Zoe Connelly)

Why These Experiences Matter

“Experiences like this are life-changing. I was able to gain valuable knowledge about sea turtles and marine conservation that I could not have truly learned without the hands-on education I have received while being there.

“You can only learn so much from textbooks and videos. I yearned for an experience where I could apply the knowledge I have gained from my two years at OWU while continuing to grow and learn more. That is exactly what I was able to achieve and so much more.”

Why I Chose Ohio Wesleyan

“OWU was suggested to me by a college counselor who believed I could strive there. I struggled with finding a college I could see myself going to for four years. But when I did find out about OWU, I had this deep feeling it would be the college I would end up committing to.

“I was inspired by the countless opportunities OWU had to offer and knew it was the right choice for myself and my future career.”

My Plans After Graduation

“I plan on jump-starting my career in environmental conservation. Instead of going straight to graduate school, I would like to get some field experience doing similar work to what I have gotten to do in Greece.

“OWU has greatly prepared me for my career goals, between my education and heavy involvement with the Career Connection, I am excited to see where my future career is headed!”