Ivanis T. Sánchez Cruz, a marine ecologist specializing in the conservation of marine turtles, shares with us her inspirations, upcoming research, and aspirations for the future. Scroll down to read the interview (English) or watch the full interview (Spanish).
What is your name, where are you from, and how did you develop a connection to the ocean?
My name is Ivanis T. Sánchez Cruz and I am from Barceloneta, Puerto Rico. To be honest, I can’t remember a specific experience that had provoked my connection with the ocean; rather, it was an innate feeling. My parents tell me that since I was young, I had always loved the ocean and that what impressed them most was that I did not fear it. They always tell an anecdote when I was four years old, I fearlessly launched myself into the water from the bridge at Crash Boat, and even though I don’t remember this, it feels like the best way to explain my connection with the ocean.
What is your specific field of marine science and what inspired you to work in this area?
My specific field of marine science is marine ecology, including the ecology of populations. What moved me to study marine turtles was the first time that I experienced the excavation of an enclosed turtle nest. That experience awakened my curiosity to learn more about the species, and I approached the conservation group that was in charge at the time to become involved and I never left. The experiences I had while I worked to complete censuses of marine turtle nesting sites confirmed my desires to continue working in this area professionally. Thus, I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology and now have completed a Masters in Biology with turtles as a focus in my research.
Why is your project important and why should we, as a community, take interest?
Global warming is causing imminent change in various aspects on our planet. One of those is with the temperatures on the surface and of the ocean. My research is concerned with studying the micro-environment of turtle nesting sites and analyzing several variables, one of those variables being the temperature of the nest during the incubation period with the aim of understanding its influence on the reproductive success of marine turtles and, of course, to develop effective conservation strategies that are consistent with reality.
What has been the most difficult aspect of your project and how did you overcome it?
The greatest difficulty for my project will be to place the temperature gauges inside the nests. The reason this will be most difficult is that they need to be placed in the nest at the moment in which the turtle deposits her eggs. Though we can make approximate estimates as to when this will occur, it’s impossible to know the exact moment in which it’ll happen. To overcome this challenge, several groups of people will be monitoring the area. We will also utilize drone technology to take infrared images of the area to facilitate our localization of the marine turtles on the beach.
How do you envision the relationship between communities and marine ecosystems in Puerto Rico in the future?
Just like a great friend of mine once told me, the relationship between human beings and our marine ecosystems must be considered symbiotic. My vision of the future of our relationship with our marine ecosystems is that we all arrive at this conclusion—that, though it’s evident that we depend on the ocean for the resources it provides us with, we understand that the ocean also depends on us and that we should develop better habits and sustainable practices to reduce if not eliminate our negative impact on it. A few simple examples are to not leave trash on the beach, to be conscientious of what we discard through the piping in our houses, and that our “mantra” is to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Our efforts should also reach beyond this to include the audit of current excessive coastal development and education on proper boating etiquette, and so much more.
"Just like a great friend of mine once told me, the relationship between human beings and our marine ecosystems must be considered symbiotic."
What do you plan to do with your degree moving forward?
I would love to use the knowledge I acquired from my Masters and from my research to contribute to the scientific community, as well as to educate and involve more people, not only to the conservation of marine turtles but also to marine conservation in general. Following my line of thought in the previous question, I believe that is the way to achieve it.
This interview was translated into English by Anna Posada.
Watch Ivanis' full interview here.
Ivanis' Seed Fund project is supported by Isla Mar Research Expeditions through the donations received by selling our merchandise. Follow along here and on our social media to watch for more updates on her project!