SURF CITY —“I like to think they remember me,” Jean Beasley said about two non-releasable sea turtles named Pepper and Valor she had previously treated but hadn't seen in years until a recent trip to an international sea turtle symposium in Las Vegas.
Pepper is an adult green turtle that weighs about 400 pounds. When brought to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center in 1998, the sea turtle was septic and in poor condition. Now he scares off sharks in the Mandalay Bay Aquarium in Las Vegas, Beasley said.
Beasley also visited Valor, a green turtle with lung damage due to contact with acid. The sea turtle can't stay submerged for long but is now at home in the 2 million gallon tank at OdySea Aquarium in Scottsdale, Arizona.
It was on this trip that Beasley won the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award “in recognition of her lifetime of accomplishments toward the study and conservation of sea turtles.”
Beasley began the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center in Surf City to preserve her late daughter’s dream.
Her and her daughter’s dream of preserving and protecting sea turtles, as well as the overall health of the ocean and its life, was recognized at the 37th annual International Sea Turtle Symposium, held recently in Las Vegas.
Beasley was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award during the opening ceremony — but almost missed the whole presentation if not for a helpful volunteer.
Busy looking for a friend’s presentation on the event program, Beasley was reading when the speaker began talking on the accomplishments of the rehabilitation center and her work in sea turtle conservation.
“I was thinking about (my friend) and looking at the agenda to see when they were going to do that, and the volunteer sitting next to me elbowed me and said, ‘Are you listening to this?’” Beasley said.
Explaining that she was looking at the program for an important reason, the volunteer told Beasley to listen to the speaker.
“I looked up and about that time my picture came up on the screen, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, what is this?’” Beasley said. “It was definitely a surprise.”
The symposium itself showcases the work that’s been done in sea turtle biology in the past year and informs the community about the results of that work.
The annual events are planned and executed by the International Sea Turtle Society, which is a group of colleagues and those involved in sea turtle conservation around the world.
“It’s always been a great meeting because there are no politics, there are no divisions,” Beasley said. “We all share the same interest, we face the same problems. In some cases those problems may be intensified depending on what region in the world you live in.”
The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Jean Beasley in front of friends, colleagues and the many other environmentally-conscious participants.
Beasley says the award isn’t just about her, it’s about all of the people who worked at the center over the years. Without that support, help and guidance, Beasley says she’d still be standing on a pile of sand wondering what to do next.
“Nobody can do anything like this by themselves," Beasley said, "and if they think they can, they’re living in a dream world."