Watson Chronicle


Programs for P-12 Students

MarineQuest Holds Final 2TC Program

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Marine debris, or trash that ends up in the ocean, has major impacts on all kinds of marine animals, especially sea turtles. In 2018, MarineQuest introduced Turtle Trash Collectors (2TC), an environmental education initiative that focused on sea turtles as a key species to educate youth about the impacts of marine debris and encourage behavior changes to reduce the generation of marine debris in the future.

Sue Kezios, Director of Youth Programs and MarineQuest came up with the idea for 2TC and secured funding from the NOAA Marine Debris Program to support it. A mini grant from the Friends of UNCW funded the creation of the sea turtle models for the simulated necropsies, or animal autopsy. Laura Sirak-Schaeffer served as the 2TC Program Coordinator and developed accompanying educational materials for program delivery. 

Prior to the pandemic, Sirak-Schaeffer and program assistant Kiran Sinha traveled the state with the model sea turtles to provide hands-on opportunities for elementary education students to conduct the simulated necropsy.  By early 2020, they had traveled more than 9,000 miles and reached nearly 12,000 students and 500 teachers as well as 3,800 kids and 3,000 adults through public programs at locations including the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center and the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Following the onset of COVID-19, the 2TC team continued to offer the program as a fully virtual experience, ultimately reaching 29,556 people worldwide.

Sirak-Schaeffer and Kiran Sinha held MarineQuest’s final 2TC program on May 13.

“Laura and Kiran did an amazing job pivoting what was an exceptional in-person experience into an equally engaging virtual program,” Kezios said. “Laura created additional educational materials that allowed the participants to follow along with her as she conducted the virtual necropsy. Their ingenuity made it possible for 2TC to reach students as far away as Hawaii and Austria.”