OIB Sea Turtle Volunteers

Volunteers with the Ocean Isle Beach Sea Turtle Protection Organization are shown at a nesting site.

Susan Martin was a woman who loved spending time at Ocean Isle Beach. She also had a passion for sea turtles and shared her knowledge about ways to protect the endangered species.

“It was her joy,” Ocean Isle Beach Sea Turtle Protection Organization Island Coordinator Debra Allen said. “In our opinion, she was a wildlife warrior with a passion for sea turtles. She never joined our team, but she was always on the beach talking to our volunteers… She educated people with the information that she had about sea turtle conservation.”

On April 18, 2022, Susan Martin passed away. However, Susan Martin’s family made sure that her love for the Ocean Isle Beach community and its sea turtles would live on.

Soon after Susan Martin’s passing, her daughter, Jessica, reached out to Allen and expressed her desire to sponsor a sea turtle nesting site on Ocean Isle Beach in memory of her mother.

The Ocean Isle Beach Sea Turtle Protection Organization offers three types of nest sponsorships that allow each sponsor to select the name of a nest.

Each sponsored nest includes a sign that displays the name that was chosen by the sponsor. The donations that are raised go towards helping the organization’s mission of saving sea turtles.

Allen said that the nest sponsored by Susan Martin’s family was laid on May 20, 2022, and has raised $4,500 to date.

Allen also mentioned that members of Susan Martin’s family reached out to her after the nest was laid to describe the impact that the nesting site had on them.

“They wanted us to know that the amount of healing it provided them was tremendous,” Allen said.

On July 21, 2022, the nest that was sponsored by Susan Martin’s family became the first nesting site to release hatchlings on Ocean Isle Beach this season. Allen said that the nest released 108 hatchlings that made it to the water safely. She also said that the occasion reminded her why she loves working with the organization.

“It’s always such a joy when you watch life spring from the sand on an island nest at Ocean Isle Beach,” Allen said. “I did not know [Susan Martin] personally, but I feel so honored to do this for [her family]. They are just wonderful people.”

Allen began volunteering with the Ocean Isle Beach Sea Turtle Protection Organization 12 years ago. She mentioned that she has held every position during her time with the organization and has enjoyed the lessons each occupation has taught her.

Allen began working in her current role as the island coordinator for Ocean Isle Beach in 2017. She also serves as the fundraising leader for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

“I kind of wear two hats,” Allen said. “As a non-profit organization, I cannot legally lobby for changes that protect sea turtles… But when I set that aside and I have my hat on for just the North Carolina Wildlife Commission, that is my job, to lobby the Town of Ocean Isle Beach for lightning improvements or anything that I think can help protect sea turtles.” Allen said.

Allen first became interested in joining a sea turtle protection organization two decades ago when she and her husband were visiting Ocean Isle Beach on vacation.

“I’ve always been interested because probably about 20 years ago, I was fortunate enough to be at Ocean Isle Beach and see baby turtles make it down the trench,” Allen said. “When my husband and I moved to Ocean Isle Beach full-time, I wanted to get involved.”

Allen and her husband left their previous home in Charlotte and moved to Ocean Isle Beach permanently in 2010.

That same year, Allen began her stint with the Ocean Isle Beach Protection Organization and has never looked back. And she probably never will.

“There’s just something about protecting an endangered species… [It] makes you feel good about protecting our environment,” she said.

Allen said that the biggest problem the Ocean Isle Beach Sea Turtle Protection Organization faces is the light pollution that is produced around the Ocean Isle Beach area.

Sea turtle advocates located at nearby Holden Beach have also expressed their concerns regarding light pollution earlier this summer. The Town passed an updated lighting ordinance on June 21 that prohibits the use of decorative lights on the southside of oceanfront homes.

The ordinance also lists other types of unlawful outdoor lights and is aimed to provide a safe and welcoming environment for sea turtles.

Allen hopes she and other volunteers with the Ocean Isle Beach Sea Turtle Protection Organization can continue making similar impacts to protect the sea turtle population.

“For us, we are striving for a suitable habitat for sea turtles, people, Ocean Isle Beach and the surrounding waters. And the more we educate people about the sea turtles, the more help that they and all wildlife are going to get.”

To learn more about the Ocean Isle Beach Sea Turtle Protection Organization, visit oibseaturtles.org or follow the organization on Facebook @oibseaturtles.

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