Leatherbacks and other old friends

I met James Casey four summers ago on Jekyll Island, where he worked as a sea turtle technician and I followed his footsteps as an intern. Along with four coworkers, we toiled in the sand and the sun for three awesome months, relocating turtle nests, assisting in field research, leading educational programs, cursing our perpetually-broken golf cart, and frolicking on the beaches. I suppose nothing brings friends together quite like living, sleeping, and breathing turtles, because James and I kept in touch as we both went to graduate school (he for Biology, me for Science Illustration). While he wrapped up his masters thesis on Leatherback Foraging Biology at UNC Wilmington, I worked toward my illustration degree. At one point, we decided to join forces, and I illustrated his thesis as one of my assignments at UC Santa Cruz. A year and a half later, his paper has been accepted into the prestigious Journal of Experimental Biology, and my illustration managed to land on the cover, in the ultimate win-win situation!

You can see the cover at this link, although it will probably change in a few weeks to accommodate the next cover.

Cover: Illustration of a leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) foraging on gelatinous prey. Leatherback foraging behavior was investigated by Casey et al. (pp. 3961−3971) using a combination of physiological sensors, data loggers and telemetry. Gravid turtles from the St Croix, USVI nesting population were found to forage primarily in deep waters (>100 m) during the day (05:00−18:59 h). Although leatherbacks were found to opportunistically feed in the Caribbean Sea, prey ingestion rates indicate that energy reserves acquired prior to the breeding season are crucial for successful reproduction. Illustration by Kelly Finan.

James currently lives in Providence. You can read more about his research and see cool pictures of him doing crazy stuff with leatherbacks here. Thanks for helping my illustration dreams come true, James!!!

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