Meet Tracy Tempest. People who paddle in South Bay know her as the “Turtle Whisperer” because she has a special connection with the turtle population in the Bay. You may encounter her on her stand-up paddle board or pedal kayak looking for green sea turtles.
A retired tennis pro, Tracy is now a citizen scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Carrying her phone, Tracy takes a screen shot of the weather before she shoves off from shore using the Weather Underground app. She paddles with a small thermometer dangling in the water in case of a turtle sighting. When she sees a turtle, she uses the Lat Long App on her phone to get the exact coordinates of the sighting. She makes note of the tide using MyTideTimes and notes the water conditions — flat or windy. Once ashore, she sends all the data to [email protected] where Dr. Jeff Seminoff receives the information. Dr. Seminoff is the Leader of the Marine Turtle Ecology & Assessment Program in the NOAA office in La Jolla. Tracy’s detailed information helps scientists track the green sea turtle population in South San Diego Bay as well as their behavior. She added, “A report of zero turtle sightings is also important to NOAA.”
“I try to say if they are big, little, sitting or swimming and send a photo if I can get one,” Tracy explained. “You see more on a stand up paddle board because you have better visibility. Just keep your head on a swivel.”
Tempest’s relationship with NOAA began in 2020, and her work became especially important during the pandemic as NOAA scientists have not been allowed on the water. Much of her data can be found in reports on NOAA’s website. When she cannot get out on the water, Tracy goes out of her way to ask people if they have seen turtles and then sends a blurb to NOAA. She said, “Each time I see a turtle, it’s like WOW, they are still here.” Her excitement is unmistakable and contagious. “It feels like they are staring at you,” said Tracy.
Tracy Tempest’s love for the turtles and her volunteer work as a citizen scientist protecting and tracking them is why she is the Emerald Keeper of the Month. Congratulations, Tracy! We look forward to discovering turtles with you soon.