By Andrea Jackson

This month’s volunteer spotlight shines on Dave Cheney who has been with the Sea Turtle Preservation Society (STPS) since 2008. When speaking with Dave, it becomes quickly obvious that he is proud to be an active member of STPS and is passionate about protecting our sea turtles.

It was an article in the Florida Today back in 2007 that first peaked Dave Cheney’s interest in Sea Turtles. STPS was just setting up its Sea Turtle Emergency Response Program (STERP) at the time and Dave attended one of the inaugural educational classes. He kept in touch with the instructor and eventually joined the Stranding and Salvage team in 2008. In 2010 he became the coordinator for the STERP program.

Dave’s advice to potential STPS volunteers…BE PROACTIVE! If there is something that interests you, make the call. Give it a try. Even after STPS trainings, we realize that there is a lot to learn. As Dave can tell you, his life before STPS had nothing to do with sea turtles. He didn’t have a background in education, so he shadowed more experienced volunteers to learn. If you don’t feel comfortable, its ok. We will pair you up with the right people. The STERP program is always getting new folks. It is a good place to start as a new volunteer!

Dave’s STPS resume is indeed impressive and telling of his commitment to learning about, educating others about, and protecting our sea turtles.

2008: joined Stranding and Salvage team

2008 to present: Turtle walks at night as a turtle scout or lecturer

2010 to present: STERP Coordinator

2011 to present: Board of Directors

In 2017, Dave became the Transport Permit holder. Up to this point, stranded sea turtles were enduring further injury during the transport process. Roger Pszonowsky was instrumental in working with Florida Fish and Wildlife as well as veterinarians to create a training program for the proper transport of sea turtles that Dave agreed to lead as the FWC Permit Holder.

One permit allows for 24 trained participants. The training consists of a three-hour Stranding and Salvage course in conjunction with a second 90-minute course on how to physically handle a sea turtle. Because of the state’s new training program, volunteers can now properly lift a sea turtle, cushion it in the vehicle and keep the reptile’s temperature at the needed point.

Thanks to Dave, a Transport Permit was issued to STPS by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in 2017. Sea Turtle Preservation Society is currently the only organization in the state permitted to transport sick and injured turtles, as well as hatchlings. Our Transport team is busy moving distressed and struggling sea turtles to and between rehab facilities for both Brevard and Indian River Counties.

Dave wears many hats as part of the Sea Turtle Preservation Society from board member to instructor but what he enjoys most are the people. “STPS is a FUN group of all ages and backgrounds.” Dave also enjoys meeting people at our Turtle Walks from all over the country and the world. Just last year, there was a group of young men from Taiwan that came to do a night walk while Dave was the presenter. And, of course, Dave loves watching our guests, especially the children, witness a mother sea turtle laying her eggs tops the list!