National Save The Sea Turtle Foundation Awards

As part of two distinct awards, the National Save the Sea Turtle Foundation (NSTSTF) is building FIU’s capacity to support research related to the conservation of sea turtles. The two awards include:

  • NSTSTF Undergraduate Scholarship
  • NSTSTF Sea Turtle Rehabilitation and Outreach Award.

These awards are only available for current undergraduate students.


Award Information

The NSTSTF Undergraduate Scholarship Award will provide up to $8,000 to two undergraduate students who are performing research relevant to the conservation of sea turtles. These funds can be applied toward research-related travel, conference travel, materials and supplies, and student tuition and fees.

The application package for the NSTSTF Undergraduate Scholarship Award includes the following:

  • A 500-word abstract of the planned research project
  • A 1,000-word summary of the proposed research project
  • A 500-word personal statement that includes students’ career goals, aspirations, and research interests
  • A detailed budget and justification that clearly describes how students plan to use the funds
  • CV or resume
  • 2 letters of recommendation
  • A copy of the student’s unofficial transcript

Application packages must be formatted into one PDF and emailed to Catherine Guinovart, Coordinator of Administrative Services for the Coastlines and Oceans Division in the Institute of Environment at before Jan. 10, 2022.

If a student is applying for the NSTSTF Undergraduate Scholarship Award the subject line of the email should be “NSTSTF Scholarship Student’s Last Name”. The letters of recommendation for the scholarship should be emailed to with the subject line “LOR NSTSTF Scholarship Student’s Last Name".

Awardees of the NSTSTF Undergraduate Scholarship Award

  • Aloyse Abreu

    Aloyse Abreu studied the foraging behavior of sea turtles off the coast of Saona Island in the Dominican Republic, which has coral reefs and seagrass pastures adjacent to it.

    Understanding their foraging behavior is important because it allows us to assess how they interact and thus affect the coastal ecosystems. For her novel study, Ishe used a DJI drone to conduct aerial surveys of the habitats to quantify turtle abundance, as well as turtle-borne cameras to identify individual foraging preferences and track their movements between habitats. 

    Overseen by Dr. Elizabeth Whitman, Abreu’s research will allow scientists to develop a better understanding of sea turtle populations and their interactions with the local environment, which opens the door to understanding their role in the wider Caribbean region.


  • Mia D'Orazio

    Mia D'Orazio studied the interaction of tourists, seagrass cover, turtle density, and behavior in the Bay of Akumal, Mexico.

    In the bay of Akumal, the seagrass meadows have high levels of nutrients from contamination of the shallow ground water table, sewage, and agricultural runoff. Other stressors for seagrass in this region are the continuous grazing by a growing population of green sea turtles and sediment and seagrass root disturbance by the great influx of tourists swimming and snorkeling. D'Orazio's work included seagrass, turtle, and fish identification. She collected seagrass surveys to observe abundance, species richness, and shoot density in comparison with historical data. She surveyed human activities (i.e., swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving) to observe spatial distribution patterns. Also, she recorded data on sea turtle abundance to determine their spatial distribution relative to the data she collected on seagrass and human activities.


    Overseen by Dr. Elizabeth Whitman, D'Orazio’s research will help scientists better understand the relationship between seagrass, sea turtles, and pressures caused by tourism, so that scientists can gain insight to help better manage this ecosystem.


  • Maria Clara Figueredo and Jose Bisbe Ochoa

    Maria Clara Figueredo and Jose Bisbe-Ochoa studied whether polystyrene boxes, collected as recycling, can serve as effective incubators in hatcheries.

    This work is critical as a major concern for sea turtle hatchlings is the increasing temperatures of beaches and sand. The temperature of developing eggs determines whether offspring will be male or female, and that means higher temperatures could result in a disproportionate number of females — a major problem for the sea turtle conservation.

    Overseen by Dr. Elizabeth Whitman, Figueredo’s and Bisbe-Ochoa’s research will help conservationists better protect sea turtle eggs and hatchlings from threats like poachers and storms.

  • Samantha Olszack

    Samantha Olszack studied how sargassum decomposition causes trace metals, such as arsenic, to leech into the sediment, which may be harmful to the turtles and their young.

    Anomalies in El Niño events, increasing ocean temperatures, changes in nutrient abundance, and other threats related to climate change have led to increasingly large amounts of­ sargassum on South Florida and Caribbean beaches. While sargassum is a critical ecosystem for young sea turtles in the open ocean, accumulations on shore can gather as high as 3 to 6 feet creating obstacles for both female sea turtles searching for suitable nesting areas and hatchlings exiting their nests, which is why understanding the effects of these sargassum landings is critical for sea turtle conservation.

    This research is overseen by Dr. Ligia Collado-Vides, a marine botanist in FIU’s Institute of Environment, and could help scientists find ways to manage incoming sargassum and determine possible uses for it, including compost.

  • Liberty Boyd

    Liberty Boyd is a fourth-year Ph.D. student studying green sea turtle populations and how they use seagrass ecosystems.

    Sea turtles rely heavily on the abundance and health of seagrass ecosystems, which serve as their primary food source.

    This research is overseen by CASE Executive Dean, Mike Heithaus, a marine biologist specializing in the ecological importance of large marine species. Liberty’s research helps scientists understand the relationship between sea turtle’s seagrass consumption and external threats affecting both sea turtle populations and seagrass ecosystems.

Awardees of the NSTSTF Rehabilitation and Outreach Award

  • Hannah Virgin

    Hannah Virgin is especially interested in linking environmental factors with sea turtle health. She has veterinary technician experience and was trained in taking blood samples from turtles. She used this summer internship as a pilot field season to assist the Loxahatchee River District and Palm Beach County. As part of this work, she scoped out the field sites and begin collecting preliminary data. For her graduate work she plans to develop a dissertation research project that aligns with Loxahatchee River District and Palm Beach County's research priorities. In collaboration with Loxahatchee River District and Palm Beach County Hannah has access to long-term data sets on seagrasses, water quality, and turtle abundances. Those data combined with observations of foraging behavior will inform her work on turtle health that she will evaluate through physical examinations in the field and blood metrics.


  • Alyssa Miguez and Sole Amadi

    Alyssa Miguez and Sole Amadi worked on rehabilitation and outreach at the Marine Environmental Education Center (MEEC) during the summer of 2022. At the education center, they received training in animal husbandry for taking care of captive sea turtles and assisted in the establishment of education and outreach programs. They also assisted with research being done in the laboratory at the MEEC to be able to provide new information for educational purposes and to gain insight for possible future research projects.

    sole-with-turtle      alyssa  

    Sole Amadi                                                       Alyssa Miguez