Science-based sea turtle protection since 1959

Gainesville, FL   |


It is the mission of Sea Turtle Conservancy to ensure the survival of sea turtles within the Caribbean, Atlantic and Pacific through research, education, training, advocacy and protection of the natural habitats upon which they depend.

Ruling year info


Executive Director

Mr. David B. Godfrey

Main address

4581 NW 6th St. Suite A

Gainesville, FL 32609 USA

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Formerly known as

Caribbean Conservation Corporation



NTEE code info

Wildlife Preservation/Protection (D30)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

STC has chosen sea turtles as the focus of its conservation efforts in part because these ancient creatures are among the most important indicators of the health of the world’s marine and coastal ecosystems. STC believes that whether sea turtles ultimately vanish from the planet or whether they remain a wild and thriving part of the natural world, will speak volumes about both the general health of the planet and the ability of humans to sustainably coexist with the diversity of life on Earth.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Tortuguero Green Turtle and Leatherback Research and Conservation Program

For over 50 years, STC has conducted
annual sea turtle nest monitoring studies on the 21 mile black sand
beach of Tortuguero, Costa Rica, the nesting site of more endangered
green turtles than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere. Since being
initiated by Dr. Archie Carr in the 1950s, this monitoring program has
provided much information on the reproductive ecology and migratory
habits of sea turtles. A recent peer-reviewed analysis showed an
encouraging trend in green turtle nesting activity. Through this
five-decade-long conservation initiative, STC has reversed the decline
of green turtles in the Caribbean.
The overall goal of STC's sea turtle research and conservation work in
Tortuguero is to conserve the area's nesting green and leatherback
turtle populations so that these species fulfill their ecological
roles. The strategies used to achieve this goal include the following:
(1) monitoring and studying Tortuguero's nesting turtles; (2) working
with the Costa Rican government, the community of Tortuguero and others
to protect nesting turtles from poachers; (3) training young
scientists, conservationists, and others to help ensure the
continuation of sea turtle protection efforts in Tortuguero and
elsewhere; and (4) educating the public about sea turtles and the
threats to their survival.

Research methods include turtle tagging, turtle track surveys,
collection of biometric data, fibropapilloma examination, determination
of nest survivorship and hatching success, collection of physical data,
and collection of data on human impacts to the nesting beach and the
turtles. Protection methods include a cooperative effort with
Tortuguero National Park officials and law enforcement to reduce
poaching of eggs and turtles. Training methods include training
research assistants, recruited heavily from Latin American countries,
and training Tortuguero National Park guards as well as local eco-tour
guides in sea turtle biology and conservation. Public outreach methods
include teaching Tortuguero school children, local adults and tourists
about sea turtles and working with the international media to raise
awareness about sea turtles and threats to their survival.

survival of the sea turtle populations at Tortuguero will require many
years of protection, but STC believes it is a feasible goal, and one
that can be accomplished while providing an opportunity for research,
training of professionals from Latin America and the Caribbean, and
local education, as well as economic development for the Tortuguero
community through sea turtle tourism.

Population(s) Served

Since 2003, STC has been working to protect and restore the globally-significant hawksbill and leatherback turtle nesting populations in the vicinity of Bocas del Toro, Panama. Two of the primary sites for our work include Chiriquí Beach and Soropta Beach, but we also monitor and protect smaller nesting populations at nearly a dozen other nesting beaches in the region. The program consists of intensive monitoring of hawksbill and leatherback sea turtle nesting activity, protection of nesting females and their nests, and public education in the region.

Beach was once described by Dr. Archie Carr as the most important
nesting beach in the Caribbean for the “critically endangered”
hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). However, by the 1980s
and 1990s, sporadic aerial and ground surveys suggested that nesting
had declined as much as 98%. Although today’s nesting population is
only a fraction of what it once was, there is increased optimism that
depleted hawksbill populations can respond positively to long-term
protection. This optimism is based on increased hawksbill nesting
activity in recent years on well-protected beaches in Mexico, Barbados
and Puerto Rico. In Panama, increased hawksbill nesting has been
observed at Zapatilla Cays in the last few years, very likely due to
the enhanced protection that hawksbills have received since the cays
became a part of a new national marine park in 1988. Results from STC’s
sustained protection programs at other sea turtle nesting beaches give
us confidence that depleted sea turtle populations can be restored
through long-term, coordinated protection of nesting beaches and
foraging grounds.

Chiriquí Beach also remains one of the most important sites for leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea)
nesting in the Atlantic, with as many as 7,170 to 14,005 leatherback
nests deposited yearly between the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border and
Central Panama.

The project involves local students and indigenous Ngöbe
leaders in order to build a connection between the community and the

This program helps protect and recover the hawksbill and leatherback
populations of Chiriquí Beach and adjacent nesting sites.

Population(s) Served

Sea Turtle Conservancy's Tour de Turtles: a sea turtle migration marathon — is an online sea turtle migration-tracking event that utilizes the satellite-tracked migration of sea turtles as the core component of an education program. Since its launch in 1996, the migration-tracking program has reached millions of people who have logged on to STC’s website each year to track the movements of sea turtles. An estimated 16,000 teachers in the U.S. and around the world have used the program as part of their classroom curriculum — reaching more than a half million students!

Tour de Turtles is a three-month-long event beginning each August that tracks individual sea turtles leaving their respective nesting beaches as they “race” to see which turtle can travel the furthest distance over the course of three months.  

Tour de Turtles is a multimedia experience using interactive online maps, videos, games and educational activities centered on the biology and conservation of sea turtles and their habitats. It is designed to provide the broadest possible audience with a fun and educational approach to science, geography and marine conservation — all utilizing the satellite-tracked migration of sea turtles. This program will let people identify with and track individual turtles. To get people even more involved, individuals will be able to support each turtle’s cause during the Causes Challenge. The Causes Challenge is a side competition that challenges each turtle to raise the most money for the issue they are representing. To make the program useful to teachers and students, a full compliment of online material will be available for use in the classroom and at home. These materials include an Educator’s Manual, interactive online games and quizzes, and classroom activities that incorporate standard classroom curriculum such as math,
geography and science into the program.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

This is the world's longest continuous in-water sea turtle research and conservation program. STC carries out the project in close collaboration with the Bermuda Aquarium.

Population(s) Served

In 2018, Sea Turtle Conservancy began an in-water project to study and protect the sea turtles of the Big Bend region of Florida. Historical, anecdotal and published accounts suggest the Big Bend region is an important developmental foraging ground for sea turtles. The region has a relatively low amount of coastal development and, remarkably, it contains the second largest seagrass estuary in the eastern Gulf of Mexico (about 3,000 km2). Large parts of this coastline have never been studied by sea turtle researchers. Estimating sea turtle population structure on foraging grounds is critical to measuring long-term trends, understanding the use of benthic habitats and managing protected areas. The Florida Panhandle and Big Bend regions contain important developmental habitats for many marine species, yet they generally receive less research attention than other areas of Florida.

Population(s) Served

Improperly managed beachfront lighting attracts sea turtle hatchlings when they emerge from their nests—often leading them toward their deaths. In fact, lighting disorientation is one of the leading causes of sea turtle mortality in Florida. STC identifies private properties with problem lights and works with owners to install shielded light fixtures and replace white light bulbs with low wattage LED bulbs that emit light in the optimal sea turtle-friendly wavelength. Using these tactics, sea turtles will be able to use their natural sea finding abilities to safely reach the ocean, and the lighting needs of people will be met. STC has been completing lighting retrofits in Florida since 2010. STC has been able to continue this work by assisting additional property owners to design and install lighting fixtures that address the specific problems at each location. STC’s lighting retrofit program is currently focused in the Florida Panhandle, where more than 200 properties have been retrofitted. As of 2020, the program is focused on retrofitting lights on the southwest coast of Florida and Ft. Lauderdale on the east coast.

In addition to retrofitting beachfront properties, STC also conducts sea turtle lighting workshops for code enforcement and building officials in the areas in which we working. Nearly every beachfront municipality in Florida has a sea turtle lighting ordinance in place to protect nesting and hatchling sea turtles, and STC is actively educating those who are enforcing the ordinances to ensure that they are aware of the best solutions. Based on previous project results, we anticipate that thousands of sea turtle hatchlings will be saved each year of STC’s lighting project, and that more nesting will occur, as a direct result of the lighting improvements we are making.

Population(s) Served

Where we work


Marine Conservation Success Story 2009

Smithsonian Institute

Number of critically endangered species for which conservation measures have been launched or supported

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served


Related Program

Tortuguero Green Turtle and Leatherback Research and Conservation Program

Type of Metric

Context - describing the issue we work on

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

STC focuses research, conservation and advocacy protection efforts toward the protection and recovery of sea turtle species occurring in the North Atlantic and Caribbean. This includes five species.

Number of conservation actions at site(s)

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served


Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Context Notes

Tracking the number of ongoing conservation sites where STC has sustained programs. Includes Costa Rica, Panama, Bermuda, Eastern Caribbean, Cuba and Florida, with several actions at some sites.

Number of instances of illegal wildlife trade prevented by the organization

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served


Related Program

Chiriquí Beach and Soropta Beach Hawksbill and Leatherback Research and Conservation Program

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Context Notes

STC assists park guards and local resource protection agencies in Costa Rica and Panama to monitor and discourage illegal trafficking of sea turtle eggs, shells and meat.

Number of IUCN Red List species with habitats in areas affected by operations

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served


Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

STC's work involves habitat utilized by 6 IUCN Red List species: Green Turtles, Leatherbacks, Loggerheads, Hawksbills, Kemp's Ridleys and Olive Ridleys.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

STC's long-term goal is to protect all species of sea turtles and their habitats so that they can survive, thrive and fulfill their ecological roles in the marine and coastal environment.

(1) Advocacy aimed at improving the survival outlook for sea turtles. STC’s policy work includes active involvement in the myriad coastal and marine management policies impacting sea turtles and the habitats upon which they rely. Special focus is given to improving beach and coastal management in areas where sea turtles nest and forage; reducing bycatch of sea turtles in commercial fisheries; mitigating for the impacts of the Gulf oil spill; and working with governments around the world to protect sea turtle habitat and replace the consumptive use of sea turtles with alternative livelihoods such as ecotourism.

(2) Public Education initiatives that raise global awareness about sea turtles. STC uses a diversity of print and electronic educational programs and materials to reach broad audiences with accurate, engaging information about sea turtles, threats to their survival and steps everyone can take to help them survive. STC’s Tour de Turtles online education program reaches hundreds of thousands of people around the world with a fun, interactive education program based on the satellite-tracked migrations of sea turtles. STC also operates the Barrier Island Center in Florida and the Tortuguero Visitors Center in Costa Rica, both of which are museum-quality education centers located on some of the most important sea turtle nesting beach in the world.

(3) Research and Conservation at critical sea turtle nesting beaches and in-water sites. STC’s 50-year-long program at Tortuguero, Costa Rica, is the most successful sea turtle research and recovery project in the world. A similar initiative at Chiriquí Beach, Panama, is utilizing lessons learned at Tortuguero to monitor and protect some of the world’s most important nesting colonies of leatherback and hawksbill turtles. The organization also monitors juvenile turtle populations in Bermuda. In Florida, STC conducts research on the migratory patterns of various species in order to help shape conservation efforts. And at various sites around the Caribbean, STC conducts research to help inform decision-makers and the public about threats to sea turtles and steps that can be taken to ensure their long-term survival.

The Sea Turtle Conservancy (formerly Caribbean Conservation Corporation) is the oldest sea turtle research and conservation organization in the world. The group was founded in Florida in 1959 by Dr. Archie Carr, the man widely recognized around the world as the leading authority on sea turtles. Over the last 50 years, STC’s work helped spawn a global movement to protect sea turtles and developed successful models for studying and protecting sea turtles that are now in use around the world. Most importantly, STC, through its many successful projects, has proved that sea turtles can be saved. It takes a great commitment of time, expertise, resolve and funding to achieve lasting results, but sea turtle conservation does work.

Over the last half century, STC has discovered much about what is known about the biology and life history of sea turtles. In the process, we have trained generations of sea turtle biologists and spawned a global movement toward sea turtle conservation. STC’s sustained research and conservation programs have been credited with saving the Atlantic green turtle from near extinction and improving the survival outlook for many other turtle populations. Despite the global advances in marine turtle conservation, threats to the survival of these species are on the rise. It is increasingly important that STC remain engaged in the diversity of issues affecting sea turtles and their habitats.

STC’s geographic focus encompasses the United States and Wider Caribbean because of the region’s unique importance to the world’s remaining sea turtle populations. However, the five-decades-long research and conservation program in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, remains a cornerstone of the organization’s efforts. STC is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization. The group’s headquarters is located in Gainesville, Florida, where project administration is coordinated. STC also has a Latin American office based in San Jose, Costa Rica, which serves as a base of operations for the organization’s Latin American Director, Roxana Silman, and the Scientific Director, Dr. Emma Harrison, both of whom provide vital scientific and logistical oversight for the project. The long-term research and conservation program in Tortuguero takes place out of STC’s fully functional Biological Field Station—a modern facility that includes several types of living accommodations, a dining room, a library and a visitor center and natural history museum. STC has an international membership of over 8,000 individuals. In addition to its professional staff, STC is led by a 23-member Board of Directors, which includes U.S. and Latin American members. Scientific guidance is also provided by a Scientific Advisory Committee, which includes ten of the world’s most accomplished and respected sea turtle scientists.

o STC's long-term conservation work in Tortuguero has produced one of the greatest marine conservation success stories in the world. Since the green turtle population at Tortuguero stopped its decline in the 1970s, STC has documented an over 500% increase in nesting at Tortuguero. In addition, the organization has worked with the people of Costa Rica to build a sustainable economy in Tortuguero based on turtle tourism, which replaces the extractive use of sea turtles. The Tortuguero nesting colony of green turtles is now the largest in the world.

o In 2003, STC launched a hawksbill and leatherback monitoring project at Chiriquí Beach and several other sites on Panama’s Caribbean coast. STC is now documenting a steady increase in nesting by both species, proving that our long-term conservation strategies work and that diminished sea turtle populations can be recovered.

o 2013 saw record levels of both loggerhead and green turtle nesting in Florida, particularly in the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, which STC helped establish in 1990. The story unfolding in the Carr Refuge is nothing short of miraculous. The well-documented successes at this refuge, which is named after STC’s founder, continue to inspire turtle conservationists around the world.

o STC’s annual Tour de Turtles research and education program deployed more than a dozen turtles in Florida and around the Caribbean with satellite transmitters to track their migrations. The 2013 program was featured in national and international media stories, helping STC reach hundreds of thousands of people with fun and inspiring information about sea turtles and the threats they face.

o In 2011, STC produced a high-definition film titled Tortuguero: The Epicenter of Sea Turtle Conservation to raise awareness about the organization’s history and role in sea turtle conservation. The film release coincided with the opening of a new theater at the Visitors Center located at STC’s Research Station in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, which hosts over 30,000 visitors each year.

o STC achieved a major victory for sea turtles in 2012 when it successfully stopped construction of an experimental “breakwater” project off the coast of Singer Island, Florida. This beach has some of the highest density of sea turtle nesting in the United States. The breakwater project would have posed a serious threat to nesting turtles, hatchlings leaving the beach, and to turtles that forage and migrate along that area of the coast. As a result of STC’s campaign against the project, the county commission abandoned the project and started analyzing other, natural options to combat coastal erosion. This victory set an important precedent that is forcing coastal communities to seek alternative solutions to erosion control that do not rely primarily on hard structures to protect economically and environmentally important sandy beaches.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    We don't have any major challenges to collecting feedback



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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Board of directors
as of 07/12/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mrs. Laura Forte


Term: 2015 - 2023

Anthony Knerr

Anthony Knerr & Associates

Sing Williams

Duff & Phelps

Archie F. Carr, III

Wildlife Conservation Society

Jordan Urstadt

Swiss investment company

H. Clay Frick, III

No Affiliation

Laura Forte


David Ehrenfeld

Rutgers University

Mark D. Shantzis

Conservation Education Foundation

Nicholas Shufro


Jeffrey S Phipps

Growth Innovations

Chris Rajczi

No Affiliation

Rick Cleveland

No Affiliation

Michael Feld

Ocean Blue Divers

Peggy Cavanaugh

Premier Properties Real Estate

Elise Frick

No Affiliation

Shirley Sanchez

Attorney in Costa Rica

Kim Ogren

Nonprofit Strategic Planner

Helen Stamatacos

Citizen Advocate

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 7/12/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation


Equity strategies

Last updated: 10/08/2020

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.