Communication and Conservation: an interview with Lexie Beach, Communication Coordinator of Sea Turtle Conservancy
Lexie Beach is the Communication Coordinator with Sea Turtle Conservancy, the world’s oldest sea turtle research and conservation group. For nearly 60 years, Sea Turtle Conservancy has worked to protect and conserve sea turtles and their habitats from extinction through research, education, and advocacy. Conservation Careers chats with Lexie about her role with Sea Turtle Conservancy, ushering the organization into the age of social media, and why pushing personal boundaries can lead to valuable opportunities.
Why do you work in conservation?
Ever since I was little, I’ve been a huge animal lover! My career aspirations ranged from marine biologist and zookeeper to becoming the next Steve Irwin or Jane Goodall. Science was never my strongest subject in school, but I learned that I could use my communication and writing skills to help animals in my own way. In college, I majored in Journalism/PR and interned with several different zoos and conservation organizations until I found my perfect fit at Sea Turtle Conservancy. It truly is my dream job to be able to connect and inspire people to protect an endangered species like sea turtles. I want to make sure these amazing animals are still around for my future grandchildren to see and learn about!
What motivated you to work with Sea Turtle Conservancy?
In all honesty, I knew almost nothing about sea turtles when I started at STC! I was born and raised in Louisville, KY so sea turtles were never part of my life until I moved down to Florida. So while I was no sea turtle expert at the time, I knew it would be such a privilege to work with the oldest sea turtle conservation organization in the world. STC has done amazing things for sea turtle conservation over the last 55 years, and that was something I knew I wanted to have a role in.
What’s the best part of the job?
One of the best parts about working for STC is getting to connect with sea turtle lovers on a daily basis. And these people are so passionate and so dedicated to these animals, it’s really inspiring! I honestly didn’t realize how iconic of a species sea turtles were until I worked with STC.
I’ve been very fortunate and gotten the opportunity to travel to beautiful places across the Caribbean. We have project sites in Panama, Costa Rica, Bermuda and Nevis and I’ve had the opportunity to visit them numerous times. Probably one of my favorite memories was when I saw a leatherback for the first time in Panama. Leatherback turtles are my favorite species of turtle, but I had never actually seen one in person until I went to Bocas del Toro. We were out on the beach that night during a raging thunderstorm trying to find a leatherback to tag and put a satellite transmitter on for our educational and research programs. The leatherbacks definitely didn’t mind the storm because they were out nesting in full force! I was lucky and saw several that night, and it’s hard to explain how HUGE they are until you’re next to them. They are truly the definition of a gentle giant and are the most prehistoric-looking animals ever.
What are the challenges you face in your role?
Not having enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do! Working for a nonprofit means I wear a lot of different hats. I do everything from social media management to event planning to fundraising to corporate partnerships to education outreach to media appearances… You get the gist! While it is a challenge at times, it is also one of my favorite things about my job. No two days are the same!
What are your career highlights / most proud of so far?
I was invited to speak as a “social media expert” and gave a presentation at the 2016 Southeast Regional Sea Turtle Meeting. I’m currently representing STC as “the face of Naked Turtle Rum” (one of our big partners). I helped bring STC into the digital age! When I started at STC in 2013, our Facebook page only had 15,000 followers. We now have almost 400,000. We had a Twitter account but hardly ever posted, and didn’t even have an Instagram! Now we have almost half a million followers across all of our social media platforms combined! Our Facebook page is my pride and joy.
What key steps in your conservation career have you taken?
After I graduated college, I got an internship at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. My official role was as an assistant in the Behavioral Husbandry department but I was also very interested in wildlife conservation. I happened to work in the same building as the wildlife conservation department and started to reach out and build relationships with the team. I volunteered my time and collaborated on several special projects with the team. One of those projects just happened to be Sea Turtle Conservancy’s “Tour de Turtles” event. Little did I know that was my future employer! Moral of the story is that it’s so important to step outside your comfort zone and make connections so you can get your foot in the door of something you’re really passionate about!
What advice would you give someone wishing to follow in your footsteps?
You can never do too many internships! Also be prepared for those internships to be unpaid! When I was in college I interned at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, the Louisville Zoo, the Indianapolis Zoo, and worked part-time for the local Humane Society. It was through these internship experiences that I realized what career path I wanted to pursue and how I could use my abilities to help animals and educate people.
Interested in learning more about Sea Turtle Conservancy? Visit https://conserveturtles.org/ for more information and how you can help.