Faces of the TSA Vol. 7

by Jordan Gray 

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Who: Rose Tremblay and Nancy Reinert

What: TSA Volunteers

Where: Florida, USA 

Jordan Gray: What is your earliest childhood memory with a turtle or tortoise? 

Rose Tremblay: I grew up in a rural town in western MA. My grandmother lived on a big pond, with a small swamp/bog across the street. Our house was also in a very rural area surrounded by big ponds connected by spring-fed streams. I remember being with a neighbor boy down by the little stream behind our house, standing on a rock looking into the stream, and seeing my very first spotted turtle. I was about 8 at the time. The neighbor boy caught the turtle and brought it back to his house. He put it in a box on the porch. About an hour later I went over to his house, took the little turtle, brought him back down to the stream, and watched him swim away. My love of turtles, and specifically spotted turtles started that day, in the summer of 1972.

Nancy Reinert: As a young child growing up in rural NJ, we had a creek near our home that we would frequent in the summer. We would catch small painted turtles, and created a little dam-like area that we would put them in for a few days and then release them back into the main creek. I was probably 7 or 8 when we first did this.

JG: How did you first become involved with the Turtle Survival Alliance?

RT: In 2003 or 2004, (it was the first year we had a single auction item), Lonnie McCaskill approached me and asked if I was interested in helping with registration at the TSA conference. I didn't know anything about the organization, but I loved turtles, so I thought, why not? I might learn some things, and will definitely meet other people who also love turtles. Turns out, this was the place for me. I might not be up on all the scientific names, but no one looks down on you for that.

NR: In 2005, I was approached by Lonnie McCaskill, asking if I was interested in volunteering as part of the annual conference staff. I was very interested, but was unable to make the trip to San Diego that year. The following year I became part of "Lonnie's Angels", and we have rocked the merchandise table and hospitality suite ever since!

JG: What is your favorite aspect of the Annual Symposium on the Conservation and Biology of Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles?

RT: I love catching up with old friends, and seeing that there is no part during the 4 days where people are not talking about anything but turtles. They might start out talking about something else, but it ALWAYS comes back to turtles. I've met people from all over the world, specifically women, who are throwing themselves into research and science. This is something that didn't happen when I was in high school. I am genuinely jealous that women get paid to play in swamps, ponds, and rivers learning about turtles!

NR: Every year we get together with friends we only see at conference; people from all over the globe. We watch students from many diverse cultures grow into extremely confident and competent researchers right before our eyes. It's like a huge family reunion with an ever-growing family each year.

JG: What is the most amusing situation you can remember from an Annual Symposium?

RT: There are so many things... Dick Vogt hosting the live auction, the time Lonnie McCaskill took Nancy and I out into the desert in Tucson, the time Nancy climbed into the mouth of a giant snapping turtle sculpture in St. Louis and got stuck...but most of what happens at conference, stays at conference! It's like our own little version of Vegas!

NR: There have been many, many amusing things that have happened over the years, but like Vegas, what happens at conference, stays at conference!

JG: What attracted you to become part of the Turtle Survival Alliance?

RT: When I was a kid, I got ridiculed by boys for my love of playing in the swamps and catching turtles, snakes, and frogs. One boy actually wrote in my 6th grade yearbook, "Why don't you just go live in the swamp with your stupid turtles?" I wish he could see me now...not quite living that dream, but living it vicariously through many young female researchers. I love the fact that there are so many intelligent and brave women in this organization, and that they have FULL support from their male counterparts.

NR: I enjoy meeting people and learning new things. TSA is like friendship with a cause. Everyone has a specialty, but everyone supports everyone else's causes. People are surrounded by likeminded people, and even if their "species of choice" is different, their causes are mutual.

JG: What advice would you give to someone who wants to get involved with an established organization like the TSA?

RT: As a person who has always loved animals, the fact that it took me until my mid-thirties to get fully involved in animal care is something I do have some regrets about; but I also feel that your path is sometimes the long way around for a reason. I love turtles, and I will always be grateful to Lonnie for seeking me out all those years ago. If you find something that tugs your heartstrings you should follow that road. In addition to the TSA, I also volunteer with many animal rescue groups including the ASPCA and HSUS. I trained earlier this summer to be the first-ever Orlando team leader for Pinups for Pit Bulls, Inc., an advocacy group that works to secure safe communities for all dogs and their people through education, positive training, and safe legislation. When I retire from Disney, I plan on training dogs full-time and spending more time volunteering with animal related organizations including the TSA.

NR: I have worked in animal related fields for over 20 years. Volunteering with an organization or two that is of interest to you is not only good for your resume, it's good for your soul! In 2014, I was recognized by the American Association of Zookeepers with a "Lifetime Achievement Award" for my outstanding volunteerism. You never know who is watching, keeping track per se, but if something moves you, jump in with both feet. It's a pretty great feeling to help, even in the smallest of ways.