Building a Better World
for Sea Turtles
Noah Adler is an instructional designer who dreams of life under the sea. “I am a huge marine biology nerd. I would have loved to have pursued that as a career. I just love learning about marine biology and accumulating all these random facts.”
Some of Noah’s favorite things he’s learned.
- A blue whale’s heart weighs as much as a taxi cab.
- A chambered nautilus can descend up to 2,000 feet underwater before its shell implodes from the sheer pressure.
- The sex of a sea turtle is determined by the temperature of the nest while they incubate.
That last fact he learned after meeting volunteers from the Kiawah Island Turtle Patrol while vacationing in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, with his family. He was intrigued by what the volunteers were doing, especially after they showed Noah and his family a turtle egg they were taking for genetic testing. The test results would help the patrol better know how many turtles successfully hatched from their nests and returned to Kiawah Island and the surrounding area.
Talking with the volunteers, Noah knew he had to get involved. “When you think about everything going on with climate change—rising acidity levels in the oceans, the amount of pollution we’re putting into them—you can’t help but think, ‘What can I do to help make things better?’ Volunteering with the turtle patrol is a really cool way to do that and help improve the hatch rates for turtle nests.”
Soon after Noah began volunteering with the turtle patrol, he joined TiER1 as an instructional designer. Getting exposed to the work that TiER1 does for clients gave Noah an idea: What if TiER1 could donate some of their time and expertise to help the nonprofit redesign their volunteer onboarding materials? Their current documents were over 20 years old and only existed in a single binder that volunteers had to share between each other.
As a new volunteer himself, Noah didn’t feel fully prepared to start saving turtles as soon as he hit the beach. “I had a pretty clear idea for the ‘why,’ but not exactly for the ‘how.’ And that made me start to wonder if other volunteers might be having the same issue, but they don’t have the time or know-how to resolve it.”
After floating the idea to TiER1ers on the Learning team, they helped Noah design a rough prototype of what the training might look like. Rather than having one large binder of information, the team wanted to tailor the content to fit the needs of the end user. They identified three distinct types of end users and began customizing onboarding content according to this blueprint:
- One guide for volunteers who focus on turtles laying their eggs and leaving the nests on the beach
- Another guide for volunteers who focus on baby turtles hatching out of those nests and going back to the ocean
- An infographic that communicates the process of the different volunteer patrols and how they factor into the turtle’s lifecycle
After developing the prototype, Noah and the Learning team quickly got to work analyzing the existing onboarding materials and redesigning and restructuring where needed to fit the needs of the different end users.
Thanks to their work, new and veteran volunteers felt more educated and confident about the tasks they needed to perform, and they were better able to communicate and explain what they were doing on the beach when stopped by curious beachgoers. The Kiawah Island Turtle Patrol even printed out the infographic as a poster to share during Turtle Day at the South Carolina Aquarium.
For Noah, the experience was immensely positive and life-affirming. “It’s incredibly gratifying to see a hatchling you helped swim off in the surf, and when young kids with their parents start asking you about what you’re doing, you have a terrific opportunity to inspire another generation of science-enthusiasts.”