Yet Another Reason to Study Abroad: Sea Turtles & Environmental Activism!


Have you ever wondered how art can impact social activism? See what this Tufts student found during her semester in Baja California Sur with The School for Field Studies.

The School for Field Studies Alumna’s Sea Turtle Conservation Research Featured in Permanent Exhibition at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Alyssa Irizarry’s Muralism Research Showed Sea Turtle Murals Are Effective in Developing Pro-Environmental Attitudes in Baja California Sur

Salem, MassachusettsOctober 25, 2010 – The School for Field Studies (SFS) alumna Alyssa Irizarry will be featured in a permanent exhibition at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The Open Ocean will include a documentary highlighting research that Irizarry conducted in muralism and sea turtle conservation while studying with The School for Field Studies in Baja California Sur in 2009. The exhibition, opening in July, interprets open-ocean animals of the Pacific.

“This recognition by the Aquarium is a testament to the important work The School for Field Studies students are doing in Baja California Sur (BCS) and beyond. It is also recognition of the power of international field research and an appreciation of Alyssa’s creative approach to examining the role of art in conservation and education,” said SFS Dean Dr. Robin Sears.

“It is an honor to have my muralism research featured alongside environmental artists who have inspired me throughout my academic and personal pursuits. This exhibition takes my results beyond SFS and a small community in Mexico to a wider audience and has the potential to spread awareness and empower viewers,” said Irizarry. “I hope it inspires other individuals and leaders to be active and creative participants in their own communities and environments.”

Irizarry’s research examined how public murals depicting sea turtle conservation affect environmental consciousness and behaviors of community members on the Mexican Baja Peninsula. Irizarry found that exposure to sea turtle murals, commonly found in public spaces in BCS, are especially effective in developing pro-environmental consciousness and can possibly incite action.

Irizarry, who is a 2010 graduate of Tufts University, conducted her research in spring 2009 as part of The School for Field Studies semester program “Conserving Marine Mammals & Coastal Ecosystems” in BCS. Her research earned her The School for Field Studies’ bi-annual Distinguished Student Research Award in December for breaking ground in academic circles and reinforcing the mission of the marine animal conservation movement in Mexico.

Irizarry’s research, which was conducted under the direction of Dr. Andrew Schneller, lecturer of environmental policy at The SFS Center for Coastal Studies, contributed to the Center’s Five Year Research Plan. El Grupo Tortuguero, an organizational leader in the grassroots sea turtle movement and SFS research collaborator also received a $1,000 donation from the Aquarium for their role in sea turtle conservation education.

This story was initially released by The School for Field Studies on October 25th.