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MISHELL: Sea Turtle Drones & STEM Education Presentation

By Nicole Weatherholtz

Dr. Ron Pandolfi presents on the integration of single board computers and sensors that give self-awareness to “MiSHELL the Sea Turtle Drone”

On August 20, 2016, Katie’s Coffee House in Great Falls, Virginia Mike Kearney hosted Kashmir World Foundation’s MISHELL Autonomous Sea Turtle Drone and Stem Education Presentation in order to raise awareness about threatened and endangered sea turtles throughout the world. Members of Kashmir World Foundation recently traveled to Melbourne, Florida, where three of the five different species of sea turtles who nest in Florida, come to lay their eggs. The mission of the trip was to teach a Fly for Conservation drone building workshop at the Barrier Island Sanctuary Education Center, collect aerial imagery on sea turtle tracks and nests and most importantly learn how we can help conservation efforts for these incredible animals.

Princess Aliyah Pandolfi, Executive Director of Kashmir World Foundation, works with the University of Central Florida, Marine Turtle Research Group Team to prepare their drone for its first flight at the Barrier Island Sanctuary Education Center.

The MiSHELL Drone is a project of Kashmir World Foundation. Its goal is to detect, characterize, and locate sea turtle tracks along the coastlines in order to alert their conditions and locations to nearby field biologists and volunteers. The MiSHELL Drone is an autonomous drone, which will have the capabilities to cover a much larger portion of the coastlines in a much shorter time than current conservation methods, which involve walking or searching the beaches with ATVs until sea turtle tracks and nests are found. During our recent trip, our team was extremely excited to discover that images and videos of sea turtle tracks were easily captured by drones. We are excited to continue our research, which will include drones equipped with onboard computing power and thermal imaging cameras, which will allow us to find nesting turtles and emerging hatchlings at night.

Guests in attendance included local and out of state residents who shared a passion for animal conservation, drones, STEM education or a combination. Children as young as two years old attended the event with their parents. Four year old Brenna attended the event with her mother and two year old brother. She told me of her love of sea turtles as she held onto her book about them and even knew at her young age that the leatherback was the largest species. Kashmir World Foundation not only strives to find new ways to use drone technology to solve real world problems, it is also dedicated to teaching this technology and how it can benefit our world to our children at an early age.

Four year old Brenna, her mother, and two year old brother learn about how drones can impact and improve current sea turtle conservation methods.

Currently, only 1 in 1,000 sea turtle hatchlings survive to adulthood, which should definitely raise concern, because these turtles play a critical role in the Earth’s ecosystem. The rate of animals becoming extinct continues to rise at a rapid pace. Factors such as pollution, overconsumption, and habitat destruction are causing the number of multiple species to decline at a catastrophic rate. This loss of species is depleting the diversity of life on earth, and a loss of diversity can make all life vulnerable. Fortunately, there is still hope for the survival of these remarkable animals, and together, we can make a difference. Visit to learn about how you can get involved.

Silent auction displayed a sea turtle hatchling, 4D Sea Turtle Ocean Poster, and a Kashmir Rose shawl.

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