By Della Watson
Grilled: Rose Johnson | In Memoriam | Turtle Town: After the Storm
Invading the Privacy of the People Who Make the Club Tick
Photo by Natalie Moser
Name: Giao Tran
Location: Garden Grove, California
Contribution: Inner City Outings leader
How did you become an "outdoors lifer"?
I had a biology teacher in high school named Mr. Fujiyama, who was also the adviser for the Wilderness Adventures Club. Some posters on his classroom wall were of the outdoors. They were kind of goofy pictures—people weren't just hiking; they were having fun. I told him that it looked really cool, and he asked me if I wanted to join.
And you had never spent any time in the wilderness before?
So your parents weren't into camping?
It just wasn't part of our family culture. There was this religious youth group that would have camping trips, and I would ask my mom if I could go, and she would say, "No, camping's dirty, and I can't keep an eye on you."
What's scary about being out in nature?
When you're alone at night, sometimes you get this eeriness, like when you hear a branch cracking and you feel someone behind you, or you're in a tent and the wind comes.
What are some funny things that have happened on your outings?
On a Wilderness Adventures Club trip, we had Spam musubi [similar to Spam sushi], and Mr. Fujiyama ate a spoonful of wasabi. It's kind of like a punch in the face, that's how strong it is. He got all red and everyone was clapping. We called him the wasabi monster!
What trips do you have planned?
It is on my bucket list to backpack all the way through Vietnam. I want to see everything from the urban lifestyle to the countryside. I've been to Vietnam twice in my life to visit family, and both times were in the city of Saigon. So many things to explore...
—interview by Cyndy Patrick
Do you know a Sierra Club volunteer who deserves recognition? Send nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sierra Club board member and longtime activist Jonathan Ela passed away on October 31. "Jonathan Ela was an exceptional environmental champion who served the Sierra Club as both a staff member and a volunteer for more than four decades," said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. "His passion and his wisdom will be deeply missed."
Turtle Town: After the Storm
Baby turtles in New Jersey | Courtesy of Ivy Derderian
Terrapin hatching season had just drawn to a close when Hurricane Sandy swept sea and sand over Long Beach Island, New Jersey. In the emotionally fraught days that followed, Kathy Lacey pieced together news of family, friends, and the barrier island's unofficial mascot: the diamondback terrapin.
"It's not just people and property that have been affected," Lacey said about a week after the storm. "Our wildlife has suffered as well."
Sandy is the latest chapter in the island's turtle saga. Lacey, a K-8 grade environmental science teacher, started the Terrapin Nesting Project in 2011. She enlisted environmental groups (the Sierra Club provided a grant), universities, and locals—including a precocious seven-year-old "intern" named Grace—to educate the community, track the turtles, relocate nests, and build and operate a hatchery. Her efforts paid off: "Everywhere I go in town, somebody will say, 'Oh, I helped a turtle cross the road today,'" Lacy said in an earlier interview. "It's become Turtle Town."
As townsfolk rallied to protect the turtles from raccoon predation and diminishing habitat, additional threats arose. The island's crows cleverly learned how to track the turtles to their nests; Lacey once spotted a crow lurking behind a nesting turtle and plucking eggs from the sand as she laid them. Meanwhile, the profitable pet trade in diamondback terrapins—the only U.S. turtle that can live in both saltwater and freshwater—inspired a different sort of predator. Last July, Lacey discovered that 52 eggs had been stolen from the nests, prompting the group to install a surveillance camera and locks on the protective cages.
Nevertheless, by the end of hatching season, 2012 looked like a success: 1,091 eggs were relocated and the project saw a 94 percent hatch rate.
Then Sandy hit. In the days after the storm, some bay-dwelling turtles washed up weak and stunned on the ocean-facing beaches. At press time, Lacey hadn't yet returned to the island, but she was heartened when she spotted the hatchery, apparently intact, on aerial news footage.
"It may take years to return to some semblance of normalcy," Lacey said. "But those who love the island won't stop until the job is done."
HOW TO HELP Visit the Sierra Club Activist Network or the Terrapin Nesting Project's Facebook page for updates and ways to help.