The Sea Turtle Derby is Back!

Rock the Ocean Naming Sea Turtles for Artists Performing in the 2020 Tortuga Music Festival

 – Derby to Help Support Sea Turtle Research and Conservation –


FORT LAUDERDALE/DAVIE, Fla. – And, they’re off!

For the second year, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) and the Conservation, Movement and Ecosystem Dynamics Lab at NSU is excited to be working with Rock the Ocean on the Second Annual Sea Turtle Derby.

This unique sea turtle “race” features six sea turtles named for some of the artists performing at this year’s Tortuga Music Festival. Festival goers and sea turtle enthusiasts alike can watch the progress of each of the artists’ turtle namesake online at To help bring awareness, the following artists have agreed to have turtles name for them in the derby:

  • Miranda Lambert,
  • Jon Pardi,
  • Cole Swindell,
  • Billy Currington,
  • Gabby Barrett, and
  • Niko Moon.

The winning artist, um, turtle will be declared on Wednesday, April 8.

While the participating artists are both male and female, the turtles in the derby are all females because it’s the mother turtles that are tagged on Broward’s beaches after they lay their eggs – male turtles spend their lives at sea.

This “turtle-tastic” race is made possible via NSU researchers, who are  using cutting-edge technology, equipping mother sea turtles that come ashore to lay their eggs with a satellite tracking tag (or beacon) that allows the tracking of each turtle’s movements after they leave Broward’s shores. It’s these “sat-tags” that allow the Sea Turtle Derby to track the paths of the six competing turtles – with the one that logs the most miles “winning” the derby.

“We’re thrilled to be doing the Sea Turtle Derby again this year,” said Derek Burkholder, Ph.D., a research scientist at Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Halmos College of Natural Sciences. “NSU has been part of the festival’s Conservation Village for many years, and this is a natural extension of those efforts. We thank the artists who are lending their names to our turtles – may the best artist, um, turtle win!”

Dr. Burkholder is also the Director of the Marine Environmental Education Center at the Carpenter House and the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program as well as a research scientist at NSU’s Guy Harvey Research Institute.

What makes this fan-interactive is that people can donate toward their favorite artist’s turtle, with their donation going toward sea turtle research and conservation.  Everyone who enters, donation or not, is entered to win the Grand Prize: two, 3-day general admission passes.

Along with the derby website, we’re encouraging fans to get updates and share information on social media using the hashtag #RaceToTortuga. Turtle tracking isn’t limited to the festival – sea turtle fans can visit anytime to see all of the turtles NSU has fitted with a satellite tag.

Each year, the festival strives to build upon the Conservation Village’s five core issues – shark conservation, turtle conservation, marine pollution, overfishing and coral reef degradation – onsite by providing compostable service-ware, enforcing no plastic straws or sales of plastic water bottles. In addition, the festival will be donating all leftover food and providing food that is responsibly caught and farmed. To date the festival has raised more than $2 million, with funds going to the Rock The Ocean’s Foundation to continue protecting the world’s oceans.

Throughout the festival weekend, fans can interact with the organizations that have been invited to share their expertise and efforts onsite in the Conservation Village. To find out more about each organization this year, visit:


Passes are available now at:


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About Nova Southeastern University (NSU): At NSU, students don’t just get an education, they get the competitive edge they need for real careers, real contributions and real life. A dynamic, private research university, NSU is providing high-quality educational and research programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree levels. Established in 1964, the university includes 16 colleges, the 215,000-square-foot Center for Collaborative Research, a private JK-12 grade school, the Mailman Segal Center (early childhood education) with specialists in Autism, the world-class NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, and the Alvin Sherman Library, Research and Information Technology Center, one of Florida’s largest public libraries. NSU students learn at our campuses in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Miramar, Orlando, Palm Beach, and Tampa, Florida, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico, and online globally. Classified as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, NSU is one of only 50 universities nationwide to also be awarded Carnegie’s Community Engagement Classification, and is also the largest private institution in the United States that meets the U.S. Department of Education’s criteria as a Hispanic-serving Institution. Please visit for more information.

About NSU’s Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography: The college provides high-quality undergraduate (bachelor’s degree) and graduate (master’s and doctoral degrees and certificates) education programs in a broad range of disciplines, including marine sciences, mathematics, biophysics, and chemistry. Researchers carry out innovative basic and applied research programs in coral reef biology, ecology, and geology; fish biology, ecology, and conservation; shark and billfish ecology; fisheries science; deep-sea organismal biology and ecology; invertebrate and vertebrate genomics, genetics, molecular ecology, and evolution; microbiology; biodiversity; observation and modeling of large-scale ocean circulation, coastal dynamics, and ocean atmosphere coupling; benthic habitat mapping; biodiversity; histology; and calcification. The college’s newest building is the state-of-the-art Guy Harvey Oceanographic Center, an 86,000-square-foot structure filled with laboratories; offices; seminar rooms; an auditorium; and indoor and outdoor running sea water facilities. Please visit for more information.

About the Marine Environmental Education Center (MEEC): The center was opened with the desire to educate and delight locals and tourists alike through our “forever ambassador” green sea turtle, Captain, and the splendor of the coastal environment of South Florida. The MEEC was fostered from a partnership between Broward County Parks and Recreation and NSU, and is located on the historic grounds of the Carpenter House at Hollywood North Beach Park in Hollywood, FL. Along with Captain, the site features an interactive Interpretive Center with displays ranging on topics from sea turtle conservation to marine debris. Additionally, the center offers programs for the public on various coastal ecology and sea turtle topics, as well as programming specifically for school groups with a curriculum tailored to the marine sciences. Please visit for more information.

Joe Donzelli