Getting to Know the St. Kitts Sustainable Destination Council: Dr. Kimberly Stewart

Founder and Director of St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network

Crouching down on the beach in the dark of night, waiting for a mother sea turtle to emerge from the waves to lay her eggs, this is just another day “at the office” for Dr. Kimberly Stewart, the Founder and Director of St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network.

Growing up caring for goats, cows, and pigs on a farm in Statesboro, Georgia, Kimberly’s passion for animals blossomed early on. From a young age she knew she wanted to be a veterinarian.

Sure enough, in 2002, Kimberly’s childhood dreams came true when she left her home in Georgia to begin veterinary school in St. Kitts. Fifteen years later she not only continues to call St. Kitts “home,” but has also founded the island’s first and only turtle conservation organization – the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network (SKSTMN).

As a conservation specialist, Kimberly comes face-to-face with many of the problems that threaten St. Kitts’ marine wildlife. The island’s beaches and the surrounding waters provide a valuable habitat for the critically endangered hawksbill, endangered green, and threatened leatherback sea turtles that build their nests on St. Kitts’ sandy shores each year. Among other issues, the waste generated by tourism has resulted in an increased amount of litter ending up on beaches and in the sea. In addition, the recent coastal development and growing number of people on St. Kitts’ beaches can throw off the turtles’ nesting patterns. With only 1 in 1,000 sea turtles estimated to survive to adulthood, these additional threats pose a grave risk to the species.

A female leatherback sea turtle nesting on Keys Beach

With the St. Kitts Sustainable Destination Council’s focus on enhancing sustainability, Kimberly realized it made perfect sense to get involved with this effort. She’s witnessed how the Sustainable Destination Council (SDC) is transforming St. Kitts for the better, through community awareness campaigns, such as Plastic Free July, and its involvement with sustainability projects, such as beach cleanups and the Rails to Trails project.

Kimberly believes that being a member of the SDC means setting an example of sustainability in her everyday life and sharing her knowledge with others in the community. “Sustainability is a responsibility of every member of the population, not just members of the Council,” she says.

Kimberly promotes sustainability and conservation in SKSTMN classes, camps, and presentations at local community centers, clubs, resorts, and schools. She lives for the moments when a child’s eyes light up after seeing a sea turtle for the first time or when she helps someone realize how important it is to protect them.

Learning about sea turtle health in St. Kitts. Photo by Juanna Berry.

What does Kimberly think is ahead for the SDC? One word sums it up: “Success.” Or in other words: “A huge change in the sustainability practices surrounding tourism in all of our sectors.”

This post is part of the “Getting to Know the St. Kitts Sustainable Destination Council” blog series. View the series here to learn about some of the other members of the SDC.  

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