GoCanvas: Data at our fingertips

The new season started in mid-July with our volunteers perhaps finding a few nests one night, none the nest, a couple of nights with nests, another night without…  But in the past week or two, we’ve seen the activity really increase with our volunteers finding and relocating ten nests just last night.  It’s a good time to remind anyone that’s interested to check out our adopt-a-nest program.

Portion of the GoCanvas Patrol App.

Adding to the excitement of the new season, we are very excited that this will be the first full season with our new data collection system made possible by the good people at GoCanvas.com.  A special shout-out to Ewan, Zach, and Jason at GoCanvas.com for their efforts on behalf of the camp.

Until mid-way through the 2018-2019 season, we collected all of our data by hand. Pencil and paper.  On the beach, in the dark, in the rain, in the blowing wind. For each patrol event, we are required to collect the GPS coordinates and other details that vary depending on the situation. This meant that at least one volunteer had to have a smart phone with a GPS app for coordinates. We would look up the coordinates, then write them down on a log sheet. Later another volunteer would type them into a spreadsheet along with the rest of the information (species, date, time, # of eggs, whether we saw a live turtle, tag numbers if we tagged her, measurements, etc.).  The handwriting was often hard to read, and coordinates were inconsistent because different Apps reported them in different formats.  Paper sheets got wet and were sometimes torn or had smeared writing. We did our best and reported good data to the various governmental and advocacy organizations, but….

Google map with details of each patrol entry.

There had to a better way, didn’t there?

So, the search began for an app we could all install on our mobile phones that would allow us to type the data in as we went.  Our search found the GoCanvas application which would enable us to design our own forms (collecting data we defined) and it even included a built in way to capture GPS coordinates and photos.  As much as it seemed like a perfect fit, as a non-profit, we were pretty sure we would not be able to afford the cost of a sophisticated application like GoCanvas.  But, it couldn’t hurt to ask, right?

Section of our corral chart showing the details of each nest in its’ location in the corral.

The response from GoCanvas was fast and it was positive.  While the typical organization using their platform is nothing like us, they did actually have some relevant experience from working with an anti-poaching group in Africa that uses their GoCanvas to collect data for the purpose of protecting and sustaining the local Rhino population.   Best of all, they were willing to work with us and because of their extreme generosity, we were able to begin experimenting with GoCanvas immediately.  Within a few weeks, we were using it on patrols instead of the paper log.

Sample section of our Due To Hatch report showing cronological list of nests listed by expected hatch date.

Sample of Monthly Summary Report.

The next step was to automate the gathering of the remaining nest related data.  For that, we used the GoCanvas platform again to create Apps that would allow the patrol volunteers to record the location of the nest in the corral.  With that location data, we now have the ability to quickly and easily see what nest locations in the corral are due to hatch.   This allows us to pay special attention to them and then record the date when the first hatchlings emerge.  With the first hatch date now easily available, we can quickly clean out the nests when it’s time.  It is critical to do the cleanout in a timely way because sometimes live hatchlings are stuck in the broken shells of other hatchlings and need a helping hand to emerge.  By closely tracking our first hatch date, we can intervene with the cleanout at the optimal time – before it’s too late while also not being too early.

Now, with all this data available through GoCanvas, the final piece was to tie it together and we’re fortunate to have some volunteers with computer experience that could do that.  Using a custom written computer program, we are now able to run a process each day that pulls patrol, corral location, first hatch, and cleanout data from the GoCanvas “cloud” and compile it into a single set of data for each nest.

This form in our custom system downloads GoCanvas cloud data and compiles it into our various output web pages, reports, and spreadsheets.

The daily process also generates a Google map that shows each patrol log entry including nests with eggs, poached nests, nests eaten by dogs, locations of dead or stolen turtles, places where turtles came out but didn’t lay eggs or dropped their eggs too close to the ocean where they were washed out, and other exceptions we encounter.

This data goes into several reports and web pages we generate to manage things at the camp and also into the format we’re required to use to do our external reporting.

With this data at our fingertips, the possibilities are endless in terms of what we can analyze and measure.  Where is the poaching happening and when.  How about places where dogs are eating nests?  How long are nests taking to hatch now when the sand is moist but the temperatures high versus later in the season when the sand is dry but the temperatures are cooler?  This data also makes it possible for us to have started our Adopt-a-Nest program which involves taking photos for our adopters during the patrol, first hatch, and release.

With GoCanvas making our data collection process so much easier, we can actually look forward to doing our reports at the end of the season because really, it’s already done. The reporting will be a breeze. No more piles of paper, no more trying to read the log sheets that are sandy, torn, and smeared, no more chicken scratch handwriting, and best of all no more typing into a spreadsheet.

This form in our custom program helps us keep track of our Adopt-A-Nest information so that we can be sure to communicate in timely way with our nest adopters.

Thank you again to GoCanvas for the generosity and willingness to help us be better at what we do.  Thank you GoCanvas for your support  Come see us sometime and checkout your system in action!

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Summer Camp Activities

The second week of summer camp was another busy one with field trips to the Amigos de Animales dog corral and cat safe house.  The campers got to spend time with the cats in their space and dogs on a nature walk and inside the corral.

Later in the week, the campers visited the nearby Bet Shalom Senior Home where they presented a puppet show all about sea turtles and the environment.  After the puppet show, small groups of campers paired up with individual residents to read a book together.

Finally, Friday night, after the closing ceremony, many of the campers returned to camp overnight and go on a walking sea turtle patrol.  Unfortunately, the only encounter they had was with a deceased sea turtle but it was a learned experienced that reinforced some of the things the campers learned about the environment and the dangers faced by sea turtles and all sea life.

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Olivia Needs a Home

This sweet kitten that we named Olivia, showed up at the camp alone recently – we’re pretty sure she was dumped from a passing car.  We have been caring for Olivia and love her but we don’t have a safe place for her to stay with us forever.

Can you please give Olivia a clean, safe, and loving home?  We really hope one of our supporters can make her part of their family.  Please, consider giving Olivia a home.

Please share this urgent request with any of your friends, family, co-workers, or anyone else that you think might be able to give Olivia the home she deserves.

For more information, contact us at info@ayotlcalli.org.

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Summer Camp Visits El Refugio de Potosí

Yesterday, our summer campers visited the always spectacular Refuge of Barra de Potosí. All of us that live locally, and especially the children, are lucky to have such a first class facility in our small town. The mission of the refuge is the “Conservation of the flora and fauna of the coastal, tropical dry forest region near Zihuatanejo, Jose Azueta, Guerrero, Mexico.” In addition to all the flora and fauna, there is a collection of local wildlife that has been rescued and rehabilitated by the refuge that the campers learned about.

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Summer Camp Visit to Organic Farm at Marea

This morning, our campers visited the nearby organic garden at Marea Beach resort on Playa Blanca. The kids learned about nutrition, where their foods come from, and the importance of natural gardening without pesticides and other chemicals. They all had a great time and were able to bring home some shoots to plant for themselves.

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Summer Camp Raffle Winner

Zaneta and Damaris at the Turtle Camp.

Yesterday was the first day of our Summer Camp and also the drawing for our raffle supporting the camp.

The winning ticket was #10, held by Zaneta Stasiskiene of Kaunas, Lithuania (WOW!) where she is a professor at the University of Technology, Kaunas.  Zaneta met Damaris while visiting the turtle camp last year and stayed in touch and has been an active supporter of our activities since.  Congratulations Zaneta and thank you.

Ready for the raffle drawing.

We also send our heartfelt thanks to all that participated in the raffle and/or otherwise supported the summer camp by providing scholarships and other financial support.

The fee charged for children to attend our camp is modest and is just enough to cover the cost of transportation, meals, and supplies which are provided to the children.  But even a small fee is more than many local families can afford which is why your support is so important.  Thank you!

We’ll post more about the camp and the children’s activities over the next couple of weeks.

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Support Summer Camp for Children and Win a Prize!

A beautiful painting of a sea turtle hatchling crawling to the sea, donated by local artists is the prize that will go to our raffle winner!!!!

How do I buy a ticket, you ask?  Well, the tickets are not ‘for sale’.

We are giving them away to anyone who donates US$15 (or more!) to support our summer camp Guerreros del Arcoiris.

If you are not local, not to worry!  This painting, conveniently sized at 12×14 can be easily shipped to you.  If you are a local for the part of the year, we are happy to hold it for you until you get here.

If you are a local and would prefer to donate in person, just contact Patty @ 755-136-9607 or psulligirl@gmail.com.

The camp is a fun and educational 2 weeks in July, and your donation helps us provide this great experience to the children.

We have shared information about the camp in the past, but in case you missed it, this two-week camp includes many different activities for the children and could not happen without the help of our volunteers, from near and far.

The children learn not just about sea turtles, but about taking care of the environment (and why we need to) and taking care of themselves (nutrition and exercise).  We have arts and crafts, field trips, and educational games.  While they are focused on the fun activities, they often don’t even notice that they are reading, writing and doing arithmetic!


Click HERE to make a donation and receive one or more raffle chances. 


If you would like to sponsor a child, which covers the tuition cost and transportation, click HERE.


Here some pictures from last year.

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Proof that we get the BEST volunteers!

As you may have heard, Campamento Tortuguero Ayotlcalli holds a camp each summer for local children.  This two-week camp includes many different activities for the children and could not happen without the help of our volunteers, from near and far.

The children learn not just about sea turtles, but about taking care of the environment (and why we need to) and taking care of themselves (nutrition and exercise).  We have arts and crafts, field trips, and educational games.  While they are focused on the fun activities, they often don’t even notice that they are reading, writing and doing arithmetic!


Last year we had a special volunteer, all the way from Ireland.  Kathleen came to the area for a period of time to help out in the Children’s Library of Barra de Potosi.  She just happened to be here during our summer camp the 3rd and 4th weeks of July.  Since many of the children that use the library were attending the camp, she found out about it and wanted to participate.  Not only did she help out from 7am to 2pm every day at the camp, but she was also the chaperone on the van that transported many of the children to camp each day.  What a trooper!

Kathleen liked what she was doing so much, that she even came back some evenings to participate in hatchling releases.  Through her curiousness and flexibility, she learned a lot about sea turtles and the challenges they face because of the changing environment.  She went home as an advocate for sea turtles and for the environment!  And, we have yet another forever friend on the other side of the world!  Isn’t it funny and wonderful how life works out?

We are so proud, and were very excited to learn that on May 18th Kathleen was awarded the Global Citizen Award – Gold Award!

Here is a video of Kathleen’s acceptance speech.

In her note to us about the award she said:

In my application, one of the main things I talked about was the Turtle Sanctuary which I am so proud to talk about and promote.  So when I accept, I will be thinking of you.
     Xx Kathleen

Congratulations Kathleen!!!!  You so deserve this very special award.  We hope to see you again someday our friend!
Xx, Your friends at Campamento Tortuguero Ayotlcalli

Of course, the summer camp cannot happen on volunteers support alone.  If you think the summer camp is a worthwhile activity, won’t you please consider supporting it?

We make it so easy to do!  On our One-Time Donation page, we have two very special categories.  Education Sponsor, which makes you a general sponsor of summer camp activities and supplies.  The other option is a Summer Camper Scholarship, which enables one child to attend the camp for free, including transportation.

Thank you, as always, for your generosity and support!

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Final Daily Patrol of the Season

It is with some sadness and a huge sense of accomplishment that we report our last scheduled patrol of the season (30 April 2019).  We’ve been patrolling daily since last July and the season is now at its’ end.  Your blogging couple here drew the lucky stick and was on the schedule for the last day!

We will still do random patrols a couple of times each week just to check for late comers, and to check on the beach.  Of course, we will continue to respond to calls from our locals who see turtles or tracks (call 755.121.1021), so if you see something – say something!

Preparation for Patrol.

As we wrap up the season, we thought it would be interesting and/or fun to report our statistics and to relate some of our patrol stories.

We volunteers have finished a patrol with as many as 20-something nests, we’ve come back empty-handed, and everything in between.   We have been hot.  We have been cold.  We have been dry and wet.  We have seen multiple mamas on the beach in one night and gone days or longer without seeing one.  And we have loved every minute!

We have found nests with the first poke of our stick (think mic-drop!) and poked, poked, poked to the point of almost giving up when we found the soft spot (think falling forward because you are not expecting it).

In addition to the turtles we saw this year, we had some wonderful and some oddball things show up on the beach at night.  We’ve seen crocodile tracks (thankfully no crocodiles close-up!), giant drawings left behind by vacationers, wandering horses, skunks, lots of dogs, a variety of deceased sea life, and an amazing amount of night sky events.  We’ve seen huge orange full moons, shooting stars, total blackness providing a great view of the Milky Way, planets looking down on us, clear bright skies and skies with clouds and rain.  And on this very last patrol, we got to see a neon blue show of bioluminescence created by red tide in the rolling waves!  So amazing!

Oddest things left behind on the beach:

The new night-time perspective of our beautiful beach is priceless.

Volunteer Steve says “I think the thing I enjoyed most was taking volunteers and visitors out on patrol and seeing their faces when they had that National Geographic moment. That and the turtle releases, handing out the babies to the kids. I asked one little girl what she named her turtle, and she looked at me with determination and said “Bob”…. well, ok then…”

Wendy says “We love the peacefulness.  Loved the design tracks of different turtles- Golfina prints grazing the sand surface/ Prieta engraving the sand/ Laud took the farm tractor for a spin!

National Geographic moments were coming along a turtle, watching her lay her eggs and seeing her return to the ocean and then when we dug the eggs out how warm the nest was and holding the eggs with gloved hand to rebury. Very magical to see the fruits of our labor of love producing turtles 45 days later.

Most surprising live creatures (other than turtles) we encountered:


We (Patty and Mitchell) had a hotel caretaker wave us down to let us know a turtle had been there.  He had noted the exact spot and was waiting for the patrol to pass by, as he knew we always do.  Later in the season we came upon him keeping dogs away from a mama turtle so she could crawl safely to the sea!  These interactions certainly restore one’s faith in the human race.

We found and returned a cell phone to a night reveler who lost his phone on the beach.  We are pretty sure we got him in trouble with his girlfriend by our good Samaritan efforts!  Apparently, she did not know he had been to a party on the beach.

We lost a metal water bottle one night and the next night’s team found it which goes to show how quiet our beach can be.


A sample of deceased creatures (other than turtles) we encountered:


Counts for the season starting in July 2018

Logged items (this includes any sighting or evidence of a turtle on the beach, live or deceased)

Nests rescued – 1,084

Eggs collected – 97,046

Turtles encountered (live) – 121

Turtles tagged – 68

Turtles encountered (deceased) – 26

Nests poached by dogs – 113

Nests poached by humans – 127

Turtles poached (killed) by dogs – 3

Turtles poached (taken) by humans – 2

We are already making plans for next season, talking about changes and/or improvements we can make.  Some things are in process now and will be a reality before we get started next season and some are pie-in-the-sky dreams.

One thing we would love to improve upon next year is our patrol frequency.  Currently, we are limited by both funds and manpower to doing one patrol per night.  With 2 patrols on a given night, we hope that we can decrease the poaching numbers.  You can see in the above list that we have lost 240 nests to dog and human poachers combined this year.  Since the poachers don’t always come out when we are around, more of us means less of them!

To that end, if you are local, please consider joining our team.  There are many ways to get involved!  We think patrol is great fun, but if going out in the middle of the night is not for you, we have lots of other volunteer opportunities.  Maybe helping out at releases, or the Ecotianguis in Zihuatanejo is more up your alley?  We can also have ‘desk jobs’ (reporting, marketing, blog writing, and more) if you are not able to come on-site!

If you are not local, won’t you consider becoming a sustaining member?  This will help us put gas in the ATV tanks and keep them both running.

Thank you all for your love and support this season!

If you are still in town, we do still have hatchlings on the schedule for the next 45 days or so.  Check our Facebook page for release announcements.


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A Whole Family of Adopters!

Well, this is a first for us.  A family of supporters each want their very own nest!

Robert & Kathern

A couple from Montana that live here part time and support the camp full time contacted us recently to talk about a very special adoption.

First the back story!

Kathern and her husband Robert spend their winters in Playa Blanca in order to escape the snow and cold of their ranch up north.  Given the long Montana winters, they escape just some, not all, of the cold snowy weather, often leaving snow in the early winter and returning to the final snows of spring!

They have been coming to Playa Blanca since before the Turtle Camp was founded.  Soon after the camp began, Kathern visited and become hooked.  She is what we would call an unofficial volunteer.  Even though she is not on our volunteer list, she is always on the lookout for turtles and turtle tracks.

Kathern with her rescued nest

She has often called us to report tracks leading to a nest or turtles on the beach along one of her lengthy walks.  In one case, she helped our patrol volunteer locate and rescue the eggs of a nest she had seen.  In another case she gathered up neighbors to surround a group of about 75 baby turtles that were crawling to the sea right in front of the beachfront community where she and Robert live.  They worked together to keep the babies safe and even leveled out some of the sand in front of the little crawlers to make the long trek little bit easier.

Another one of her unofficial volunteer activities is beach cleanup.  Walking on the beach daily for exercise, Kathern will come back with bags full of trash and recyclable items, even alternating direction daily for maximum effect.  This does so much to protect the turtles’ habitat, and we are so fortunate to have Kathern and several other like-minded and dedicated folks who help keep our beaches clean.

Now about the family!

Some years ago, Kathern and Robert’s 3 grown children decided that instead of exchanging Christmas presents among themselves and their children, they would pool the money and find a charity where they could donate their ‘Christmas Presents’.    In the past, they have helped one of our local schools here.  A visit to the school by the grandchildren really impressed upon them how fortunate they are.

Except for one of their grandchildren, everyone in the family was here to celebrate a milestone birthday of Robert’s and one of the activities they participate in while here, was…a baby turtle release!  They have seen the work we do first-hand, and this year they selected us to receive their ‘Christmas Present’.  We all thought it would be great fun to put the donation towards adopted nests for the whole family!  Each of the four adult couples and every one of the eight grandchildren will be the proud parent of their own baby turtle nest!

We were very touched to hear Kathern tell us a story about one grandson.  Two years ago, he was given a small amount of spending money to buy Christmas gifts for his two siblings. His parents suggested that he use this money for someone less fortunate.  So he asked his grandmother if she could buy some soccer balls for the local school children instead.  You can really see how this dedication to helping others has passed from generation to generation in the Evans family!

Since it is the end of the season and we will probably not have a nest for everyone before it ends, we decided together with Kathern and Robert to wait until the beginning of next season.  This way everyone will have their nests found within a short time of one another.  Do we see a game for the children – whose nest will hatch first?  Sorry to say, you will all have to wait till July or August for pictures of their nests, so stay tuned!

We will be sure to write an update blog as their family adoptions go from nest collection to hatchling release.

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