The legacy of Llewellyn M. “Doc” Ehrhart, who passed away in 2022, will live on through his groundbreaking work as a professor, field biologist and marine turtle researcher. Now, a new endowment established in his honor by The National Save the Sea Turtle Foundation, will grow his legacy and help inspire a new generation of researchers in the field.

Ehrhart was instrumental in developing the University of Central Florida’s Marine Turtle Research Group (MTRG), which is focused on sea turtle biology, ecology, behavior and conservation across all sea turtle life stages — from eggs to adults. The data he and his students collected while surveying marine turtle behavior over the course of many years helped establish the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in 1991. In large part because of Ehrhart’s efforts, the Refuge’s 20 miles of coastline, stretching from Melbourne Beach to Wabasso Beach along Florida’s east coast, has had a dramatic resurgence of threatened and endangered species and hosts about one quarter of all sea turtle nesting in the United States.

Ehrhart was also instrumental in establishing the MTRG’s summer internship for UCF’s undergraduate students which has provided students with unique, hands-on research experiences every summer for almost two decades. The Dr. Llewellyn Ehrhart Sea Turtle Internship Endowed Fund will allow students, who have the desire but perhaps not the financial means, to consider an off-campus internship opportunity to engage in hands-on experiential field work and research.

The 16-week internship program involves students in the vital efforts of the Marine Turtle Research Group as they work on the beaches of the Refuge, considered the most important nesting beach in the Western Hemisphere for loggerhead turtles, and the most important beach in Florida for green sea turtles. Students spend time learning beach survey protocols, in-water field sampling techniques, how to flipper and PIT (microchip) tag a turtle, ATV and boat safety, and more, and are introduced to primary sea turtle literature to encourage their own research studies.

Thanks to the support of The National Save the Sea Turtle Foundation, several past student recipients, who once were at risk of not completing degrees due to financial stressors, have gone on to veterinary or graduate school, and conservation jobs at Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and other state agencies throughout the US. These students’ successes illustrate the power of philanthropy and the ongoing impact of the work of Dr. Ehrhart.

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