Under sunny skies on September 16, a short and heartfelt ceremony dedicating a popular bronze sea turtle sculpture in memory of Millie Overman was held. Millie is known to many as the matriarch of the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (N.E.S.T.) and of sea turtle conservation on the Outer Banks.
Members of N.E.S.T., the N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island, and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission gathered to honor Millie’s legacy of conservation work and her welcoming personality that grew the volunteer program on the Outer Banks to one of the largest in the state. At the heart of Millie’s work was her ability to encourage and support anyone who had the desire to be involved with sea turtle conservation. The bronze statue is now marked with a plaque, “In memory of Millie Overman, N.E.S.T. Founding President. One person can make a difference and save sea turtles.”
Speakers at the ceremony remembered the beginnings of the vital conservation work. In the early 1990s, a small and dedicated group of permitted volunteers began to look for and protect sea turtle nests on the northern Outer Banks. This team received a permit from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and quickly worked with local municipalities to allow ATV patrols and established a 24-hour hotline. N.E.S.T. was incorporated as a 501c (3), and Millie was the organization’s first president.
In the years since the group was founded, N.E.S.T. and the Aquarium have partnered to rescue and rehabilitate sea turtles. N.E.S.T. continues to be an all-volunteer organization, protecting nests from the Virginia state line through Nags Head, maintaining a 24-hour hotline, patrolling for and responding to stranded sea turtles, and transporting these turtles to the STAR Center and to release sites. The Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center houses the rehabilitation work, with pools, medical supplies, and rehabilitation staff. The Center also allows the public to witness rehabilitation work up close while learning about the importance of sea turtles and the organizations that help conserve them.
To learn more about the work that N.E.S.T. does, visit nestonline.org. Read more about the STAR Center at ncaquariums.com/roanoke-island. Information about volunteering or donating can be found on each website.