Discover Your Island

Cynthia Rubio

An Outstanding Islander

Photo of Cynthia Rubio

Saving an Endangered Species

Padre Island National Seashore is one of the few places in the world where the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nests. Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Alumna and Biologist Cynthia Rubio has spent the last 24 years protecting these rare reptiles. The Kemp’s ridley nesting season starts in April every year, which means Rubio is kicking it into high gear to save the smallest of sea turtles.

“The Kemp’s ridley and, in fact, all sea turtles represent the health of our oceans,” said Rubio. “If the sea turtles are not doing well, it becomes our responsibility to learn about this species and protect them.”

Rubio, who received her Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Biology from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in 2003, is part of the Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery at the National Seashore. There, she works to protect the Kemp’s ridley while they are nesting on Texas beaches. Once abundant, the Kemp’s ridley declined during the last century due to human development on nesting beaches, harvesting of eggs, and accidental capture.

“Everything the Kemp’s ridley is, represents our city,” said Rubio. “Corpus Christi can be very proud that this sea turtle is unique to our area. They love our narrow shell-covered beaches, our high tides, and strong winds.”   

Since 1991, Rubio has known she wanted to dedicate her life to protecting this wonderful sea turtle for future generations. What started as a fun summer internship on the beach turned into the career of a lifetime. Rubio has even had the opportunity to work at Rancho Nuevo, in Tamaulipas, Mexico, which is one of the few other places where the Kemp’s ridley nests.

“After finding and protecting a nest on Boca Chica beach, nearly 20 years ago, I immediately knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to this field,” said Rubio. “I am really proud of my career with the National Park Service.”

Rubio continues to use her skills to conduct outreach and training on sea turtle nest detection across the Texas coast. She is currently tracking Kemp’s ridley in the Gulf of Mexico to learn their feeding behaviors and movements after nesting.