VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: JOEL COHEN
By Megan Maynard
This month our Volunteer Spotlight is Joel Cohen, who also was named the 2019 STPS Rookie of the Year volunteer. Joel moved to Melbourne Beach at the age of 13 and landed directly into Archie Carr territory. During his first summer there, his neighbors took him on a sea turtle walk, and he witnessed his first turtle laying eggs. The neighbor was a member of STPS, so Joel first heard about the organization during the turtle walk. His neighbor taught him how to surf, which led him to frequent the waves and often see turtles while riding the waves; he even spotted his first North Atlantic right whale.
Having a slew of hobbies may be an understatement when referring to Joel’s resume. After earning his dive certificate, he started working as a scuba diver. He fondly remembers his first job diving for treasure on the 1715 Spanish fleet that sank off the Florida coast. Until college, he continued to work at a dive shop and was on track to become a dive instructor but switched to auto mechanics, which also was a hobby at the time. Since his father was a mechanic and raced Corvettes, Joel was soon drawn to automotive mechanics and diagnostics.
In college, he majored in automotive technology and obtained his ASE certificate. As the years passed, he scaled the ladder moving to management and continued to service, store, group, and district manager. It was then he decided to return to school for computer engineering, and he ultimately merged his training and hobbies to start an internet auto parts business. After years of dedication and long work hours, he has created a solid business and staff that permits him to enjoy the sweeter side of life.
Since 2019, Joel has been more actively involved in STPS, now that his work demands have stabilized. He helps with nest surveys, night walks, events, and is getting involved with education. Any activity that allows him to interact with wildlife or be at the beach makes him happy. The nesting surveys are particularly rewarding because he feels it requires some detective work to piece things together.
Joel feels strongly that the more educated we become and share that education about our oceans and their inhabitants, the better we can save them. According to science, 80 percent of the oxygen we breathe is provided by the ocean and is a source for many foods.
While sitting and watching a mother loggerhead lay her eggs, Joel values being able to instill knowledge with STPS guests. He feels his greatest achievement is the ability to ignite that spark in others to change their habits to achieve conservation. He hopes that they will share their passion with others and have this wisdom spread exponentially so more of the world can help conserve these amazing species. Being a member of STPS also led him to go to Costa Rica and immerse himself in an eco-volunteer trip. It was 10 days of all “turtle work,” and he loved every minute of it. The repeat eco-trip is already in the works. He also branched out and volunteers at the Sea Turtle Healing Center at Brevard Zoo and relishes the wonderful volunteers there.
You may be surprised that volunteering will open new doors and friendships you never expected, says Joel, and the easiest way to find out is to join. If that isn’t possible, simple everyday changes in your life can minimize your carbon footprint. Reduce your use of single-use plastic, pick up a few pieces of litter while at the beach, lower your energy costs, or reduce your water waste. All of our small conscious choices can make a huge impact.