THEN: Growing up in landlocked Kansas, Darlene Duggan did not see a beach until she was 20 years old. After she moved to Delray Beach in 1986, however, Duggan spent as much time as she could near the ocean, taking regular walks at least a couple of days a week. The now-retired owner of Nanny’s Attic, an arts and crafts shop in an old house on Swinton Avenue, Duggan was strolling by the shore one day in 2007 when she ran into a friend who was helping to coordinate the sea turtle monitor program for the town of Gulf Stream. She learned that turtle season was just starting and volunteers were needed. The friend asked Duggan if she’d be interested in helping, and soon Duggan was tracking turtle nests and, later, digging them to ensure hatchlings made it out safely. “I didn’t know a thing about sea turtles at the time,” she recalls. “I just thought it was so interesting.”
“Once you experience being a part of helping the environment, you realize how important it is, and it brings you a lot of satisfaction.”Darlene Duggan
NOW: A regular on the beach two days a week during turtle nesting season, which started March 1, Duggan, 65, has had the chance to share her knowledge of sea turtles with hundreds of residents and curious visitors who happen upon her while she’s working with a nest. That informal role as sea turtle ambassador expanded in 2016 when Jackie Kingston, the longtime holder of the state permit required to work with turtles, started Sea Turtles Adventures, a multifaceted nonprofit organization that operates an environmental program. Now Duggan is sometimes called on to take visitors along with her as she goes on her morning nesting survey. “We take people out on the beach so they can experience the process,” she says. Duggan also helps with periodic beach cleanups organized by Sea Turtle Adventures and with iCare, an interactive environmental education program for young adults with special needs.