The natural next step: The Schuberts carry the mission to save the sea turtles

By Elizabeth Sills


Parked at the Triangle North Executive Airport (LHZ) located in Louisburg, N.C. is a six-seat, blue and white Dahler plane whose back two seats have been replaced by rows of deconstructed banana crates. Instead of fruit, the crates cradle cold-stunned sea turtles. 

The plane belongs to Paul Schubert, a volunteer with the organization Turtles Fly Too (TF2). The group connects a network of pilots to turtle rehabilitation centers and marine hospitals around the country. Alongside his wife Sherry, the two spend their free time transporting sick turtles around the United States.

Before takeoff, Sherry helps load the turtles into the plane, assuring that they’re all facing the back of their assigned box so as to minimize their chances of escape. 

Not that wandering around 30,000 feet in the air would be appealing to a sick turtle. 

How they get sick

Since sea turtles are unable to regulate their own body temperature, cold stunning makes them incredibly weak when exposed to cold temperatures.  

 “They stop being able to use their body,” said Michelle Lamping, a turtle rehabilitation specialist at Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium. “It gets to the point where their organs, their vital function start to slow and then get to the point where they actually freeze.”

 And since the majority of sea turtle species are endangered, this makes their rescue all the more pressing. 

Paul and planes!

 The Schuberts have been flying for TF2 for seven years. Schubert’s father was a pilot who worked with the NASA space program in Cape Canaveral. He was responsible for plucking astronauts from the ocean after they safely returned to earth. While Mr. Schubert grew up surrounded by planes, he didn’t get his pilot’s license until he was 51. 

 After passing his pilot exam in 2007, the Schuberts began working with an organization that transported homeless animals from the northern U.S. to the southeast. One day they noticed an advertisement on the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association website for an opportunity to fly sea turtles. 

It seemed like the natural next step. 

Who is TF2?

 The organization, aptly named TF2, was the brainchild of Leslie Weinstein, a technology entrepreneur. Weinstein grew up in St. Augustine, Florida. He spent his childhood summers rescuing sea turtle eggs from poachers and relocating their nests into the safety of his family’s secluded yard. Ultimately, Weinstein would sell his property to fund education projects about sea turtles. 

Weinstein often received calls from veterinarians who had sick turtles and no means to transport them, so he found them a ride.

Starting up

 In 2014, TF2 transported their first passenger, a green sea turtle named Pierce. Pierce was bound for an aquarium in Iowa, where he was soon to become an education ambassador.

 As climate change escalates creating unpredictable cold snaps, Weinstein has exponentially expanded the non-profit. There are now 450 pilots in the TF2 database. They’ve even extended their rescue missions to other animals like fur seals. They survey whales caught in fishing lines. No matter how tall an order, Weinstein has a pilot ready to match its height. 

 “I believe in taking care of what’s in front of your eyes,” Weinstein said. 

 The same was true for the Schuberts. Paul describes himself as a business man. He’s managed medical equipment manufacturers, nursing homes, and a real estate agency. He currently manages a telehealth company. Flying is a side hustle.

 “I hate to do one thing when I can do two things,” Schubert said. “Or more.”

The first mission | how they met.

 Paul’s first flight was in Nov. 2016 when he and his son William transported 32 sea turtles from Massachusetts to Morehead City, N.C., Pine Knoll Shores, and Charleston, S.C.

 Paul met Sherry through her roommate, who applied to work as a salesperson at his telehealth company. Sherry was attending UNC-Chapel Hill to study nursing at the time. The two embarked on Schubert’s business ventures together, building medical treatment systems. 

 “We were a company of two,” Sherry said.

 “She was my first employee,” Schubert said. “I couldn’t run businesses and hold down all the strings of all the things that I do without her.”

 When she’s not flying with Schubert, Sherry crochets stuffed turtles to sell on her Etsy shop. All of the proceeds go to TF2.

 “I call them my carpool critters because I would make them when I was waiting in the carpool for my kids to get out of school,” Sherry said. “They’re now 25 and 27.”

Always to the rescue

 After Paul’s first flight for TF2, Sherry decided to dust off her crochet needle and contribute to the organization. 

 Ultimately, it was a lot.

 “[The turtles] paid for our software program for the internet that our website was built on. And our web maintenance,” Weinstein said. “Those little turtles pay for that.” 

 One of these turtles sits on Schubert’s desk in his office in Raleigh, N.C., in front of two huge computer monitors. The screens display a map of the United States, where Schubert enters the airport coordinates to track the route of his next turtle mission. 

 Although flights are becoming less frequent due to the warming waters brought on by spring and summer, Schubert remains always on call for when there might be a rogue turtle stranded somewhere. 

 “When you find something that’s important to do, you should do it. Otherwise, why else are we here?” Schubert said. “I don’t need to be known for it as long as what is important gets done.”

Edited by George Adanuty and Tajahn Wilson

Opinion divided: Quad tents push students into opposing camps

By Bethany Lee

A new space

Perched between a fire hydrant and a water grate, this spot is her hub. She’ll watch lectures, hang out with friends, hit her vape, and almost always sip on a specialty Starbucks drink she found the recipe for on Twitter.

Isabella Chow has sat in the same place on the quad for the four years she’s been at UNC-Chapel Hill: directly in front of Bingham Hall, on the raised brick lining the quad sidewalk. For Chow, it’s the perfect spot to relax and admire the campus.

At least, it was.

Chow’s view changed when UNC-CH erected outdoor study spaces around campus, like a beachfront property that suddenly looks out the window at a brick facade. 

“They’re so ugly,” Chow said, looking up from her toffee nut iced coffee to wince at the giant canopy in front of her. “It’s this big, ugly structure in the middle of the quad.”

University Response

The university installed outdoor seating in 2020 to provide students with low-risk study spaces while COVID-19 occupancy and mask restrictions are in place. More spaces were added a year later, bringing the count to 15 outdoor seating areas with over 850 seats.

The tents are not difficult to find. From pretty much anywhere on campus, students can look up and see a white canvas tent with chairs and tables underneath. Not designed with aesthetics as the first priority, the tents are like KN95 masks: useful, but not beautiful.

From the inside, curb appeal is easier to ignore. Between the velcro carpet and steel-barred canopy, students tumble past. Birds flick between trees, a pod of dining hall employees laughs beside the flagpole. Occupants eat lunch or do schoolwork in the shade.

Tent Lovers Anonymous

On sunny days, Cassia Sari sets up a spot underneath the large tent on the main quad. If she’s lucky, she secures a table where the shadow parts enough for her to sit in the sun.

“I usually try to go to the big metal one because it overlooks Wilson Library, so I can see how beautiful the campus is,” Sari said. “I don’t think it really distracts from the beauty of the campus.”

Not only does Sari disagree that the tents interfere with the campus’ beauty, she thinks they’re essential to keeping students safe. Also, Sari thinks studying there is better than sitting in the fluorescent flooded rooms in a packed library.

While the tents work best in warm weather, even on a cold, rainy day, Sari can be found underneath a side tent by Murphey Hall.

“It just depends on the way that you’re looking at it,” Sari said.

Rough and Tumble

In late January, on-campus students returned from a long weekend to a frightening sight; the tents had fallen.

Winter storm Izzy had blown through Chapel Hill, dumping snow and ice everywhere it went. The buildup proved too much for the tents to bear; they collapsed in droves all across campus.

For weeks, students walked past study station graveyards: broken canvas scattered around overturned tables and chairs. Some thought it meant the end of the tents.

Construction workers were soon spotted rebuilding the spaces. A few tents were brushed free of debris and reinstalled. Others had to be reordered after the snow ripped them apart.

Stephanie Berrier, the interim director of marketing and communications for the UNC Facilities Department, said the tents were not built to withstand adverse weather. Though subject to fire and safety codes, the tents are temporary.

To each, their own

To Sam Dalsheimer, the outdoor seating areas are “pretty okay.” He sits in the enclosed tents behind Lenoir Hall eating Mediterranean Deli spinach and chickpeas when the weather is too cold or rainy. 

“They’re very nice when it’s raining, but that’s about it,” he said.

Sam prefers eating in the tents to eating inside the dining halls, where students sit elbow-to-elbow without masks. A big reason for Sam’s habits is his 1-year-old daughter, Margot, who he wants to keep safe as the pandemic continues. 

Hope for the future

For many students, the end of the tents would mean the end of the pandemic. Stop Zoom classes, end the mask mandate and take down the tents.

Hannah Kaufman, a sophomore, was on campus for a few weeks before the university closed residence halls in the fall of 2020. She hardly remembers a time before the tents. Although she has used the seating areas to study with friends, she’s ready to see them go.

“Of course, COVID is not anywhere near done, but I think for me the tent is a reminder of the really stressful, restrictive semester that I had last year,” Kaufman said.

Pack it up

The end might be closer than she thinks. Although mask mandates are indefinite and Zoom is ever-present, the tents will officially be removed after Spring Commencement, according to Berrier.

Kaufman imagines what the quad must look like when the tents come down. It’s the image she’s seen on advertisements for UNC, ones that don’t include masks, social distancing, or giant canvas tents. The open quad was covered with students, everyone exactly where they were supposed to be.

“I’ve seen beautiful pictures of the quad from years ago on a summer day. Everyone’s sitting outside talking with their friends in little groups,” she said. “I guess I’m just kind of hoping for that.”


Edited by George Adanuty and Tajahn Wilson