KEMP'S RIDLEY SEA TURTLES Scientists at the Conservancy have been collaborating with Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (RBNERR) on in-water studies to characterize sea turtle aggregations inhabiting the Ten Thousand Islands estuarine complex. A specially designed research vessel is used to rapidly deploy a large mesh tangle net to encircle and capture sea turtles. Kemp's Ridley The Kemp's ridley turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) is considered the most endangered sea turtle species in the world and also happens to be the most common sea turtle residing in the nearshore waters of Southwest Florida. Our estuaries provide the resources that young Kemp's ridleys need to grow to adulthood and females will one day emerge on the primary nesting beaches along the gulf coast of Mexico. Conservation efforts have brought the Kemp's ridley back from the brink of extinction but understanding how turtles live in estuaries and protecting these vital feeding areas will ensure the viability of this endangered species. Track the turtles' movements Kemp's ridleys are placed temporarily in holding tanks at RBNERR's field station for diet studies. Previous research found Kemp's ridleys are primarily feeding on solitary tunicates (i.e., sea squirts) in the Ten Thousand Islands. Cursory examination of recent samples suggests turtles in this region have shifted their diet to other types of bottom-dwelling organisms such as sponges and colonial tunicates.