Since the program’s inception, we have documented over 284,000 hatchlings from Keewaydin Island reaching Gulf of Mexico waters for their chance at becoming adults.
Our sea turtle team monitors Keewaydin Island for nesting sea turtles every night from May 15 to August 15. Each night, the team uses ATVs to scour the beach in order to find as many nesting turtles as possible.
After a turtle begins nesting, the sea turtle team will collect measurements of the animal’s carapace (top shell) and tag the turtle so it can be identified at a later date. This is done so a specific animal’s nesting history over the years can be recorded. The nesting records of some the Keewaydin turtles now span well over 20 years.
Our team will also record the locations of all the nests and install wire caging that prevents egg predation by raccoons, while still allowing the babies to crawl freely toward the water once they hatch.
Team members record the fate and hatchling success of each nest through October. In order to do that, the team will conduct a routine nest excavation a few days after the nest hatches to count the number of hatched eggs versus the total number of eggs in the nest. The team takes that number and links it to the records from the adult that laid the nest.
We also record nest fate - whether it was predated, flooded by tides or washed away.
Naples City Beach
From 1994 to present, the Conservancy sea turtle team has worked cooperatively with Collier County Parks and Recreation Department to conduct morning surveys for nesting activity on five miles of Naples City Beach. The nests are marked off with stakes and caution tape and are monitored for hatchling success.
To date, 78,458 hatchlings have been documented as reaching the Gulf of Mexico from this beach.
Our team also conducts independent and cooperative research with various universities as well as federal, state and county agencies to learn more about the life history of sea turtles.
This project began in 2009 and was concluded in 2015. We deployed 42 satellite tags on sea turtles form Keewaydin Island. Some of these animals were tagged a second time to see if they returned to the same areas after each nesting cycle.
This is a cooperative study with the Marine Turtle Research Group at the University of Central Florida.
Click here if you would like to see where they went.
Entering its 13 year in 2016, this is a cooperative effort with staff from the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. The objective of this project is to determine the sex ratio of hatchlings it is influenced by rain, flooding and nest location.
We can do this because the sex of sea turtles is determined by nest incubation temperature during the middle third of the 55-day incubation period.
A higher nest temperature results in more females while lower temperature causes a shift toward males. Guests to the Nature Center an get an easy mnemonic device to remember this fact: "Hot chicks and cool dudes."
Between 1995 and 2000 Conservancy staff worked with researchers from the University of Florida’s Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research in surveying the islands of the Cay Sal Bank for sea turtle nesting activity.
In 1999 and 2000, nine satellite tags were deployed on nesting loggerheads. The finding of the survey revealed that this islands support the largest known nesting aggregation of loggerhead turtles in the Bahamas Archipelago.
With our ability to interact with nesting loggerheads, we have been able to provide graduate students and facility at many universities with tissue samples for population studies and foraging area assessment with stable isotope analysis.
Some of these cooperative efforts have been on-going for a long as 10 years.
The universities involved include the University of Georgia, the University of Central Florida and the University of Florida. We have also provided a platform for graduate students at the University of Miami and Florida Atlantic University to conduct their MS research.
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