Like most Florida residents, I moved here from somewhere else - somewhere quite different. I didn't come here for the endless summer, but the sand and saltwater were directly related to my pilgrimage from the heart of the Bible belt to the east coast, the crust of the New World and the beginning of mine.
As a kid I was in awe of Shamu and inspired by every bleached out sea star in the gift shops of Hawaii. I was fortunate enough to go there as an enthusiastic 11 yr old and nearly went blind on that 2 week trip, staring at the ocean horizon; not daring to blink lest I miss a humpback whale sighting. Even then I knew that April was past season and their migration to the cold waters of Alaska had already begun- they were long gone. Still, I stared endlessly and used my allowance money to buy a t-shirt with a very friendly sunglass-wearing humpback cheerfully displaying the false impression that I had actually seen a whale for myself
Florida, despite its lack of humpback whales, was still the ocean and I jumped at the chance to move over 1500 miles from everyone and everything I knew just to be near it. Following one opportunity to the next landed me working on the beach doing sea turtle research. This immersion commanded my attention both professionally and recreationally for nearly 10 years. From nesting to rehabilitation, through live capture and necropsies on the dead, sea turtles has been so integrated in my life that I can honestly say, "been there, done that, got the tattoo."
Last week I found myself back on the beach recently with another college buddy, Donna. Scheduling conflicts and a toddler kept me off sea turtle nesting surveys (this year) but I was able to capture this moment and remember why I love the world of turtles and find the process of nesting surveys on the beach so restorative. As an educator, it would be easy to carry on about sea turtles indefinitely, and anyone who has known me for more than 5 minutes would probably attest to that fact. There will be more on turtles in the future on this pages, but today I want to talk about one day and one survey.
Sea turtles live in the ocean. That might seem like a silly thing to mention, but I have seen people trying to raise them in chlorinated swimming pools and release poor freshwater sliders on the beach. Marine turtles have such rare contact with land that it can be pinpointed to just a few reasons:
|Perfect loggerhead nest fresh from the previous night|
2. Females return as close as possible to the beach of their birth to lay their own eggs
3. Unfortunate turtles wash ashore when injured or seriously ill
4. There are always exemptions found in nature. For instance, green sea turtles, both male and female, have been documented basking on the rocky shores in areas of Hawaii. Have NOT seen that on my excursions to the islands, but have seen plenty of pictures and spoken to scientists and witnesses about it.
|This False Crawl is a direct result of the turtle hitting a large sea wall.|
|Loggerhead crawls are characterized by comma-shaped tracks|
|This loggerhead nested right next to a large stack of folding beach chairs, so we tri-staked the area to keep it from getting consistently trampled for the next 2 months.|
Part of the survey includes excavations. Digging up a hatched out nest yields extremely valuable scientific data. Loggerhead nests (what we dug this time) are usually about 2 feet deep overall and shaped like an upside down light bulb. The hatchlings move around in the bowl portion and since you have 75 - 100 of them moving around down there, the sand packed into the shaft by momma breaks away and filters down under the babies. This process slowly pushes everybody up in one chaotic group, but sometimes the dudes at the bottom of the pile get left behind, but don't worry - we find 'em later and set them free after taking complete inventory of the nest contents.
|Excavation & inventory take place 3 days after hatch out to allow nature to take its own course|
|Happy Birthday! to this little loggerhead hatchling|