Sea Turtle Nesting Season in Full Swing, UCF Researchers Still Working Despite COVID-19 | Instant News


2,850 turtle nests have been found along 29 miles from Brevard coast

Team members from the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group collected data on sea turtles, which nest along the eastern coastline of Central Florida. (Picture of Rebecca Smith)

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – While uncertainty applies to Floridia because of COVID-19, there is one thing they can count on: sea turtles nest on our local beach as the nesting season moves into the fourth of June.

More than 2,850 turtle nests have been found along the 29 miles of the Brevard County coast surveyed by UCF, and it’s still early in the nesting season, which ends in October.

“We have seen some great nesting numbers so far, but it is still too early in this season to find out if the turtles will break records,” said Erin Seney, assistant research scientist who works with UCF’s Marine Research Research Group.

“Our three main species began to nest in the early side of their normal arrival window, and we saw the average level of nesting of leatherback and loggerhead turtles. Abundant food in tortoises and mild winters may contribute to the start of the season. “

Although there are permanent orders at home in March and April, the research group has been able to continue monitoring endangered sea turtles in Central-East Florida this year under existing federal and county contracts.

By making changes to their operations to include social distance and face masks, the team was given the UCF authorization to continue the morning survey every day, but the operation of the net in the water had been suspended.

On May 21, the UCF team saw a leatherback turtle, estimated at 800 pounds, along the coastline in Indialantic, FL. (Picture of David Rodriguez)

Commitment to Count Sea Turtles

The UCF team, which includes conservation biologists, genetic specialists, and students, has been monitoring nests in the Brevard County section of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge for nearly 40 years and has been monitoring other Brevard beaches for more than 30 years.

The beach and water-based data produced by the laboratory are invaluable for conservation efforts and provide a unique, hands-on experience to UCF students, who prepare them for graduate school and work.

The UCF Group is the only organization authorized to monitor sea turtles and mark turtles along the 13 most northern miles of Archie Carr Refuge and Brevard County Mid and South Reaches with permission from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The UCF team also monitors Patrick’s Air Force Base along with the U.S. Air Force

The Middle-East coastline of Florida is one of the most important nesting areas in the world for loggerhead sea turtles, and also holds about one third of all green turtle nests in the state.

This region is at the northern end of the “hotspot” for leatherback turtles, which nest on our beach on a smaller scale. Last year, a record 15,784 green turtle nests were recorded at 13 miles from Asylum Carr monitored by UCF.

Contrary to popular belief, COVID-19 has not yet attracted more turtles to shore, Seney said. But because the beach is mostly empty at the start of the season, there may be fewer turtles that nest disturbed by human activity and artificial lighting, which will save the energy of individual females and reduce disorientation caused by lights.

The work of this team is very important this year because Brevard County and the U.S. Army Technician Corps is doing a beach restoration project. In addition to his daily monitoring survey, the team was hired to mark nests across the county coast – including every nest in Central Brevard until early May – to keep them out of danger.

Now that the maintenance project is complete, the team returns to its routine monitoring effort, which includes counting the nests during the day and marking some, but not all, nests with minimal signage to then determine how many eggs are hatched.

Although currently detained for COVID-19, the team usually studies juvenile turtles returning to the area and foraging for food in the Indian River Lagoon.

This comprehensive program aims to learn more about the biology and health of sea turtles at various stages of life and find ways to better preserve species.

Leave it to the Professional

The researchers, who travel the coast daily on ATVs and can be found marking nests and counting on clip boards, were recognized by local residents.

They count all turtle nests and fake crawls (non-nest appearances) for each species, mark nests for future assessment, and, in the night operations currently limited to Refs, measure and mark the turtles they observe.

They also track each species as they arrive at the nesting beach throughout the season. Turtles arrive first, then disagree and finally green.

“We are very grateful for local support,” Seney said.

“But we want to remind some of the local turtle fans. We have a recent wave at beach visitors who mean well mark their own nests. We suspect that people who have seen all the nests marked in April to early May think we have missed the nest. Now that the beach maintenance is complete, we do not mark most of the nests and no longer use marking tape. “

The team counts between 20,000 and 35,000 nests in the survey area of ​​29 miles each year, and only marks a small portion of those under the monitoring permit.

“The beach might be impassable, both for turtles laying eggs and beach visitors, if we mark everything, but our crew counts nests every day,” Seney said.

Kate Mansfield, UCF biology professor and director of the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group, said there are other reasons to avoid nests. (UCF image)

Kate Mansfield, UCF biology professor and director of the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group, said there are other reasons to avoid nests.

“It is also possible that an untrained, but well-intentioned person can accidentally damage the clutch with the wrong peg or nest marker,” he said.

All sea turtles in the US are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Touching sea turtles or damaging their nests without supervision or research permission is against federal and state laws and can result in fines and potentially jail time.

“We encourage people to learn about sea turtles through various non-profit groups in the area, and they can follow our work through our Facebook page and other social media,” Seney said. “We post frequently, and we provide weekly nest numbers for our share of the solid Carr Protection.”

Statistics: On May 22, the UCF nest count for the Brevard County Section of the Archie Carr Refuge (13 miles) was:

Crock: 2,044

Leatherback Turtles: 29

Green: 8

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