Loggerhead and Green Sea Turtle Night Research: Week 1

Now that the leatherback nesting season for the LMC night crew is over (though we still sample any that come ashore to nest), our attention has turned to the other two species that nest on Juno Beach: loggerheads (Caretta caretta) and greens (Chelonia mydas).  Based on last season’s fairly low numbers for loggerheads and greens, and the cyclical nature of their nesting patterns, we are fully expecting this season to be a very, very busy one. There are some exciting research projects being conducted by LMC staff as well as a few master’s students that will keep us busy into the latter stages of summer. So far, we’ve had 7,192 loggerhead, 1,452 green, and 178 leatherback nests, for grand total of 8,822 nests across the roughly 9.5 miles of beach we survey!!

Sandcloud, a loggerhead, covering her clutch. (Photo: Derek Aoki)
Athena, a green turtle, seen as she throws sand behind her to disguise her clutch. (Photo: Derek Aoki)

LMC is conducting an endarteritis (inflammation of an artery), toxicology, and metabolomics studies, spearheaded by Director of Research Justin Perrault and Data Manager Sarah Hirsch, on nesting loggerheads and greens to study their overall health through blood analyses and ultra sound images as the nesting season progresses.  Just like our leatherback project, we take a blood sample, tag, and measure the turtle, with minor tweaks depending on the project and species. 

One particular loggerhead that was tagged and measured was Lynne!  She has a special meaning to LMC because she is named after our Board Chair, Lynne Wells.  She appeared to be a healthy female and was sampled for our injury and endarteritis projects.  Hopefully this is one of her many nests on Juno Beach this summer!! 

LMC Director of Research Justin Perrault measures Lynne with calipers to get her straight carapace measurements, and Data Director Sarah Hirsch takes an ultra sound in order to detect the present of endarteritis. (Photo: Derek Aoki)

One of the master’s students conducting a research project is Aleah Ataman from the University of South Florida. She is leading an injury study that has her documenting unintentional boat strikes on nesting loggerheads and seeing if a major injury has any correlation with reproductive success. Her goal is to tag and measure 300 loggerheads, and within the first week of sampling we have seen a relatively high/concerning number of unintentional boat strikes. We wish her the best of luck as her research carries on throughout the summer.

USF master’s student Aleah Ataman takes the SCL, or straight carapace length, of a nesting loggerhead. (Photo: Derek Aoki)
Aleah is sketching the unintended boat strike injuries on the carapace of Baylee, a loggerhead we found with propeller lacerations and a partially missing rear flipper. (Photo: Derek Aoki)
A loggerhead returning to the sea with a unintentional boat strike injury. The back of her carapace was taken off with a fairly straight cut, however her rear flippers and tail were escaped unscathed. (Photo: Derek Aoki)

Check back next week for more updates on our night research with these two amazing species and information on another master’s project!!

Disclaimer: All marine turtle images taken in Florida were obtained with the approval of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) under conditions not harmful to this or other turtles. Images were acquired while conducting authorized research activities pursuant to FWC MTP-19-205.