Loggerhead and Green Sea Turtle Night Research: Unintentional Boat Strike Field Work is Complete!

As July rolls along, we are still on pace to have an exceptionally high nesting season. Currently there are 14,947 total nests the LMC Research Department has recorded across our Juno Beach, Jupiter, and Tequesta areas. Loggerheads account for the vast majority of nests with 11,030, followed by greens (3,733), and leatherbacks (184). And since we are fully in peak nesting season, you can expect our nesting numbers to continue to rise!!

After a bit of lull in nesting activity loggerheads, like this girl, picked back up this past week! (Photo: Derek Aoki)

While our metabolomics, endocrine disruptor, and endarteritis studies are moving along, the big news from the night crew is the field work for USF master student Aleah Ataman’s unintentional boat strike study is complete!! After weeks of long nights, she reached her goal of tagging 300 loggerheads across Juno Beach and Jupiter in order to document the number of unintended boat strike injuries to nesting females.

Morning Tech Gabby Lefevre (right) measures the straight line length of a loggerhead as Aleah records the info. (Photo: Derek Aoki)
Aleah places a PIT tag into the right front flipper of the turtles, the first form of identification she places. This tag is read by a scanner that reveals the turtle’s unique ID number. (Photo: Derek Aoki)
Here, Aleah places a metal flipper tag on the second scale of the turtle’s right flipper. This is the second form of identification used on our turtles, and because the ID number is visible on the tag itself, it can be read by anyone who encounters this particular female. (Photo: Derek Aoki)

She will continue to analyze images of the turtle’s injuries and in a month’s time, the first of her monitored nests should hatch. This will show her if these injuries have any effect on the turtle’s reproductive success. It was a pleasure working alongside Aleah for her field work and we wish her the best of luck as she tackles the next stage of her project!

While not a boat strike injury, this female loggerhead is missing part of her carapace, presumably from a shark. Disclaimer: Flash photography or any use of white light is illegal if used upon nesting turtles. We are permitted under permit FWC MTP-19-205 . (Photo: Derek Aoki)

Thanks for reading this week’s update on our night crew’s endeavors on Juno Beach and don’t forget to check back next week!!

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.