Echoes of a Pandemic Didn’t Slow Down LMC’s Marine Biologists
It’s been the headliner of the year and rightfully so – COVID-19. The pandemic has disrupted our routine left and right, but we continue to see glimmers of hope, especially among our researchers here at Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC). Sitting on one of the densest sea turtle nesting sites, our shores have a story waiting to be told with almost every major event that takes place. And first on the beat, are our marine scientists who tell us the ways in which mother nature has been positively or negatively affected.
Although the pandemic posed many financial and logistical challenges for our team, our researchers were able to adapt and persevere in order to monitor and protect 9.5 miles of critical sea turtle nesting beach this year. While our team experienced a few setbacks, we were able to celebrate several accomplishments due to our community of supporters. Because of our supporters, we were able to pioneer in a pandemic, continuing to save the lives of endangered and threatened sea turtles.
LMC’s 2020 Research Highlights
Between February 28 and October 31, we cataloged our third-highest nesting season on the 9.5-mile stretch of beach that we monitor. During the two-month beach closures in Palm Beach County, our researchers collected data that showed the positive nesting impacts from little to no human interaction on female sea turtles. As outlined in National Geographic, loggerhead nesting success on Juno Beach was at 60 percent during a portion of the two-month beach closures (the first loggerhead nest was laid on April 17), from mid-April to mid-May due, to COVID-19. When beaches reopened, nesting success dropped to 48 percent. In other words, the data showed that there was a smaller proportion of false crawls during closures, which occurs when nesting mothers crawl onto the beach and return to the water without laying eggs.
But a triumphant nesting season on our beaches wasn’t the only awe-inspiring thing to come out of such a bleak time. The year also allowed us to witness the extraordinary meanderings of seven satellite-tracked loggerheads to document their clutch frequencies (i.e., the multiple incidents in which a nesting sea turtle lays her eggs in a single season) and interesting intervals (i.e., the time between each nesting event). During this time, we saw one of the tracked sea turtles, Pappas, lay eight nests during the season, which is now tied as a world record! Traditionally, loggerhead sea turtles lay four to six nests per season in Florida.
And despite its hiccups, this year still welcomed birthdays and anniversaries such as the 20th anniversary of our The Leatherback Project! Since 2001, our researchers have been bound and determined to discover more about the elusive leatherbacks that approach our beaches. For years now, our marine scientists have cataloged the local leatherback sea turtle population, which results in a very telling leatherback sea turtle dataset. To our bewilderment, nest numbers on our monitored beaches were decreasing until 2017, after which we saw an increase in nest numbers. Therefore, we’ve been more vigilant than ever before to identify what’s causing the population fluctuations to develop policies and management programs to protect the species from dwindling any further.
In most recent years, the Leatherback Project banded together with individuals and organizations worldwide to conduct leading research, which included examining heavy metal contamination, analyzing the impacts of endocrine-disrupting chemical plasticizers, and the health of nesting leatherbacks to name a few. It has summoned faithful readers who are just as dedicated to preserving a species that is so indicative of our oceans’ health. And, 20 years is still something we’re celebrating no matter what the newsticker tells us.
At the onset of the pandemic, we weren’t sure what would happen, we were left wondering if we’d still be able to effectively monitor and survey our local beaches. But, because of our community of supporters, we were able to stay on track this year. We extend our utmost gratitude to our supporters, and thank you for helping us lead the wave in ocean conservation!
Holiday Sweepstakes. This year, LMC is offering the opportunity for supporters to potentially win holiday sweepstakes by buying prize tickets that support marine life and ocean conservation. Between March and October 2021, a lucky sweepstakes recipient and one additional guest can get a glimpse into mesmerizing nighttime surveys by riding along with LMC researchers on Juno Beach. The giftee will also get to name a nesting female sea turtle and receive a modified datasheet of the named turtle. Find sea-son greetings and giving at LMC! Submit yourself for any of the mentioned sweepstake drawings at give.marinelife.org/holidaysweepstakes.
Annual Fund. As we close on the year, we kindly ask that you tap into the giving spirit and donate a tax-deductible donation to our Annual Fund. With every dollar, you are helping us improve ocean water quality, reduce global marine pollution, and rehabilitate sick and injured sea turtles. Thank you for helping us start off strong in 2021 and making the holiday season a bit bluer!
Loggerhead Marinelife Center. Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) is a nonprofit sea turtle research, rehabilitation, and educational institution that promotes the conservation of ocean ecosystems with a focus on threatened and endangered sea turtles. The Center features an on-site hospital, research laboratory, educational exhibits, and aquariums, and also operates the Juno Beach Pier, which hosts world-class angling and sightseeing. Situated on one of the world’s most important sea turtle nesting beaches, Loggerhead Marinelife Center is open daily and hosts over 350,000 guests free-of-charge each year. The Center’s conservation team works with 90 local and international organizations across six continents to form partnerships and share conservation initiatives and best practices that are core to its mission of ocean conservation. The Center is expanding and has launched its Waves of Progress capital expansion campaign, designed to accelerate and amplify LMC’s conservation and education impact. When complete, the facility will offer one of the world’s most advanced and unique experiences for guests and scientific partners. For more information, visit www.marinelife.org or call (561) 627-8280.