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Leatherback Nesting Season Week 11: The Final Week

The final week of the 2019 leatherback nesting season for the LMC night crew has come to a close. We’ve had an absolute blast working with these magnificent creatures over the last 11 weeks and we’re all sad to see it end.

Angie covering her nest under a full moon (Photo: Derek Aoki)

The season has definitely started to wind down, as we only encountered one individual this past week. We spotted Turnio, a 145.6 cm (4.7 ft.) nesting mama, for the third time this season. She was in pristine condition and provided the night crew one last blood and skin sample.

Turino, the last turtle of the nesting season, lays her clutch. (Photo: Derek Aoki)

Overall, we sampled 93 individual leatherbacks and all were unique in their own ways. Some were neophytes (untagged) such as Shasta and Panda, while others were tagged back in 2001, like Juno. Some were small, like Teisen, who had a CCL (curved carapace length) of only 138 cm (4.5 ft.), and some were huge, such as Nerita, who’s CCL is 178.7 cm (5.9 ft.). We spotted Kitty on four separate occasions and Katrina, Angie, Juno, Panda, and Turino three times.

Nertia, the massive 5.9 foot long turtle (Photo: Derek Aoki)
LMC’s two night techs: Kate Fraser and Derek Aoki, as they work up Mac. (Photo: Heather Seaman)

We had the great privilege of assisting in a body condition study with another research organization, Upwell, were we weighted six nesting leatherback females and possibly did so for the first time in the United States. So a special thanks to Dr. George Shillinger, Dr. Heather Harris, and Cal Poly’s Heather Liwanag for allowing us to participate in their research.

Members of LMC (Dr. Justin Perrault, Sarah Hirsch, and Kate Fraser) and Upwell (Dr. George Shillinger and Dr. Heather Harris) carefully secure a covering leatherback to the weighing apparatus. (Photo: Derek Aoki)

And even though our regular night patrols stopped on June 13th (approximately when they stop regularly nesting), this does not mean they are completely done for the season, as our morning crew found three nests on Juno and Jupiter this past weekend.

Gisli laying her clutch (Photo: Derek Aoki)

Thanks for following our research over the last 11 weeks! Keep checking back periodically for any exciting news concerning the Research Department or LMC in general. Hatchling season is just underway and we are still heading into peak season with loggerheads and greens.

Athena, a green turtle, as she covers her nest. (Photo: Derek Aoki)
A loggerhead as she settles into her body while laying her eggs. (Photo: Derek Aoki)

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.