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Loggerhead Marinelife Center Incubates Success with Florida Sea Turtle Grants Program

Juno Beach, FL – Beginning with its founder Eleanor Fletcher’s early research of sea turtles, Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) has a long history of innovative and exploratory sea turtle research. Over the course of the Center’s 36 years, LMC’s research department has acquired extensive databases of information on threats facing sea turtles, appropriate nesting incubation temperatures, and habitat loss. Now, Research Data Manager, Sarah Hirsch has continued to propel sea turtle research with her acquisition of a $19,635 grant, on behalf of LMC, from the Florida Sea Turtle Grants program. 

Located adjacent to one of the most densely nested loggerhead sea turtle beaches in the world, it’s vital for LMC’s research team to continue to explore factors affecting sea turtle nesting and hatching. Through the grant, LMC’s research team has been able to investigate the impacts of geocores on incubating sea turtle nests. 

Geocores are reconstructed dunes that use sand-filled geotextile bags buried at the base of a dune to protect inland infrastructure from coastal erosion. Previously, little research has investigated how geocores alter sea turtle’s nesting and hatching habitat. For the Florida Sea Turtle Grants Program and Loggerhead Marinelife Center, the goal of the project is to evaluate the sand characteristics and nest temperatures for sea turtle nests laid at the geocore to assess whether the restored dune provides suitable habitat for incubating loggerhead and green turtle nests. Similar to other reptiles, sea turtles require specific incubation temperatures to successfully hatch. 

“We are grateful to the Sea Turtle License Plate Grant for funding this important research on sea turtles. Understanding how erosion control measures, like geocores, impact sea turtle nesting and hatching is imperative in our ability to balance the human needs to protect infrastructure from storm surge, while maintaining suitable habitat for sea turtles. Investigating how sand characteristics and temperature play a role in sea turtle hatching and emergence success is one step in solving that puzzle. This project has implications past geocores; we hope that answering these questions can help inform management and policy decisions on all beach sand placement projects,” commented Hirsch. 

Over the course of the 2019 sea turtle nesting season, which runs from March 1 through October 31, LMC’s research staff and interns have marked off and monitored around 200 nests in association with the geocore project. Of those nests, the research team has documented 10 nests that are still incubating and being monitored for signs of hatching. Once all of the nests have hatched and been inventoried, the research team will compile the data and work to publish the results. 

Hirsch hopes “our results will have broad implications and can assist coastal managers in implementing measures that minimize the effects geocores and other similar projects have on sea turtle habitat.” Through this project, LMC hopes to improve the livelihood of sea turtles and aid in conserving Florida habitats.

During the 2019 sea turtle nesting season, LMC researcher’s recorded incubation temperatures of nesting sea turtles.

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About Sea Turtle Grants Program:

Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s geocore project has been made possible through a grant awarded by the Sea Turtle Grants Program, which is funded from proceeds from the sale of the Florida Sea Turtle License Plate. The Sea Turtle Specialty License Plate is the primary source of funding for Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Program. It also supports the Sea Turtle Grants Program, which has awarded more than $2.7 million in grants for research, education and conservation programs since 2001 to benefit sea turtles in Florida. By purchasing a Sea Turtle Specialty License Plate for your vehicle for only $23 a year, you are providing critical financial support for the Sea Turtle Grants Program and the state’s Marine Turtle Protection Program every time you drive. Learn more at www.helpingseaturtles.org

About Loggerhead Marinelife Center:

Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) is a nonprofit sea turtle research, rehabilitation and educational institution that promotes 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 marinelife.org or call (561) 627-8280.