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Leatherback Project

2016 Nesting Season

The 2016 sea turtle nesting season saw 160 leatherback sea turtle nests on the beaches we monitor.  We would like to take this opportunity to address Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s (LMC) long-standing research on our area’s local leatherback sea turtle population. This program is named The Leatherback Project and LMC is committed to continuing The Leatherback Project and educating our guests, our community, and our planet as to the importance of the leatherback sea turtle.

The Leatherback Project at LMC
In the late 1980’s LMC noticed a high number of leatherback sea turtles nesting on North Palm Beach County Beaches.  For more than twenty years the LMC team through the generosity of our donors, collaborators, and volunteers have continued to study and catalog our local leatherback sea turtle population resulting in one of the most robust leatherback sea turtle data sets in the world.

The average number of leatherback sea turtle nests on Palm Beach County beaches has increased over time:
• 2001-2005 Average Leatherback nests within our survey area: 86
• 2009-2013 Average Leatherback nests within our survey area: 208
• 2012-2016 average leatherback nests within our survey area: 210

While we are encouraged by these trends, many more questions remain to be answered.

 Loggerhead Marinelife Center Research Team
 Name  Title
 Charles Manire, D.V.M.
 Justin Perrault, Ph.D.
 LMC Director of Research & Rehabilitation
 Associate Director of Research
 Adrienne McCracken
 Sarah Hirsch
 LMC Field Operations Manager
 LMC Data Manager
 Seasonal Research Team eight (8) Technicians
 Loggerhead Marinelife Center Research and Rehabilitation Committee
 Name  Title
 Jodie Gless  Biologist at Florida Power & Light Company, and
 Chair, LMC Research and Rehabilitation Committee
 Dr. Kim Koger  Surgeon, and Past Chair, LMC Research and Rehabilitation Committee
 Karen Marcus  Consultant
 Dr. Brian Paegel  Assistant Professor
, Department of Chemistry, Scripps Florida Campus
 Dr. Michael Salmon  Professor at Florida Atlantic University
 Dr. Jeanette Wyneken  Professor at Florida Atlantic University
 Jack E. Lighton  LMC President & CEO











LMC research data manager, Sarah Hirsch presented a leatherback research poster at the 34th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, hosted by the International Sea Turtle Society (ISTS). The poster shows that LMC’s 9.5 miles of survey beach is one of only a handful of leatherback sea turtle nesting “Hot Spots” on our planet. Leatherbacks like our local beaches!

PowerPoint Presentation










Click on image to download PDF >>

Leatherback Sea Turtle Facts:

Question: How long does it take on average for a leatherback sea turtle nest to hatch-out on our local beaches?

On average it takes 65 days for the hatchlings to emerge and make their way to the ocean.

Question: How many eggs does a nesting female lay at one time?

Typically leatherback females will produce about 74 eggs per nest.

Question: How many eggs are successful in producing hatchlings?

About 46% of leatherback eggs on our beaches will produce hatchlings (baby sea turtles!)

The LMC team in partnership with our collaborators at the University of Wisconsin, after careful analysis of a number of key-factors, has observed findings that can be shared with the research community to better understand more ‘ideal’ nest relocation activities and best practices.

Palm Beach County beaches account for nearly 40% of leatherback nests laid in the state of Florida, making these beaches crucial nesting habitat for leatherback turtles. The continuation of long-term data collection is essential in determining the health of this population. Therefore, understanding what is happening on these beaches is critical to understanding the Atlantic leatherback population.

LMC’s leatherback study will prove beneficial to developing appropriate policies and management programs in the future. It is our intention of sharing our insights which can hopefully allow us to work together as a community to save these extraordinary animals!

Sea Turtle and Coastal Eco-System Research at LMC:
Knowledgeable, credible, passionate, and collaborative, LMC is fortunate to have some of the most well respected doctors, biologists and volunteers in the world.

Guided by a multi-faceted research committee we are clever, passionate, and committed to turning our research data into actionable insights.

Our goal is simple, we want to better understand the sea turtle and the coastal ecosystems they call home.  From our research data, we hope to increase our understanding of how to best improve the health of our planet and strength of our beaches.

Sea Turtle Nest Monitoring at Loggerhead Marinelife Center:
Loggerhead Marinelife Center of Juno Beach has been conducting one of the longest running sea turtle monitoring programs in the state of Florida. Our founder Eleanor Fletcher began her survey of our local beaches over thirty years ago.  In its more formal state, our sea turtle nesting survey was started in 1989 and now includes survey zones along Jupiter Island, Jupiter, and Juno beaches in Palm Beach County, FL.

Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), green (Chelonia mydas) and leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) turtles are the primary species documented nesting along these beaches.

Palm Beach County Beaches, a Leatherback sea turtle “hot-spot”:
Palm Beach County, Florida hosts the highest leatherback nest counts in Florida, accounting for 38.7% of total nesting leatherback sea turtles observed state wide.

CNN recently published an article about out-of-control blooms of jellyfish in the world’s oceans.  One of the reasons jellyfish are becoming out-of-control in certain geographic regions is because of the decline of jellyfish’s natural predators.

One of the best natural predators to Jelly Fish is the leatherback sea turtle!  Leatherbacks eat jellyfish – a lot of jelly fish!  Leatherback sea turtles are critical for the health of our ocean eco-systems as well as the health of our local beaches.

The Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea):
The Leatherback sea turtle is the largest sea turtle living in our oceans, unfortunately this sea turtle is one of the most threatened.

Dining by design:
Leatherback sea turtles eat their body weight every day in jellyfish and given leatherbacks can weigh-in at 2,000 lbs, leatherback sea turtles are one of natures best solutions to lowering the numbers of jelly fish in our waters and on our beaches.

Soft shells = deep ocean living:
Leatherback sea turtles are very unique in that they are a soft-shelled sea turtle covered with a soft ‘leathery’ skin.

This amazing soft shelled sea turtle is designed to dive to extreme ocean depths and because of its soft shell the leatherback’s body can can compress and withstand the extreme pressures of the deep; a fascinating creature indeed!

For more information on the leatherback sea turtle please visit Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s exhibit hall where you will find a lot more information on this extraordinary sea turtle.

Educating the world:
LMC is one of the top visited cultural attractions in Palm Beach County.  In 2015 LMC welcomed over 300,000 visitors to our beach-side campuses.

Education was core to our founder’s vision and remains central to LMC’s mission today.  In 2015 more than 45,000 registered students were enrolled in our educational programs.

Helping sea turtles thrive!  Over the years, hundreds of threatened and endangered sea turtles have been rehabilitated and released from LMC’s world-class hospital and each year thousands of disorientated sea turtle hatchlings are treated and released by our team.

Because of the loving support of our community, our board of directors, our donors and our passionate volunteers, LMC is able to operate as a free cultural facility.  We don’t charge admission and we are very proud to continue the work Mrs. Fletcher began for us more than 30 years ago.