We had another successful night walk last night! This turtle made us work though as we walked the 1.5 miles to the inlet. We waited for a few minutes in the hopes that a turtle would start her crawl so we could witness it on our trek back. We waited the perfect amount of time as we saw a sea turtle not too far from the inlet. We all got to watch her lay her eggs, cover and then return to the ocean. With the full moon, we saw her easily crawl back to the ocean without any red flashlights. She was a smaller sea turtle compared to the other turtles we have seen on our night walks. She measured 31" in width and 33 1/2" in length. Perhaps this is her first nesting season? The genetics will let us know more once they test her egg shell for DNA.
The following morning our intern, Jill, and our volunteer, Nona, found two new nests and two false crawls. The nest we saw last night is marked as #62 on our state park beach. If you would like to adopt nest 62, click on the button below to be taken to the adoption page. The Unique ID for nest 62 is: 227573. The proceeds from nest adoptions goes back to our sea turtle program.
Blog Post By: Skyler Klingshirn (Summer Sea Turtle Intern)
Here in South Carolina, we all know that our sea turtles face threats of being disoriented due to white lights, pollution on the beaches and in the water, as well as predation by raccoons, ghost crabs, and other animals. However, in other parts of the world, sea turtles suffer from a disease called fibropapillomatosis (FP). This debilitating disease causes the development of tumors on the body, eyes, and even mouths of all seven species of sea turtles and is associated with the virus Chelonid herpesvirus 5 (ChHV5). While the tumors are not cancerous, if the tumors get too large, they can prevent the turtle from swimming, seeing, eating, possibly leading to death. While the cause of this disease is still not for certain, it is believed that it has developed due to anthropogenic factors and pollution. Many of you may have not heard of this disease before, but that is because it is not common here in South Carolina. Most cases of this disease have been reported in warmer, tropical waters, such as off the coast of Florida with the first case being reported in the Florida Keys in a green sea turtle.
This is an example of what fibropapillomatosis can look like.
Last summer, I had the opportunity to research this disease at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) located in Fort Pierce, Florida. At HBOI, I was a research intern and lived in Fort Pierce for 10 weeks. With the guidance of my mentor, we took tumor samples from green sea turtles (Chelonid mydas) and loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) and were able to extract the DNA from each sample. After we had the DNA from each tumor, we were able to make multiple copies of the DNA through a process called polymerase chain reaction, or PCR. We were able to input our findings into a database that helped us compare the strands of DNA we found to DNA from other FP samples. The virus associated with this disease, ChHV5, has four different variants in Florida, variant A, B, C, and D. Using this database, we were able to identify which variant of the virus each turtle had. We were also able to determine the viral load of each sample. We used this information to find relationships between the morphology of each tumor, the species of sea turtle host, and the variant of the virus.
Here I am preparing a tray of samples to quantify the viral load.
After 10 weeks of research and learning many new skills, I was able to present my findings to the rest of the interns and staff at HBOI. Unfortunately, the study is still going on and I am unable to share our results, but my experience at this research institute was extremely beneficial. I learn a lot of new things about genetics, microbiology, sea turtles, and the process of completing a research project. I gained valuable research and communication skills that will help me in my future career. Even though this is not a problem our sea turtles here in South Carolina face, I find it valuable to be aware of other happenings around the world. Hopefully one day soon, we can find an end to this disease, along with white lights and pollution.
Check out this article from The Island Packet, featuring all the restaurants in Hilton Head that are going strawless for the summer! Hopefully we can get this sort of movement in more places!
We had another successful night walk yesterday and it was the first walk this year that we did not have to walk the entire 3 miles! The turtle allowed us to not only witness her dropping eggs and covering her nest but also to get to bed at a decent hour, thanks sea turtle!
There was a lot of human activity on the beach last night. Remember if you are on the beach by yourself to only use red lights and keep a distance of 30 feet. If you sign up for a night walk we can get closer as we know how to witness a nesting turtle safely. Call the Environmental Learning Center for more information.
We had such a great time watching this really big momma lay nest #54 on our state park beach. She measured 41.5" in length of her carapace and 39" in width. She also had a lot of barnacle growth on her shell as well.
The following morning we had a lot of turtle activity! I did not finish patrol until 10:30 a.m. (and I start at 6 a.m.). We found 5 new nests and also located the eggs of a possible nest, where the eggs were not found on an earlier patrol. So we are now at 59 nests on our state park beach! See below for photographs taken from the morning patrol. We relocated nest #57 to higher ground as it was situated below the spring high tide.
If you would like to adopt any of these nests, click on the button below. The nests we found this morning were: 54, 55, 56, 57 & 58. The Unique ID for these nests are (in order): 227058, 227059, 227060, 227061, 227062
We had another beautiful night for a beach walk on Saturday. The brightness of the moon allowed us to walk with barely any red lights at all. Unfortunately, no sea turtle was found during our walk but the following morning there were two nests and two false crawls found. See below for pictures of nest 50 & 51. If you would like to adopt either of these nests, click the button below to be taken to the adoption page. The unique Id for nests 50 & 51 are: 226866 & 226867. The proceeds from the nest adoptions goes back to help our EBSP sea turtle program.
We are starting to get back some of our genetics data from some of our early nesters! I wanted to share this loggerhead that nested nest #5 on our state park beach. She probably nested again this season but we only have 10% of our genetics data returned. Her nests (since 2010, when the genetics study started) have only been found on our state park beach. She must have been laid here as an egg a long time ago, how neat is that? See below for a map of all of her nests here on state park beach.
On our night walk last night we got to witness not one but two loggerhead sea turtles! The first sea turtle we saw she was headed back to the ocean. It was unclear at the time of the night walk if she had nested. I walked down a bit further towards the inlet to see if any more turtles had started their crawl. Not too far down, another set of tracks was seen! I patiently waited from a distance as she dug her egg chamber. Then once she was laying and in a trance, the group gathered behind her to watch the eggs dropping into the egg chamber. What an amazing sight to see, especially for a group who most had never seen a sea turtle before.
The following morning we found three new nests and three false crawls. The first turtle we saw did not make a body pit and we did not locate any eggs. Hopefully she was one of our other nests we found. See below for pictures taken during the morning patrol!
The nest we saw last night marks nest #48 on our beach! If you would like to adopt the nest, click the button below to be taken to the adoption page. The unique ID for this nest: 225730. The proceeds from the nest adoptions help to support our EBSP turtle program.
Blog Post By: Jillian Sower (Summer Sea Turtle Intern)
On June 10, Skyler and I had the opportunity to attend a fundraiser for Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, which is located on the north side of Charleston, past Mount Pleasant. Each year the refuge gets more than 1,000 sea turtle nests – sometimes over 2,000 – so they require a lot of funding to help take care of those nests. The fundraiser consisted of a tour of Bulls Island lead by Dr. Patrick McMillan of Clemson University.
The tour started with a 45-minute boat ride to the island, during which the captain of the boat talked to us about the ecology of the refuge. He talked about many of the animals that made the area their home, such as the endangered wood stork, which we later saw, and the loggerhead sea turtle.
When we arrived on the island, Dr. McMillan greeted us and proceeded to talk further about Bulls Island and the animal species that could be found there, namely horseshoe crabs and shorebirds. We began to walk towards where some turtle activity had been found. Dr. McMillan would stop every now and then to talk about the shorebirds – there were many species on the island, and he talked with us about them and about his experiences working with them. While we walked, we saw many sand dollars and perfect whelk shells.
By the time we reached the area of the turtle activity, the wind had blown away the tracks so completely that we walked right past it. Unfortunately, it was a false crawl rather than a nest.
After Dr. McMillan talked about the false crawl and about loggerheads, we had free time to walk around the island. Skyler and I walked along the shore – we didn’t go swimming because neither of us thought to bring our swimsuits…or sunscreen. We did, however, see some dolphins, and some blue crabs scuttling along the ocean floor.
On the boat ride back the captain again educated us about the wildlife of the island, while we got rained on. Overall, it was a very educational day, and the program raised over $10,000 to help take care of their turtle nests.
This week, on Wednesday, June 13, Skyler and I helped some researchers from the Department of Natural Resources with some shorebird work on Deveaux Bank off Wadmalaw Island. Deveaux is a shorebird sanctuary that is mostly closed to the public. Many species of shorebirds nest there, including gulls, pelicans, skimmers, terns, and plovers, and the species of focus for the day: willets. The goal of the day was to try to find, capture, and geotag willets, as well as find new nests.
Willets lay their eggs n nests on the ground, usually in some vegetation. They have cryptic coloration, meaning that the adults and eggs blend right into the sandy ground. They don’t attempt to escape unless you’re right on top of them or their nest, so in order to capture them we had to walk over their nests holding a mist net, so when they tried to take off, which is called flushing, they would get caught in the net. Unfortunately after a couple of attempts we only caught one bird that was already tagged, but the researchers were still able to gather some information from it by measuring parts of its body and weighing it. We also found a nest that already had two chicks. They were super cute!
Hopefully Skyler and I can help the researchers out again. It was fun to walk around the island looking for nests. It’s not something everyone gets to do, and I gained a lot of insight into the world of shorebird research. I would love to gain more experience in this area!
On Tuesday, we had a beautiful night walk but unfortunately no turtle was seen. The following morning we found one new nest! If you would like to adopt nest #43, you can click the button below to be taken to the adoption page. The unique ID for this nest is: 225261. The proceeds from the nest adoptions help support our EBSP turtle program. See below for a picture of this new nest!
We had a successful night walk on World Sea Turtle Day! We saw the nesting turtle once she had finished laying and was covering her egg chamber. We then got to see her head into the ocean, it was such an amazing sight to see! The following morning we found 2 nests and 1 false crawl. The nest we saw on the night walk is marked as nest #39 on our beach.See below for some pictures. If you would like to adopt the nest, click on the button below to be taken to the adoption page. This nest has a unique ID of: 225008. The funds from a nest adoption help to support our EBSP Turtle Program.
We had a great night walk on Thursday but unfortunately no turtle started their crawl during our time walking. The following morning we found one new nest (nest#37) and one false crawl. If you would like to adopt this nest, click the button below to be taken to the adoption page. This nest #37 has an adoption ID of: 224050
A creative vocabulary story by: Sarah Campbell (one of our volunteers at Turtle Fest!)
Oh! How I wished I were a villager. The villagers sowed hay, gathered apples and lured fish onto their hooks. As I grew up, I pined to live as a commoner as opposed to the wealthy, prominent life my family prized. I, trapped inside, spent hours embroidering cloth for my mother while the sun shone bright, compelling me to enjoy its warmth. One night I planned to escape the clutches of my mother and visit the beach.
After hours spent at the formal dinner table, I crept out of the window and dropped onto the soft sand below. Stifling a scream, I stood still as fear grasped me and held me in its clutches! A monstrous beast was digging a hole in the sand not three feet in front of me. As my eyes accustomed to the darkness, I realized that instead of a monster, I had encountered a Loggerhead sea turtle laying her eggs in the dunes. Delighted by my find, I watched the mother cover up her eggs in the moonlight, which glowed vividly off her wet back. The moon also reflected the saltwater that streamed down her face like tears. I believed that she was crying because she would never see her children again. Against my will, I shed a tear as the mother sea turtle shed hers. She then turned and slipped silently back into the placid ocean.
With great certainty, my mother claimed that it was imperative to learn to sew. Therefore, I spent my days as a prisoner to my needle. Every night, however, I slipped away from my mother, explored the captivating world God created and closely watched the Loggerhead nest. Seven weeks passed, and I noticed a dip in the sand above the nest, which told me the hatchling’s journey to the sea had just begun. Hoping for a miracle, I longed to be on the beach the night the hatchlings arose onto the sand.
The following night, I snuck away from my needle with anticipation and my dreams came true. The hatchlings were emerging. The soft sound of the ocean coaxed the baby turtles toward their destiny. Awestruck, I watched the turtles struggle through the sand. Their instinct pulled them up and up out of the hole that had been their home for the past seven weeks. I knew each one aspired to reach the ocean, but a perilous journey to the sea laid ahead. Cunning, hostile animals waited in the shadows with watering mouths, wanting to enjoy a delectable feast of baby turtles. Solemn seagulls circled silently above, determined to gobble a hatchling.
Nature often fought against nature, but now it also fought against man. Lights from beachfront houses were not obscured that night and the turtles turned and began following them instead of the light of the moon. Tragically, I realized that the hatchlings were headed towards the lights of our plantation. I felt ashamed. Wilting with despair, I pondered what to do about the baby sea turtles. At that moment, my mother’s head appeared from my bedroom and she glared at me. Warily, I confronted her as I compliantly climbed back through my window. She stationed me at the sink, despite our diligent servants, with the tedious task of cleaning the kitchen, talking only to the pots. The turtles remained on the beach to fend for themselves.
Fear for the turtles pushed my hands to wash faster and faster, willing them to finish the endless line of dishes. Desperately, I sunk the last plate into the murky water and swished it around. Dried grits stuck stubbornly to the cold, pewter plates. With tears in my eyes, I scratched angrily at the grits as pictures of the helpless turtles flashed through my mind. Relief washed over me as the last plate finally emerged clean. Yelling that I had finished my chore, I dashed back outside before my mother could give me another task.
Frantic, I grabbed a bucket and searched relentlessly for the babies. Once I found them by my house, I scooped up the disoriented hatchlings who had been drawn away from the sea. Fear continued to drive me as fast as my feet would carry me. At my calling, my sister abandoned her chores and ran outside to put out the lights. Her youth did not allow her to fathom the gravity of the situation.
As the moon took charge and illuminated the ocean, the little turtles heard the incessant pounding of the waves on the shore. Once I released them on the beach, their flippers propelled them through the gritty sand to the water’s edge. Without a backward glance, they dove head first into the salty ocean, their home for the years to come. I thanked God for the opportunity to help His creatures, yet I also asked Him to protect my tiny Loggerhead sea turtles on their life’s journey. My sister and I froze in the moment, arm in arm, elated that the turtles were headed home.
Another walk without seeing a turtle but we still enjoyed the night time walk on the beach! We are hoping that we will see a nesting turtle soon. The following morning we found one new nest on our state park beach! See below for a couple pictures from the morning. If you would like to adopt this nest, click the button below to be taken to the adoption page. The unique ID for nest #35 is: 223440. The proceeds from the nest adoptions go to our EBSP turtle program!
Blog Post By: Skyler Klingshirn (summer sea turtle intern)
Recently, I’ve been getting asked how I started working with sea turtles, and while I feel like I am very knowledgeable about them, I only got my start with sea turtles just over a year ago. Last spring, I was able to spend a semester at the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, North Carolina. During my time at the marine lab, I was able to take a course on the biology and conservation of sea turtles. Through this course, I learned about all seven species of sea turtles, their life histories, different conservation efforts around the world, and more. Each spring semester at the marine lab is set up so students have the opportunity to travel with some of their courses. While learning about these topics in the classroom was interesting, my class was then able to travel to Puerto Rico and St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands to learn more about green sea turtles and leatherback sea turtles in the field.
We started our trip in Culebra, Puerto Rico. We were here for 5 days where we began each morning bright and early with a hike to the beach where we walked down the beach to practice identifying different turtle tracks, as well as, clean up any trash similar to how our patrols are run here in Edisto! After our morning patrol, we would make breakfast then head out to practice in water surveys of green sea turtles. To collect data on the green sea turtles in this area, we would set up a long net expanded between 2 boats then spend hour intervals snorkeling up and down the net. If we saw a turtle, we would swim to it, grab onto it, and bring it back up to our boat. Once we had collected a couple turtles, we would all return to the boat and begin the data collection process. For each turtle, we would record data including the size, weight, capture pictures, and see if it was tagged or not. If the turtle was not already tagged, we would tag it for future data records. After our days in Puerto Rico, we headed over to St. Croix where we switched from early mornings to late nights.
In St. Croix, our main focus was the leatherback turtle. Each night, we would go to Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge to perform night beach surveys waiting for nesting leatherback sea turtles to arrive. While this area has no problem seeing an abundance of leatherbacks each nesting season, we were there at the very beginning of the season, however, our professor reassured us all that they always see leatherbacks during this trip. We walked up and down the refuge for hours for 5 nights and unfortunately did not see a leatherback. As we returned back to our cabins, we were all very sad knowing we were leaving to go back home in 7 short hours without seeing a leatherback. Then at 3 a.m. we heard loud knocks on our door. It was my professor shouting that a leatherback had crawled up onto the beach right outside of where we were staying and started nesting. We all jumped out of our beds and ran out to the beach to witness this amazing moment. After she had laid her nest, it was time for her to make her way back into the ocean, however, there were automatic lights on one of the buildings on the beach causing the turtle to become very confused. She started heading towards the light and my professors had to step in and block the light and help guide her back into the water. It was truly a moment I will never forget, but also made me realize how small anthropogenic factors, such as white lights, can greatly affect wildlife.
My semester at the Duke University Marine Lab helped me get a start in the field of marine wildlife conservation and helped me find a passion for sea turtles. I am super grateful this opportunity was available through my university and while I have yet to see a nesting loggerhead here at Edisto, I am looking forward to helping with all the night walks during the next two months to hopefully witness this process again.
*All pictures with turtle were allowed through special permits*
I told the group I would have this post up by Sunday but things had gotten pretty busy! We did not see any turtle activity on our night walk but got to enjoy the beautiful evening walk on our beach, spotting bioluminescence and shooting stars.
The following morning we had one nest and 5 false crawls seen. The false crawls were very short crawls where the turtle did not make it past the high tide line.These crawls occurred much later in the night time. Nest #27 was situated below the spring high tide line so we relocated it! We moved 106 eggs very carefully to a new egg chamber on higher ground. See below for a couple pictures of our volunteers, Tori & Lee, moving the eggs!
If you would like to adopt this nest, click on the button below to be taken to the adoption page. The unique ID number for nest #27 is: 223346. The proceeds from a nest adoption helps to support our EBSP Turtle Program!
We had a beautiful night for our turtle walk yesterday. Unfortunately, there was no turtle activity seen. However, there were other sights to see including an amazing display of bioluminescence, shooting stars and glowing waves.
This morning I went out on patrol with our intern, Skyler and our volunteer, Nona. There was only one false crawl seen and no new nests. Hopefully on Saturday we will see our first nesting turtle of the night walk season. You can learn more and preregister for the walk by calling our Environmental Learning Center at 843-869-4430. We have our fingers crossed for Saturday night!
We had a successful first night walk but the turtle made us work for it! We walked the mile and a half down the beach and saw a sea turtle returning to the ocean. She moved with quite a bit of pep in her step! Which made me wonder if she nested as typically once they nest they move a lot slower as they expended a lot of energy.
The following morning I went out to search for new turtle activity. We had four false crawls and one nest. Unfortunately, the turtle we saw did not nest and instead her "body pit" seemed like she was testing the sand. She must not have liked the area for her eggs! We did have one nest closer to our campground area, so hopefully that was the same turtle returning to nest and release all those eggs.
See below for a few pictures from morning patrol. If you would like to adopt the nest, click the button below to be taken to the adoption page. The unique nest ID for nest # 23 is: 222343. The proceeds from nest adoptions help support our turtle program.
My name is Jill Sower, and I will be a senior at Virginia Tech, studying Wildlife Conservation with a double major in Spanish. Throughout my time as a student, I have participated in a few research studies, as well as taken courses in habitat evaluation, population estimation and dynamics, wildlife biology, and many others. I currently volunteer in one of my professor’s disease ecology laboratory, which focuses on antibiotic resistance testing of E. coli samples from banded mongoose from Botswana, as I am interested in working with wildlife disease when I graduate. Although I do not have direct experience working with sea turtles, I have taken courses in herpetology and learned a lot about their biology and life history. I have always been fascinated by sea turtles, and am very excited to work as an intern for Edisto Beach State Park this summer and learn about these amazing creatures!
Sea Turtle Biologist