We had a great turn out for our public sea turtle nest inventory on Friday! There were two nests that we inventoried. The first nest didn't have the best success and there were no hatchlings found. In the second nest, the success rate was much higher and there was one little hatchling near the bottom of the nest. We got to cheer the hatchling on as it went into the ocean.
After the nest inventory I received lots of shells! Here's a photo of me and Adelyn and the shells she gave me. I am planning on making a homemade wind chime with all the shells I receive this season!
Our sea turtle nest inventories are going great! We've had a lot of people come out to witness us excavate the nests and to see some hatchlings!
At one inventory, I was asked by Riley if I could take a photo with her. Her parents informed me that her American Girl Doll, named Lea, is also a sea turtle conservationist! They sent me the photo as well as the image of the American Girl book of Lea, with sea turtles in the background!
Since the inventory, they sponsored me for the "Turtle Trek" race I have entered! And I greatly appreciate the support :)
See above to go to the Turtle Trek Fundraising Page!
On both the 23rd and 26th we saw hatchlings!
On the 23rd we saw a full boil of nest 57. It was amazing to see them all come out at once. A couple lights in the campground had a few hatchlings disorientated so I made a dash to the campground and requested that all the lights were turned off. After that, all the hatchlings successfully made their way to the ocean!
On the 26th, we were almost back to the day-use area of the park with no turtle activity, when we saw two hatchlings emerge from nest 75. I was so happy we got to see hatchlings.
Overall, a couple successful night walks!
I have signed up to run the Turtle Trek 5km race on September 10th! The race is in Isle of Palms at the County Park. All of the proceeds raised go towards the Charleston Sea Turtle Hospital. I have set up a donation page to raise money for the hospital!
Click the button below to be taken to the donation page.
The turtles and I thank-you for the support!
I've also created a fun promo video that you can check out:
“I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? Plastics. There’s a great future in plastics.” – Mr. McGuire from The Graduate
Synthetic plastics were first invented in 1907 by Leo Baekeland and then really took off during WWII as an alternative to scarce resources. Think Plexiglas and Nylon instead of glass and silk. Today, plastics are as common as pizzas and apple pies. It’s in our bedrooms as lamps and tape dispensers, on binders and pencils, in the kitchen as Tupperware and food packaging, in the bathroom as shampoo bottles, toothpaste caps, even our toothbrushes. If only Mr. McGuire could see us now!
Plastic is everywhere and very useful, but the problem arises when we don’t have a use for our plastic anymore and throw it away rather than recycle it. All that plastic eventually makes its way into the oceans where it begins to break down into small bits and pieces roughly the size of your fingernail. These small bits then float around impersonating a tasty snack for marine life including our beloved sea turtles. For our sea turtles, plastic bags and balloons look an awful lot like the scrumptious jellyfish they like to eat. In fact, an expedition collecting fish samples found that over a third of the fish caught had plastic in their stomachs. These plastic bits have the power to deliver a death sentence to whoever eats it either by perforating the sides of the GI tract or blocking flow. This disturbance in digestion essentially kills our marine friends either by internal bleeding and infection or starvation.
It doesn’t stop there either. Even if those little pieces don’t puncture or block the GI tract, they’ll sit in gastric juices that will begin to break down the polymers, leaking toxic chemicals like bisphenol A, (more commonly known as BPA) polystyrenes, and organochlorine pesticides like DDT. BPA is linked to causing reproductive system failures, and DDT’s effects grow as you move up the food chain. The smaller end of the food chain like algae and plankton are affected, and when smaller fish consume the affected algae and plankton, they then accumulate those toxins, and so forth so on all the way up the food chain to you and me who’re eating fish tacos for dinner.
In short, plastics have an undeniable, negative effect on our environment. Our solution can’t be to cut out plastic entirely (although that would be awesome if we could!) We need to be feasible and think on a global scale. What we can do is reduce our consumption. If everyone brought their own bags to the grocery store just once a week, just think about all the plastic we’d save from ending up in the ocean. In the end, it goes back to the catchy slogan “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” that was born out of the 70s with the environmental movement. If we can do that and have the mindset of, “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way” (Martin Luther King Jr.) then we will make incredible strides towards a better, greener future. And our marine friends like our sea turtles will certainly thank us!
Take a few minutes to complete this plastic bag survey for Charleston area residents:
On July 18th, the sea turtle team at Edisto Beach State Park visited the Sea Turtle Hospital at the South Carolina Aquarium. We were shown the inner workings of the hospital and its many patients. Most of the patients were Loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta). A few Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys kempii) and juvenile Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) were also rescued. There were a few young Diamondback Terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) as well. Many of the sea turtles were injured by boat collisions. A few were caught on fishing hooks. All of them were harmed by human impacts. Each turtle had its own diagnosis and medical treatment regimen. With the care and dedication of the sea turtle hospital’s team of veterinarians and volunteers, these amazing creatures will become healthy and will be released back into the ocean. The sea turtle hospital has seen many patients come and go throughout the years and with continued support, their efforts will be able to save many more sea turtles that desperately need our help.
Blog post by: Nicole Lynch, Sea Turtle Intern
Here is a vlog I put together of a couple inventories and the hospital visit from the 18th:
Blog post by: Hilary Kordecki, Sea Turtle Intern
Although not specifically about our beloved Caretta caretta, this post will hopefully give you the scoop on Florida’s algae blooms. Within all ecosystems, there is a fine balance of nutrients that nourishes the animals and plants. When that balance is disrupted, unintended consequences arise. Such is the case in Florida where reports within the last week have indicated that algae blooms are in full swing, most likely due to the combined introduction of excess nutrients and warmer temperatures.
Fun fact: These thick, algal blooms are actually from bacteria known as cyanobacteria, not algae. These cyanobacteria have chlorophyll a and produce oxygen making them look like blue green algae (hence their name). Access to plentiful nutrients cause the cyanobacteria colonies to reproduce uncontrollably which also speeds up cell death. The breakdown or lysis is what produces toxic byproducts known as cyanotoxins which are responsible for making algal blooms harmful to both us and the marine creatures.
These cyanotoxins can be irritable and even fatal (depending upon concentration) to GI tracts, livers, nervous systems, and skin. Furthermore, they do not discriminate between us and marine life like our beloved sea turtles. Taste and drinkability of water supplies is also compromised. Moreover, the thick accumulations of these blooms that sit on the water’s surface decay and remove oxygen from the water around it. So nearby fish, shellfish, invertebrates, and plants die from hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen in the water. On a microscopic level the cyanobacteria also disrupt the delicate phytoplankton. Deaths among the food web ultimately impact the whole ecosystem including us as we enjoy our seafood dinners.
So how did such large numbers of cyanobacteria (which generally bloom more in fresh water) end up in the ocean? Two factors created the perfect stew for the algae blooms to propagate: warmer temperatures and agricultural runoff from Lake Okeechobee. According to the NOAA weather records, 2015 was the warmest year on record for southern Florida.
Additionally, water from Lake Okeechobee was control-released so as to avoid overflowing the thirty-foot tall dike, especially with hurricane season just around the corner. Currently there are about 2.2 billion gallons of water being control-released between the east and west locks and into canals like St. Lucie and West Palm Beach (which are where we are seeing the effects).
The problem with all of the lake water mixing into the oceans is that it is a stew of agricultural fertilizers and pesticides rich in nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus which are just the perfect growing feed for cyanobacteria.
Where I’m going with all of this is that everything is interconnected. It’s incredible how fragile, yet durable, our ecosystem is and in time balance will be restored. But this is where education can step in – now that you and I understand why the algae blooms are propagating, we can work to minimize future blooms.
We got to witness a lot of turtles during our night walk! There were a few nests that had already "boiled"/hatched and we got to see the last few hatchlings enter the ocean. Then we were blessed to see the momma sea turtle laying her eggs.
The nest we saw during our night walk is 233 on our beach. If you are looking to adopt the nest, the ID number you will need to adopt it is: 161060
We had great success on our full moon night walk! We saw a nesting sea turtle just as she was done laying her eggs and she started to cover. In the distance we saw a turtle come up but she turned around and false crawled as the sand had too many shells and it was up in the dunes.
On our way back we caught the end of a nest hatching (also called a boil), and witnessed the last hatchling make its way to the ocean.
Here is a photo of the nest from the sea turtle we saw last night. It is nest 227 on our beach. The ID# to adopt the nest is: 160525
We had our first public inventory on Friday the 15th. We only had one nest to inventory but we had a great turn out. We also found 4 hatchlings in the nest that we got to release. However, the gulls were waiting. We protected the hatchlings as they made their way on the sand but once they were in the water, the gulls swooped down and grabbed a couple.
It can be sad to see this happen but if we wouldn't have inventoried the nest they wouldn't have made it out - there usually is a reason they didn't make it out with everyone else.
This nest had a success rate of 78.91%
What a great night walk! We first saw a couple hatchlings making it to the ocean and then we saw a loggerhead turtle nesting! The two hatchlings were from nest 12. The nest had hatched the night before but a couple hatchlings didn't make it out with everyone else and instead left the night after. I spotted the first hatchling with fire ants on it's head. We brushed off the ants and the hatchling made it out of the chamber along with another one.
We walked all the way to the inlet and then on our way back we saw the loggerhead turtle nesting. We waited as she dug her egg chamber and then got to witness the eggs falling as she laid her eggs. The nest we saw is number 217 on our beach! The ID # to adopt the nest is: 159129
We had to relocate this nest in the morning, there were 113 eggs in the nest. See below for pictures!
We had our first inventory of nest#1. Our first nest hatched on the evening of July 8th. We documented this during dawn patrol on July 9th. We had the first documented hatching in the state!
After a nest has hatched we wait 3-5 days to do the inventory, to let any other hatchlings make their way to the ocean.
The inventory consists of digging into the nest to document the success. We count the egg shells, the un-hatched eggs, dead hatchlings, and sometimes there are alive hatchlings stuck in the nest. Nest#1 was a very large nest! There were 135 hatched eggs, 26 un-hatched, 1 dead hatchling and 3 alive hatchlings! We documented our inventory, see below for a video!
This year, we have had the highest number of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) nest on Edisto Beach State Park. We are already over 200 nests and the season is not over yet. Last year was the record year with 178 nests in total for EBSP. Other loggerhead nesting sites, such as Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, SC, are also having a record number of nests. Last year, Cape Romain NWR reached 1,929 nests. As of July 11, they have 1,938 nests. So now the big question is why. Why so many turtles this year? During 1977, all sea turtles were put under the Endangered Species Act (NOAA Fisheries 2016). Under the protection of the ESA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is working with the United States Fisheries and Wildlife Service to help conserve and protect loggerheads and their nests (NOAA Fisheries 2016). It’s been 39 years since the start of sea turtle conservation. It takes about 30 years for loggerhead sea turtles to reach sexual maturity, when they can produce eggs and mate. A very possible reason for the sudden boom in loggerhead nests this year and last year is because the hatchlings from the nests that were first protected in 1977 are now old enough to reproduce and nest. Hopefully with our continued conservation practices, we will continue to see a rise in the number of sea turtles!
Post By: Nicole Lynch, Sea Turtle Intern.
We had another successful night walk! We walked all the way to the inlet and was almost back to day use area of the park when I spotted the sea turtle crawling up the beach. We waited patiently as she dug an egg chamber. Once she started to lay her eggs we got to get a closer look. The sea turtle we saw nest was 2.9 ft. in length.
The following morning they found two nests but they also found that 6 nests had hatched last night!
The nest from last night was nest# 214. The ID number to adopt this nest is: 158095
After three night walks with no turtle sighting we finally saw one! She was pretty big too, her carapace length was 3.3 ft. long. After we saw her nesting, we headed back and we saw more tracks leading up the beach but quietly passed on by.
The nest we saw during the night walk was nest# 211. The ID number to adopt the nest is: 157604
The following morning there were three nests found!
Our first nest hatched last night around 9pm! Nest #1 was the first one on our beach and is now leading us into hatchling season. You can see all of the little angel tracks making their way down to the water, and with no indication of disorientations all we can do is cross our fingers and hope our little friends make their swim to the Sargasso Sea safely (say that three times as fast as you can!)
As a side note, it appears that our babies are particularly sensitive to even red light, so we ask that if you are out on the beach and you see them hatch or make their way to the ocean, please turn off all lights so as not to confuse them.
Super excited for the inventory to see how many babies made it out and the rest of the season!
Blog post by: Hilary Kordecki, Sea Turtle Intern
Another night walk without a sea turtle sighting. However, we did have a TURTLE sighting - a diamond back terrapin that is. She had come up and was digging her egg chamber, she startled me when I came across her. The following morning there was only 2 new nests, so our chances weren't great of seeing one. Keeping my fingers crossed for the night walk on Saturday!
This morning we made it to nest 201! We have officially passed the 200 mark. What a busy season we've had so far this year. We haven't had a nest hatch yet but I will be sure to make a post when we do!
Unfortunately, no turtle again on the night walk. I am hoping the trend will stop tomorrow evening for our night walk. This morning we only had 1 nest and 2 false crawls. We are currently at 198 nests! Hopefully tomorrow we will get to 200.
Another night walk without a turtle seen. At the end of the night walk we did see false crawl tracks but no turtle present. The next morning I was on dawn patrol and we only had 2 nests, so the chances of seeing a turtle that evening weren't very high.
We have beat the record as of July 1st! We are very excited to see just how many nests we will get this year. This morning we had 3 nests and a false crawl. We are currently at 188 nests and still have a lot of nesting to look forward to in July.
The weather was a little threatening when we started our walk but thankfully the rain held off. I first saw the sea turtle when she was just making her way up the beach. We patiently waited until she found the area to dig her egg chamber and began laying her eggs. After we saw her nest, we started the walk back to the day-use area of the park. Along the way we passed another turtle track. There was only an in-track so we knew she was still up there nesting. We quietly passed on by. The next morning was very busy with 8 nests. It was the record breaking morning as well!
The nest from the night walk is #183 on our beach. The ID number to adopt the nest is: 152818
There was a storm approaching on Tuesday but we managed to see a turtle and get off the beach before it hit Edisto. This turtle was at the far end of the campground and had just started to dig her egg chamber. The group patiently waited for her to start laying her eggs. We got some great footage from the film crew for the Honda video. We are definitely excited to see it!
We had a lightning show in the background as she nested! It was an amazing sight.
This nest is number 166, see below for a photo of this protected nest. If you want to adopt nest 166 the ID number is: 151897
Honda kindly donated a Honda Pioneer for us to use as a part of our sea turtle conservation work. It is so helpful for us on our morning patrols as we drive down the beach looking for sea turtle nests. There is lots of space to store materials and we no longer have to worry about getting our golf cart stuck in the sand. This 4x4 will get us through everything!
Representatives from Honda and a film crew came to the park to begin the documentary video on our sea turtle conservation work. The park manager, Jon, and I were both interviewed about our work here at the state park. They filmed a night walk and a nesting sea turtle, as well as a dawn patrol. They will be coming back in a month or so to capture a nest inventory! We were so happy to have them here documenting our work.
We look forward to seeing the finished product. I will definitely share the video here on the blog!
Sea Turtle Biologist