Blog post by: Amanda Csipak
Hello! My name is Amanda Csipak and I am going into my junior year of college at Delaware Valley University. I have had a passion for animals as well as the environment since I was very young which is why I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Conservation and Management.This passion also led me to finding the sea turtle internship here on Edisto Island in South Carolina. I drove from my home in New Jersey down to South Carolina and arrived on the 13th of May.
On my first day of dawn patrol with Leah she made me aware of false crawls and how to distinguish them from a crawl that leads to a nest. A false crawl is when a female turtle has the intention of nesting and comes onto the beach but ends up crawling back into the water without laying any eggs. This can be due to humans disturbing them, lights from surrounding houses deterring them, the turtle not liking the area they have crawled to as well as several other reasons. After not having seen any nests on my first patrol I could not wait to go out again the next morning on the 16th of May to see if any turtles had nested.
Soon after arriving on the beach around 6:30am we saw the first set of turtle tracks on the beach. We took the probes out of the golf cart and followed the turtle’s inward tracks which led to a nest! I was so excited to experience the process of not only locating a nest but also being able to learn how to locate where the eggs are in the nest. Leah began to explain to me how to properly probe as well as where I should mark on the nest to help me narrow down where the eggs could be located underneath the sand. Using the turtles tracks we made a mark in the sand which showed where the midline of the turtle’s body was and then marked the highest point as well as the widest point of the nest. She also taught me that two feet in from where the disturbance starts in the sand from the turtle making its nest is also a good indicator as to where the eggs may be. After marking these areas to make an educated guess as to where the eggs are located, we began to probe the sand. Leah explained to me that you should push the probe steadily and slowly into the sand and if you have located the eggs you will feel a give in the sand. Once feeling the give in the sand you should remove the probe so that the eggs do not get punctured and you can begin to carefully dig for the eggs. Leah found the location of the eggs with her probe and allowed me to dig in the sand to find the eggs. After finding the eggs I was very surprised by the fact that they are not hard like a chickens egg, they are actually rather pliable which allows for shells not to break while the mother turtle releases them into the nest in the sand which can contain a great deal of shells. I was then given the opportunity to take one of the eggs from the nest so that it may be used for DNA testing. When doing this I put on a glove so that there was no direct contact with the egg and I broke the shell releasing the interior particles into the ocean. I then put the egg shell inside the designated vile to be sent away for testing. This was only the beginning of my excitement for the day because to my surprise we ended up finding a total of nine nests on that one morning!
Throughout the morning I was able to assist in the relocation of a nest as well as finding the location of eggs with a probe! Although I have not been here for very long at all I truly appreciate the opportunity I have been given and absolutely love what I have been able to be involved in so far. I can tell that this will be one of the best summers I have ever had and cannot wait to learn more from Leah!
Below are photos taken from Susan Porth:
Sea Turtle Biologist