Sea Turtles and Citizen Science

What is Citizen Science?

It is a chance to have fun, learn about Park resources, and experience science in action.
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Project V – June, July, August 2017 Hatch_06_12
Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nest Excavations
our Goal is 50 Nests

Program Description
The Statewide Nesting Beach Survey (SNBS) program was initiated in 1979 under a cooperative agreement between the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The purpose is to document the total distribution, seasonality and abundance of sea turtle nesting in Florida. Three species of threatened or endangered sea turtles, the loggerhead (Caretta caretta), the green (Chelonia mydas), and the leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), nest regularly on our beach.

MacArthur Beach State Park participates in the SNBS program, and seeks to increase the Park’s capacity to collect data by using trained volunteers to assist scientists by collecting meaningful, useful data.

Principle Purpose of Position
Trained volunteers will excavate sea turtle nests to determine nest productivity. Excavation includes digging up the nest after the turtle eggs have hatched and conducting an inventory of hatched/unhatched eggs as well as evidence of hatchling mortality.
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Project IV- June, July, August 2016   – Completed! Success!
Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nest Excavations
our Goal was 50 Nests – 91 Nest Marked, 81 Nests excavated!

Program Description
We brought together Park staff, Regular Service Volunteers, and members of the community to research and collect meaningful data on sea turtle nests – 39 Volunteers in all.  Our beach is one of the highest density nesting beaches in Florida; in 2016 we had a total of 2125 nests laid on our 1.6 miles of beach. As a part of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Index Nesting Beach Program, nest excavation provides very important information on the health and productivity of sea turtles.

EXCITING RESULTS!
• 91 nests were marked; 7 were washed-out by Hurricane Matthew, 3 were not found
• 81 nests were excavated
• Excavated nests had an average of 98 eggs (high of 149, low of 54)
• 2348 hatchlings emerged and left their nest

A New Record for Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nests!
CLICK HERE – 2016 Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nesting Record

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Project III – June, July, August 2015   – Completed! Success!
Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nest Excavations
our Goal was 50 Nests – 64 were excavated!

Program Description
We brought together Park staff, Regular Service Volunteers, and members of the community to research and collect meaningful data on sea turtle nests. Our beach is one of the highest density nesting beaches in Florida; in 2015 we had a total of 2791 nests laid on our 1.6 miles of beach. As a part of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Index Nesting Beach Program, nest excavation provides very important information on the health and productivity of sea turtles.

EXCITING RESULTS!
Early estimations of our project are exciting – 171,695 loggerhead eggs laid on our beach this season! If you take that a step further and apply our best guess of how many hatchlings make it to adulthood, we produced about 100 adult loggerhead sea turtles this season. These numbers are truly amazing!

Citizen Science_Sea Turtle Nesting Project III_2015 Details

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Project II – June, July, August 2014 – Completed! Success!!Citizen Science Exc Vols_WS
Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nest Excavations

OUR TEAM 
We brought together Park staff, Regular Service Volunteers, and members of the community to research and collect meaningful data on sea turtle nests. Our beach is one of the highest density nesting beaches in Florida; in 2013 we had a total of 2582 nests laid on our 1.6 miles of beach. As a part of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Index Nesting Beach Program, nest excavation provides very important information on the health and productivity of sea turtles.

56 LOGGERHEAD NESTS
Park staff marked 73 nests and our hard-working volunteers excavated 56 of those nests 3 to 5 days after the turtles have hatched out. This is hot, smelly work done in the early morning hours on our beach, as they locate the specific nest to be excavated, find the clutch, dig up nest contents by hand, inventory nest contents into specific categories, record data and then re-bury all contents.

EXCITING RESULTS!
Early estimations of our project are exciting – 164,197 loggerhead eggs laid on our beach, producing an estimated 127,897 loggerhead hatchlings this season! If you take that a step further and apply our best guess of how many hatchlings make it to adulthood, we produced about 100 adult loggerhead sea turtles this season. These numbers are truly amazing!

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Project I – June, July, August 2013 – COMPLETED!
Leatherback Sea Turtle Nest Excavations
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Our first Citizen Science project was a huge success, mostly because of the passionate and dedicated volunteers! Thank you!

We were able to excavate 8 leatherback sea turtle nests this year, the data was submitted to Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

We plan to expand this excavation project in the future; registration and sign-up will be announced next spring.

◄ Education Statement ►
Volunteers participating in the sea turtle nest excavation citizen science project will gain knowledge and understanding of :

  • the importance of MBSP to nesting sea turtles
  • the species of sea turtles nesting at MBSP
  • the importance of data collection to understanding population, seasonal productivity, and distribution of sea turtles
  • where to find data on MBSP sea turtle populations, seasonal productivity and the results of nest excavation data collection
  • threats to sea turtles
  • conservation practices to protect sea turtles