Hi Amy, tell me a little bit about what you do.
The sea turtle volunteers for Highland Beach work under a permit issued by Florida Fish and Wildlife Department. All volunteers are required to attend continuing education classes to remain on the permit. Highland Beach covers about 3 miles which we have divided up into 5 zones. Each morning we survey the beach for new turtle crawls, hatches, animal predation, lighting and beach furniture violations. All crawls are documented noting location, nest number, species and date. If the turtle nested, we mark the nest with a stick that includes date and species. Not all turtles who come ashore actually nest, some may encounter people, animals or lights that discourage them and they return to the water with out nesting, these are documented as false crawls. Nests are monitored for hatching evidence, usually indicated by the tracks of the hatchlings exiting the nest. When a nest has hatched we mark it as such and three days later we will dig the nest and count the shells, count any whole eggs and sometimes even a few live hatchlings that did not make it out. The average size nest has about 80-120 eggs. All the crawls and excavation data is compiled and sent to Florida Fish and Wildlife Department. Along with the beach surveying you will usually find the volunteers collecting trash, especially those items harmful to the sea turtles like plastic which they mistake for jelly fish and digest and fishing lines and ropes which they get tangled up in.
Who is this commission for and why did you choose to have all 3 hatchling species? Tell me about how each one is a little different.
This commissioned piece is for our permit holder, aka "Turtle Boss Barb". Along with surveying the beach with us she makes sure we have supplies, schedules and keeps track of all our data which she sends to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Department. We wanted the piece to include the three species we see on the beach, Leatherbacks, Loggerheads and Greens.
Leatherbacks are the first to show up and are the largest of the sea turtles some weighing up to 2,000 pounds. They are black with white stripes or spots and do not have a hard shell like the other species. A Leatherback track is easy to identify due to it's large track that curves it's way up the beach rather then a straight line. After she nests, she crawls over her nest in an attempt to camouflage it.
Loggerheads get their name from their large head. The hatchlings are the smallest, brown in color and have a beak like nose. The Loggerhead turtles use alternating flippers when crawling on the sand leaving a comma like track which helps us identify it. Their nest is usually more shallow and tidy then the others.
Green turtles are dark in color with white under bellies and white trim around their flippers. They are the liveliest little hatchlings. The Green crawls using a breast stroke and they have longer tails that often leave dots down the middle of the track which help us identify it as a Green nest. The Green turtle nest are very deep and they often go up high into the vegetation making them the most challenging to dig. If you run across a volunteer on their stomach with their head deep in a hole you can almost be guaranteed they are digging a green nest.
What is one of the best stories of the nesting season, or one from the past
Each volunteer would probably have their own "best story". Some are documenting a rare Hawksbill nest, watching two Leatherback nests hatch, helping a juvenile turtle washed ashore entangled in fishing line, helping a mamma turtle who got stuck underneath a lawn chair. The truly best story though comes at the end of the season when we tally up the data and see it was another good year for turtles (Greens had a really good year). On average only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings makes it to adulthood. The mamma turtles do not start nesting until they are about 20-25years old. The last few years the numbers have been improving and that makes us all feel good and excited for the next season.
Highland Beach Sea Turtle Volunteer
Thanks so much for sharing with us, Amy! Thanks to all the Highland Beach Sea Turtle Volunteers and Turtle Boss Barb for everything that you do! I am so happy that I could share your information and stories with the world!
The "Highland Beach Hatchlings" will be available upon request as 16"x20" limited edition prints on watercolor paper. Contact me at email@example.com to order.
Carly Mejeur is a floridian artist, inspired by her ocean hobbies and travels. This Blog is for news, events, and just for fun. Click here for the artist's Bio.