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Conservancy of Southwest Florida celebrates 40 years of sea turtle research

Posted at 3:37 PM, Jul 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-19 05:01:09-04

NAPLES, Fla. — Over the past 40 years, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida has documented thousands of nests and hundreds of thousands of hatchlings.

According to a press release, the program was first established to protect nests from predators - including raccoons, ghost crabs, armadillos and opossums on Keewaydin Island. Since only one in 1,000 sea turtles survives to adulthood, it’s an important effort to protect the threatened species.

Over the years, the project has grown into one of the longest continuously running sea turtle monitoring programs of its kind in the country.

An example of this is a mother loggerhead turtle named Emily. For the past 30 years, the team has spotted Emily 13 times since she was first flipper-tagged in 1988 - with the latest sighting in 2019.

Kathy Worley, the conservancy’s environmental science director, said that the team is seeing some original hatchlings coming back to nest.

“In addition to monitoring nesting activity, preventing predation by resident wildlife and tagging the turtles to monitor nesting through the years, we conduct cooperative research with agencies and universities to gain insight into the life history of sea turtles to better protect them,” Worley said.

The Conservancy’s sea turtle program has trained more than 130 interns - many of whom have gone on to continue working with sea turtles. For example, Jill Schmid was an intern in 1997. She went on to be a sea turtle field biologist who has been working with the conservancy on the incubation temperature study to use the data to determine whether Keewaydin nests are producing male or female hatchlings.

Learn more about the Conservancy’s work by going to their website.