Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) received a grant from Keep America Beautiful (KAB) and The Coca-Cola Foundation that allowed us to place recycling bins at the Juno Beach Pier, as well as on the LMC campus.1556244_10152235739866973_3647407687399302749_o

In its ninth year, the Coca-Cola/KAB Recycling Bin Grant Program is providing nearly 4,500 recycling bins to colleges and universities, nonprofits and local governments, with more than 65 percent of the total designed specifically for permanent, ongoing use in heavily-trafficked public spaces and events.

The addition of these new recycling bins allows us to expand the center’s pollution prevention initiative and further our efforts to reduce marine debris. Since 2011, LMC has removed more than 7,000 lbs. of debris from beneath the Juno Beach Pier and surrounding beaches through monthly beach clean-ups and quarterly underwater pier clean-ups. We are committed to establishing a healthy pier environment and believe that marine debris can be reduced and prevented when adequate disposal receptacles are provided.

The Juno Beach Pier is the first fishing pier in south Florida to initiate a recycling program. The 990-foot pier will now feature eight recycle bins, in addition to monofilament recycling tubes and existing trash and cigarette ash receptacles.

Last Stop & on the Road Home

IMG_2348Today marked the last workshop of the week at Naval Live Oaks near Pensacola, a workshop that was slightly delayed due to several participants responding to sea turtle nests and pressing environmental circumstances in the early morning hours – a subtle reminder of the endless dedication to their causes.  The Navarre Beach Pier, the Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier, and the Gulf Islands National Seashore Pier were all represented and each received educational signs and nets to be hung on their railings.  Stories of sea turtle interactions were shared by all.

After the workshop, I was invited to visit the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center (NBSTCC), a growing facility with big plans for the future.  We have been working very closely with the staff to organize the RPI workshops in both Panama City and Pensacola and I have enjoyed seeing the energy that NBSTCC brings to the community each day.

Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center

Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center

Five days, three workshops, two time zones, and over 1,300 miles in the turtle ambulance – this road trip has been a great success for the Responsible Pier Initiative and a fantastic experience for me.  I’ve toured some of the state’s most beautiful places and met some truly devoted people who tirelessly patrol the beaches, manage the piers, and head non-profit conservation organizations.  It has been inspiring to listen to the voices of these different communities and have a hand in helping them create a safer environment for our endangered sea turtles.  As I head back to LMC, I am filled with notes, ideas, and suggestions.  Hopefully, much more from the Responsible Pier Initiative coming soon!

Cheers!

 

St. Andrews State Park

St. Andrews State Park

The Responsible Pier Initiative is now represented in two time zones with the addition of four new responsible piers in Panama City.

I was very proud to bring the workshop to Florida’s Gulf Coast today, an important step in expanding the program to reach a greater expanse of sea turtle habitat. The city known for its eternal spring break is now equipped to inform its fishermen and pier-goers of exactly what to do if a sea turtle is accidentally hooked or entangled off one of their piers.

Today, I spoke with representatives from the city, the county, and St. Andrews State Park, each with at least one pier committed to the Initiative.   These new First Responders were particularly interested in learning about the underwater cleanups associated with the Responsible Pier Initiative and were eager to report the amount of debris they remove from beneath the piers they manage back to LMC. They mentioned that there would be a large number of volunteers in the area willing to help from both below the waterline and above the surface. Community involvement in the Responsible Pier Initiative is critical in its success and there seems to be no shortage here in Panama City.

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Tomorrow, I’ll present the last workshop of the week in Pensacola. I’ll be sure to share one last update before I make my way back to Juno Beach.

Demi in the LMC turtle ambulance.

Demi in the LMC turtle ambulance.

Our tour of the state started yesterday afternoon when I learned that I would be given the keys to the turtle ambulance for the week – an opportunity I have been hoping for since my start at Loggerhead. From Juno Beach, we drove north to Amelia Island and the city of Fernandina Beach, a small, seaside town with residents dedicated to protecting the local sea turtles. They have already encountered several green sea turtles off of their piers and recorded over 30 loggerhead nests on their beaches this year.

The Responsible Pier Initiative is so valuable in these areas of important sea turtle habitat. More than 250,000 sea turtles are accidentally captured, injured, or killed by U.S. fishermen each year, many while they are migrating through fishing areas. The methods employed by the Responsible Pier Initiative have already proven effective in aiding sea turtles near participating piers in the state and allowed for the removal of over 1,500 pounds of debris from beneath the Juno Beach Pier alone.

Kerri at Fernandina Harbor Marina, the first to receive their RPI signs and net this week.

Kerri at Fernandina Harbor Marina, the first to receive their RPI signs and net this week.

This morning, Kerri and I presented the first Responsible Pier Initiative workshop of the week at the Fernandina Beach City Hall. We distributed educational signs and nets to a marina here and spoke with representatives for several piers. There is a lot of interest in expanding the Responsible Pier Initiative in the area, a goal we are very excited to work toward. We hope to come back in the future, armed with more signs and nets to train more First Responders.

Next, I’m off to Panama City. Stay tuned for updates throughout the week.

Road Trip!

One of the most important components of our Responsible Pier Initiative is the educational workshops that we provide first-responders at participating piers. Over the next few days LMC team members, Kerri and Demi, will be on the road conducting regional workshops across the state of Florida and blogging about their adventures.

Kerri is the center’s education manager and has been part of the LMC family since October 2013. She joined our team with extensive experience in curriculum development, grant writing and teaching. Since coming on board, Kerri’s been able to make a noticeable impact in the education department and continues to work to expand the center’s reach.

Demi just recently joined our team as outreach coordinator, a new position in the education department. Prior to her employment at LMC, she held positions in both the education and research fields. Demi’s primary responsibilities in this new role include the growth and facilitation of LMC school, community and campus outreach events.

 

While on the road, Kerri and Demi will be taking over the conservation blog. Follow along the next few days to track their journey across the state and learn more about the Responsible Pier Initiative.

LMC Research Department

For those who may not be familiar, Loggerhead Marinelife Center is a conservation organization based out of Juno Beach, Florida committed to the conservation of Florida’s coastal ecosystems with a special focus on threatened and endangered sea turtles. The center is comprised of three core competencies; sea turtle rehabilitation, education and research. The research department tends to be the least focal of the work we do at the center as the majority of the work occurs in the field or “behind the scenes.” Although not as well known, the work being done in the research department is extremely important as this is how we are continuing to learn more and more about these animals to assist with long-term, global conservation efforts.

The research department at LMC is under the direction of Dr. Charles Manire.  Supporting staff include Adrienne McCracken (Field Operations Manager), Sarah Hirsch (Data Manager) along with, depending on the time up year, up to eight seasonal staff members. The team is supported by the center’s Research and Rehabilitation Committee which consists of the following industry professionals:

  • Jodie Gless, Biologist, Florida Power & Light
  • Dr. Kim Koger, Surgeon, Koger Cosmetic Clinic & Med Spa
  • Karen Marcus, Consultant, Former Palm Beach County Commissioner
  • Dr. Brian Paegel, Assistant Professor, Scripps Florida
  • Dr. Michael Salmon, Professor, Florida Atlantic University
  • Dr. Jeanette Wyneken, Professor, Florida Atlantic University

The LMC research team monitors 9.5 miles of beach each nesting season (March 1-October 31) from MacArthur Park, north up to Jupiter Island. Palm Beach County beaches are among the most densely nested in the United States with leatherback, loggerhead and green turtles nesting each season.

If you spend time on the North County beaches in the early morning during sea turtle nesting season, chances are that you have seen our research team at work. Each morning the team is on the beach at first light to survey and document all nesting activity from the previous night. Nesting surveys are conducted throughout the state of Florida to track the reproductive activities of sea turtles. The number of nests and nesting attempts can help researchers gain a better understanding of reproductive behavior, and over time, help determine the overall health of the population by establishing nesting trends.

2013 was a very successful nesting season and a record breaking year for green turtles on our local beaches, with 4,689 nests in our survey area. In addition, there were 8,095 loggerhead nests documented and 123 leatherback nests. 2014 is already looking to be a very promising year as well, but it’s still very early in the season. As of June 2nd, the following nests have been documented for each species in our survey area:

  • Leatherback-180 nests (surpassed the 2013 total)
  • Loggerhead-2,027 nests (Currently on track to surpass record year set in 2012)
  • Green-2 nests (Green turtle nesting season is just beginning)

Below is an image of a  leatherback orientation circle observed by staff biologists while conducting a morning  nest survey. The circles are made by a leatherback after she has successfully nested; however, they are not always created. Researchers have conflicting theories as to why the leatherback turtles do this. It’s believed that it may be part of their camouflaging technique to disguise the nesting, or possibly just a way for them to re-orient properly to the waterline. Either way, as Field Ops Manager, Adrienne McCracken states, “They add a nice artistic flair to a leatherback crawl!” DC nest with orientation circle (5) Leatherback nest numbers in Palm Beach County have been increasing since the late 1990’s and currently account for nearly 40% of all leatherback nests in the state of Florida. In an effort to gain a better understanding of the nesting leatherback population in the area, LMC developed a long-term project (Leatherback Project) in 2001 to study these animals. Since 2001, the project has expanded to include studies on migration, health, reproductive behavior, contaminants, threats and genetics. The continuation of long-term data collection is essential to gain a better understanding of these animals and assist with the development of appropriate conservation efforts, policy and management programs.

To learn more about the center’s research programs visit our website at www.marinelife.org/research or visit the center and view the research exhibits in our Exhibit Hall.

If you live or are planning to visit the Palm Beach County area, I encourage you to visit LMC to learn more about sea turtles. During the months of June and July, we offer an opportunity for the general public to join us on the beach and observe the egg-laying process of loggerhead sea turtles. This is a truly a memorable experience that I highly recommend. To learn more visit www.marinelife.org/turtlewalk.

Trash Free Seas

Loggerhead Marinelife Center has partnered with Ocean Conservancy on their “Trash Free Seas” marine clean debris initiative.

The program works on various fronts addressing the problem of marine debris, taking a holistic approach towards solutions. The initiative is based off the need for additional information in regards to the effects that ocean debris has on marine and coastal wildlife.

Unfortunately, very little data exists on the amount of debris that female sea turtles encounter when nesting or what their hatchlings must overcome on their trek to sea. Through this program we hope to gain a better understanding and begin to work towards lasting solutions. We will begin to regularly monitor and remove marine debris from our 9.5 miles of local nesting beaches.

This is a citizen science program, allowing LMC volunteers and community members to take an active role in the battle of marine debris and conservation of sea turtles.

Interested in making a difference and helping with this important project?

Contact me at tcutt@marinelife.org or Caitlin Sampson at csampson@marinelife.org.

Sea turtle nesting season officially began in Juno Beach on March 1st.  Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) biologists are permitted by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to survey the beaches from Tequesta to Jupiter Island every morning during nesting season, from March 1 to October 31. For the past 23 years, the team has counted crawls and nests, and documented hatch success for the three species of sea turtles (leatherbacks, loggerheads and green turtles) that nest on local beaches. The research team at Loggerhead Marinelife Center is looking forward to a busy and successful nesting season this year.

photo 4 (2)As of March 13, LMC biologists discovered two leatherback nests within the 9.5 miles of beach from Juno Beach to Jupiter Island that the center officially monitors. Leatherbacks, the largest living sea turtles, are typically six to eight feet in length and weigh approximately 1,200 to 1,500 pounds. They are the first species of sea turtles to begin nesting on local beaches. Loggerhead sea turtles will begin nesting in May, with green sea turtles following shortly after.

“The best parts about the beach area we survey is that it hosts some of the highest density nesting in the United States, we get three species, and we are at the US epicenter for leatherback sea turtle nesting,” said Sarah Hirsch, LMC Data Manager. “We can learn so much from this important nesting population and are thrilled to continue research on these intriguing animals,” she added.

Sea turtle hatchlings face a difficult journey to adulthood, with many natural and human-based threats standing in their way. Only one in every 5,000 hatchlings survives to adulthood. Their survival today is also threatened by human activity. Disturbances of nesting beaches jeopardize the sea turtles’ survival, including development, beach lighting, sea walls, jetties, erosion control structures and nighttime activity on the beach. The good news is that everyone can make a difference by familiarizing themselves with nesting season do’s and don’ts and participating in worldwide Lights Out campaigns, which urge people to adopt a lights out policy near the beach during nesting season.

Do:

  • Throw away debris left behind on the beach
  • Fill in holes in the sand, knock down sand castles, and remove foreign objects which may obstruct a sea turtle’s path to and from the ocean
  • Observe a nesting sea turtle from a distance from behind
  • Look out for disoriented hatchlings on trails and roads near the beach
  • Keep your Lights Out near the beach and where needed install sea turtle-friendly lighting
  • Bring weak or confused hatchlings to LMC, 24 hours a day, at 14200 US Highway One, Juno Beach, FL 33408

Don’t:

  • Don’t interact with or disrupt a nesting sea turtle
  • Don’t use lighting on the beach at night including flashlights, lanterns, flash photography and cell phones
  • Don’t touch hatchlings on their way to the ocean
  • Don’t take touch empty egg shells, or exposed, un-hatched eggs
  • Don’t harm or harass sea turtles, their nests or hatchlings
  • Don’t use shovels to dig on the beach during nesting season

While sea turtles are beautiful, captivating creatures, it is illegal to harm or harass them, their nests or hatchlings. Sea turtles are protected by the US Endangered Species Act of 1973 and Florida Statute Chapter 370.  For more information regarding sea turtle nesting, please refer to our website at www.marinelife.org.

In 2013, we saw much success in collaborating with recreational fishermen through LMC’s Responsible Pier Initiative. This year we plan to expand our reach to recreational boaters through the launch of the Responsible Boater Initiative.

The Responsible Boater Initiative is a program geared towards recreational boaters in South Florida to promote clean, safe boating, fishing and diving practices as it relates to threatened and endangered sea turtles. The initiative will include a “Safe for Sea Turtles” workshop for boaters, educational signage for participating marinas and boat docks, along with personal monofilament recycling containers, marine life resource packet, waterproof/ salt-resistant marine life ID guide, and a “Safe for Sea Turtles” swag  bag for each workshop participant.

We have submitted a funding proposal to the BoatUS Foundation for this project and found out this week that our application has been accepted to move on to the Public Voting phase.

What does this mean?

Beginning on March 15th, our project summary, along with pictures, will be posted on the Foundation’s website and Facebook page for the public to vote on. The projects with the most votes at the end of the voting period (March 29th) will be funded.

How you can help

We need your vote! The morning of the 15th, we’ll post the links to the voting website and Facebook page. The links will be posted on Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts along with here on the Conservation Blog. Please vote for our project and share the links with your social and professional networks. This is a very important project that we truly believe will make an immediate difference in sea turtle conservation in South Florida.

Thank you for your support! Stay tuned for more information regarding the Responsible Boater Initiative.

Basking Honu

In Florida, the only time that a sea turtle naturally comes on the beach is when adult females are nesting, and even then, it’s strictly business. They crawl out of the ocean, dig their nest, lay their eggs, and return to the water-the whole process takes about an hour. There are times when we find sea turtles on the beach during the day (not nesting); however, this is a sure sign that something is wrong and considered a “stranding.” Typically, the turtle is then taken back to our hospital for an evaluation and rehabilitation.

Just as people’s behaviors differ in different areas of the world, so does sea turtles. I had the chance to witness this first hand this past week while spending time in Maui. It may come as a surprise to many to learn that Hawaiian green turtles (honu) crawl onto shore to simply “bask”, a behavior where sea turtles crawl ashore for purposes other than nesting.  I had the opportunity to work with the Hawai’i Wildlife Fund’s (HWF) Honu Watch Project to help monitor the basking honu (turtles) and educate beach goers.

It felt surreal to observe sea turtles (both male and female) of all sizes crawl out of the water to bask on the beach. We counted over 30 the evening I was there and they kept coming out. Possible reasons for the basking behavior is that it allows the turtles to rest, regulate their body temperature, and avoid predators (sharks).

Sea turtles are extremely vulnerable while basking. It’s important to remember that they are protected by the same laws protecting our sea turtles in Florida (Federal Endangered Species Act). If you happen to be visiting the Hawaiian Islands and come across a basking honu (turtle), please follow the following guidelines:

  • Please do not approach closer than 15 ft.
  • Avoid flash photography, as the flash disturbs them.
  • Keep dogs on a leash as they can injure the turtles.

Just like LMC, The Hawai’i Wildlife Fund (HWF) depends heavily on volunteers and interns to fulfill it’s mission. Information regarding both programs can be found here on their website.