A NEW SEA turtle nesting season begins in Emerald Isle during May and continues through August. Volunteers will start walking the beach zones on May 1 hoping to spot the tracks left by a nesting turtle.
On Friday, March 27, a group of permitted volunteers from Emerald Isle joined volunteers from beach communities throughout the state of North Carolina at an all day seminar held at Fort Macon. There were presentations from a veterinarian, professionals from NC Wildlife Resources commission, a park ranger and a volunteer from Keewaydin Island, Florida. The presentations included information and data regarding cold stunned turtles, DNA analysis , strandings and vet care. Sea turtle strandings occur year round but we mostly hear about mass strandings during the winter months due to cold stunned turtles. During this winter over 700 sea turtles were cold stunned off the coast of New England. Those that could be saved were taken to rehab facilities, including 50 Kemp’s Ridley turtles which were transported by plane to Beaufort and then by van to the Star Center on Roanoke for rehab and release. Cold stunned turtles occur up and down the east coast during the winter months when there is a sudden drop in ocean temperature taking the sea turtles by surprise.
The DNA report presented by Matthew Godfrey, a biologist from NC Wildlife Resources, was the most interesting to those of us who have been a part of this research project for the past five years. Permitted volunteers from Emerald Isle have been collecting and submitting the shell of one freshly buried egg from each nest. These shell samples are tested at a lab in Georgia and DNA data has been obtained showing female turtles nesting on our beaches year after year or nesting as far away as Georgia and South Carolina. Using DNA markers which assigned relationships among the nesting turtles it was found that to date, 16 turtles in North Carolina have daughters that also nested either in North Carolina or elsewhere. One turtle that nests in North Topsail Beach has eight daughters also nesting in North and South Carolina. There is one known grandmother who is still nesting and she was found to have 10 daughters currently nesting and two granddaughters. This DNA project continues this season and will give us information on our nesting loggerheads including frequency and whether they are returning to a favorite beach or nesting elsewhere.
Emerald Isle volunteers are looking forward to an exciting nesting and hatching season. We welcome new volunteers as we participate in this program, as well as the chance to inform visitors about the challenges facing these ancient reptiles in their efforts to continue the species. Any questions can be addressed to Pam Minnick (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Emilie Zucker (email@example.com).