Summary of the monitoring and nesting habitat restoration efforts for 2008

The sight of these small turtle eggs indicated that a sea turtle had successfully nested
Eggs (in top right corner) within a sea turtle nest chamber

NPS

In 2008, there have been two components to Biscayne National Park’s Sea Turtle Program: 1) Habitat Restoration and 2) Monitoring of Nesting Activity

Sea Turtle Nesting Habitat Restoration

Biscayne National Park received the much-needed help of more than 60 college students who donated their time to habitat restoration activities on sea turtle nesting beaches. The students represented Xavier University, University of South Florida, University of Maine, Rice University, University of Pennsylvania, and Colorado State University. These students removed countless bags of debris, including derelict boating and fishing gear (such as lines and floats) and glass and plastic bottles. Many students participated as part of the “Alternative Spring Break” program. Biscayne National Park is very grateful for their many hours of service these students provided. The result of their hard work is cleaner beaches, which means an increased likelihood of successful sea turtle nesting.

Sea Turtle Nest Monitoring

Beach monitoring started in May, and consistently included numerous beaches on Elliott Key. Staff and volunteers walked the beaches each day to look for signs of turtle nesting activity. Activity is classified as: 1) nest, 2) false crawl, or 3) undetermined. A false crawl occurs when a female comes ashore but fails to produce a nest, perhaps due to obstructive vegetation, presence of people or predators, or poor habitat quality. An event is classified as “undetermined” when it seems possible, but not certain, that a nest has been produced.

Below is a summary of the sea turtle nesting activity observed during the 2008 nesting season.

Date

Identification

Outcome/Comments

May 22

False Crawl 1

-

May 22

Undetermined 1

This nest was assessed on July 28th and produced 158 hatchlings! This nest was presumed to be a loggerhead nest.

May 28

False Crawl 2

-

May 28

False Crawl 3

-

June 1

Nest 1 (Loggerhead)

The nest was assessed on August 4th, and produced 49 hatchlings. Unfortunately, many of the eggs in the nest failed to completely develop.

June 12

Nest 2 (Loggerhead)

This event was undoubtedly a nest, as eggs were visible upon close inspection. Unfortunately, this nest was noticeably close to the high tide line, leaving it susceptible to flooding. Indeed, when the nest was assessed on August 25th, all 136 eggs were unhatched and immersed in water at the bottom of the nest cavity. Only 3 of the 136 eggs present had fully developed, indicating that the nest had probably been flooded early on in the nest’s development.

June 13

Disturbance of Nest 2

The disturbance was most likely the activity of hungry raccoons. Luckily, the eggs were not damaged. The mesh screen was secured with extra stakes

June 25

False Crawl 4

Because it was a particularly low tide that night, the turtle’s tracks across a long distance were more obvious than usual. The sea turtle had apparently attempted to dig in a couple of different locations but was unable to find a satisfactory nesting site due to thick vegetation and a large pile of debris that had washed ashore. Sadly, the turtle returned to sea without laying her eggs.

June 27

False Crawl 5

-

June 29

Nest 3 (Loggerhead)

Because this nest was located very close to the high tide line, the nest was susceptible to innundation during peak high tides and storm surges. Indeed, the passing of Tropical Storm Fay likely contributed to the nest being completely immersed in seawater. Sadly, when park staff assessed this nest, none of the 140 eggs produced a hatchling sea turtle; all eggs perished prematurely due to the nest being flooded. Hopefully the female that laid this nest will learn to place future nests further up the beach to protect them from high tides and storm surges!

June 29

False Crawl 6

-

July 6

False Crawl 7

-

July 21

Undetermined 2

Unknown- This area where this potential nest was located was flooded during high storm activity, which also resulted in the removal and loss of the protective screens. Thus, it was impossible to locate and assess the nest after the passing of the storm.

August 18-19

Landfall of Tropical Storm Fay

Fay brought strong winds, rain, and storm surge, with possible flooding of nests that had yet to hatch, particularly those located close to the high tide line.

August 26

False Crawl 8

-

August 26

Nest 4

As with Nest 3, this nest was located very close to the high tide line and, consequently, became inundated by higher-than-normal tides. The flooding of this nest prevented all 133 eggs contained within from fully developing and hatching. To make matters worse, this nest was also predated by large numbers of fire ants.



Click here to return to the Sea Turtle Main Page, or click on one of the links below to learn more about sea turtles:

 
Volunteers, as part of the Alternative Spring Break Program, remove debris that has accumulated on an important sea turtle nesting beach
A sea turtle nesting beach before (left) and after (right) the hard work of many volunteers from the Alternative Spring Break program

NPS

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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