Investigating the impacts of artificial lighting on nesting sea turtles
Each summer under the cover of darkness endangered female loggerhead sea turtles briefly come ashore on beaches across the panhandle to lay as many as 100 eggs in carefully excavated nests. Typically nests are dug near the base of the shoreward dune; however, recently in Gulf Islands National Seashore nests are often established below the high tide line. These nests then must be moved by park staff to avoid being lost due to flooding. Artificial lighting is known to negatively impact hatchling sea turtles and there is some concern that lights may be impacting loggerhead nest site selection. To test this hypothesis GUIS is partnering with USGS and area schools to map night time light levels along the full length of beaches in the Florida district of the Seashore. This nprecedented, interdisciplinary collaboration between scientists, resource managers and students will provide a detailed map of light levels in the Seashore, which will then be used to determine if artificial lighting is impacting loggerhead nest site selection.