Janet Hochella and Jim Stevenson volunteered this summer on behalf of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC) to monitor sea turtle nesting in the Sebastian Inlet State Park (SISP), which is located in the heart of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. As CCC volunteers, Jim and Janet had many unique experiences and encountered lots of turtles during their summer-long contribution to sea turtle survival.
The monitoring carried out by Jim and Janet represents CCC’s first active participation in nest monitoring within the Archie Carr Refuge. Named after CCC’s founding Scientific Director, the Carr Refuge is made up of a patchwork of public and private coastal properties between Melbourne and Vero Beach on Florida’s central Atlantic coast. The full twenty miles of beach between these north and south boundaries are considered part of the Refuge, regardless of which entity owned a particular stretch. While the CCC team helped monitor the area around Sebastian Inlet, researchers with the University of Central Florida and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continued their long-term monitoring in the other sections of the Refuge.
Morning surveys began in the SISP on June 25th, 2004. Jim and Janet coordinated their efforts closely with Park Biologist Terry O’Toole, who conducted monitoring on any mornings that couldn’t be covered by the CCC team. In addition to collecting important data, Jim and Janet truly enjoyed their time on the beach. They woke up each morning as early as 4:30 a.m. to begin their surveys on time. And although they had access to the Park’s ATVs, they chose to walk most of the time, instead.
“Walking instead of using ATVs is great exercise and gives the added bonus of being able to stop and smell the roses,” said Janet. “Beachcombing as we went, sea beans, exquisite shells, small toys and fishing lures were all great finds as we trekked the beach during our surveys.”
During 49 survey days, the duo documented 272 turtle crawls, 70 of which resulted in confirmed loggerhead (Caretta caretta) nests and 25 of which produced green turtle (Chelonia mydas) nests. The remaining 177 crawls were “false crawls,” where a female emerged from the sea but did not produce a nest of eggs.
“Some of the crawls were a real challenge to identify,” admits Jim. “It looked so easy during the training workshop, but once on the soft sand and pitted areas, the crawls are not as easy to call.”
Toward the end of the summer, Janet and Jim began noticing the tracks of hatchlings leading from a nest down to the water’s edge. Often they would witness a few hatchlings scurrying into the surf. On a few occasions, they documented hatchlings that had become disoriented–sometimes a track would abruptly stop at a crab hole.
Over the course of the summer, Janet and Jim walked 239.5 miles and logged 143 volunteer hours.
“It was worth every minute and every mile!,” said Janet. “I think of other volunteers doing the same thing and cannot help but marvel at the incredible amount of time and dedication that goes into conserving these special animals. Jim and I hope we have somehow made a difference, however small, in the survival of sea turtles.”
Well, Janet and Jim, you have. CCC thanks you for your great effort on behalf of sea turtles.