STC Sea Turtle Blog

As Nesting Season Begins, Volunteers Restore Sea Turtle Habitat at Largest Nesting Beach in U.S.

Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) & Wells Fargo volunteers kicked off sea turtle nesting season by restoring native dune habitats for sea turtles and other coastal wildlife at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Melbourne Beach.

DSC_4131STC received a grant from Wells Fargo-National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in March to support its sea turtle lighting and dune restoration initiatives in Florida, home to 90 percent of all sea turtle nesting in the United States.

Nesting turtles once had no trouble finding a dark beach on which to nest, but now they DSC_4146compete with tourists, businesses and coastal residents for use of Florida’s beaches. Artificial lights from these developments discourage female turtles from coming ashore to nest and cause turtle hatchlings to become disoriented away from the ocean toward beachfront properties. In addition, coastal development can negatively impact the health of beach dune systems, DSC_4177decreasing the quality of sea turtle nesting habitat and destabilizing beaches for turtles and residents alike.    DSC_4164

STC is working with beachfront, multi-family properties in Florida to retrofit exterior lighting using the latest turtle-friendly, energy-efficient technology. Additionally, STC is coordinating with property owners to restore dune habitat for sea turtles and other wildlife to provide an additional buffer to shield beach habitat from unwanted lights.

More than 25 Wells Fargo volunteers were on hand to help restore the dunes at Windsong Condominiums, located on a critically-eroding section of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, by planting native dune vegetation that withstands salty air and strengthens dunes with their extensive root systems. Paula Bernston, a native plant expert with Brevard County Natural Resources, was there to ensure that volunteers were trained to properly space and plant the vegetation. Volunteers planted 1000 sea oats, 120 railroad vines, 180 beach elders and 200 spartina patens.

In addition, STC lighting specialist Karen Shudes worked with the condominium to correct problematic lights adjacent to the restored dune by installing turtle-friendly, red LED light fixtures. This collaborative project restored approximately 300 feet of nesting habitat for sea turtles and their hatchlings.