Bermuda Green Turtle Surprises Researchers

Issue 3, 2015

Bermuda Green Turtle Surprises Researchers

By Lexie Beach

Kirsty, a juvenile green turtle tracked by satellite as part of the collaborative Bermuda Turtle Project (BTP), has flown the coop! After being fitted with a satellite transmitter and released in Bermuda in August 2014, Kirsty’s movements and habitat use were carefully tracked by BTP researchers Drs. Anne and Peter Meylan and Robert Hardy, with scores of Sea Turtle Conservancy members and supporters following the turtle’s movements online. For months, the young turtle shuttled between positions in the nearshore sea grass beds of Somerset Long Bay, where it was originally tagged, and two locations located on the west side of the Bermuda Platform. But then Kirsty did something exciting!

According to satellite tracking data, Kirsty just recently left the Bermuda grounds! Where are adult foraging grounds? Kirsty was a big turtle (66.7 cm SCL) when measured last August, so it’s not unexpected that she would leave Bermuda. It’s pretty amazing to capture this migration from juvenile developmental grounds to adult foraging grounds “live” while we watch her on satellite as part of the BTP.

The BTP was initiated in 1968 by STC Board Member Dr. H. Clay Frick II, in cooperation with the Bermuda Government. Since 1991, the project has been a collaborative effort of STC, the Bermuda Aquarium, Bermuda Zoological Society and Drs. Peter and Anne Meylan.

The research efforts of the BTP Project are focused on filling in the information gaps on green turtle biology so that successful protection may be given to these vanishing animals. Bermuda is one of a few locations worldwide where post-pelagic, immature green turtles occur in the complete absence of adults. It may be the best site in the world where green turtles of this age can be studied in their natural habitat. Whereas most studies of sea turtles take place on nesting beaches, Bermuda provides scientists and resource managers with a unique opportunity to study the little understood juvenile stage of the green turtle.

In addition to annual research, every year since 1996 the BTP has offered an international in-water course on sea turtle biology and conservation. It brings students and scientists from around the world to Bermuda to study the pelagic and juvenile phases of the marine turtle life cycle, turtle biology and conservation through observation of the animals in their marine habitat, necropsies, and a capture-tag-release study.

This year’s course, held in August 2015, is led by STC’s Scientific Director Emma Harrison with help from Executive Director David Godfrey.