Written by Janet Nupp Hochella, long-time STC member and BIC volunteer. The 30 plus years of efforts on behalf of turtles earned Janet the prestigious Ed Drane Award for Volunteerism at the 2017 International Sea Turtle Society Symposium. Janet now resides in Melbourne, Florida where she can continue to pursue her passion – sea turtles!
From the first year that Guided Sea Turtle Walks were conducted at the Barrier Island Center, I have navigated the dark sandy beach at Bonsteel Park in hopes of finding a nesting loggerhead sea turtle for the guests, young and old, who have assembled from all parts of the state or the country. As a sea turtle walk scout, I never tire from the excitement of meeting new people. But more gratifying is finding a nesting loggerhead sea turtle to show the guests, most who have never seen a sea turtle in the wild, and to share in the guests’ enthusiasm and appreciation of this special reptile.
Guided Sea Turtle Walks offer a unique educational and outreach opportunity for participants. But sometimes, there is an added bonus. The loggerhead sea turtle that the Friday night scouting crew found on their first walk night of the 2021 season on June 4th was a very special sea turtle!
Early into the scouting, while the guests were listening to the educational slide presentation, Turtle South came upon a nesting loggerhead. Scott Beazley and Brandon Garrett radioed to Turtle North, Jenna Coven and me, that they had a small loggerhead digging her egg chamber which would be a good candidate to show the guests. The turtle was not far south of the Bonsteel ramp where the guests access the beach. The Lead, Cindy Pless, was notified and the guests were gathered to get to the beach and to the turtle in time to see the turtle dropping eggs into her egg chamber. This was a small turtle and she was moving right along, but the guests got there in time to see the egg laying process. Always interested in determining whether an observed turtle might have been encountered by the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group and under the FWC permit guidelines, I requested that we check, after the turtle finished camouflaging her nest, for tags – metal tags on one of the scutes of the inner edge of both the left and the right flippers, and most importantly, for a PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tag which could be located in any one of the four flippers. Most importantly because the sea turtle can “lose” the metal tags, but the internal tag is usually permanent and can be read with a PIT tag scanner.
Without the use of any light, Scott and I checked for the metal tags. There was none on the left front flipper…but, bingo, there was a flipper tag on the right front flipper! Because I also volunteer with the UCF MTRG and am permitted to check for tags, I grabbed my PIT tag scanner and immediately got a reading from the right front flipper. Finding a PIT tag is always exciting as it reveals there is a history with the turtle. This PIT tag was not in a series that I recognized so finding out the source of the PIT tag would be very intriguing and important. With only the use of the red headlamp to read the flipper tag and the PIT tag, I asked one of the scouts to copy the number to a clipboard that the Lead carries so that I could investigate the source of the tag numbers.
Upon checking with the University of Central Florida Marine Turtle Research Group who monitor and conduct sea turtle research on the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, I was informed that this turtle most definitely had a history. Not only was the turtle seen on the Archie Carr National Refuge by the UCF researchers almost 18 years prior, she was originally encountered by a NOAA group in Florida Bay 21 years ago. I would need to contact Barbara Schroeder, National Sea Turtle Coordinator of NOAA-NMFS, for the particulars.
After several attempts through various channels, I was able to connect with Barbara Schroeder. I was thrilled to learn that the turtle we encountered was one that Barbara Schroeder herself has researched and documented over many years as part of the FFWCC/NOAA Florida Bay Sea Turtle Project.
(Photos courtesy of Barbara Schroeder, FWC/NOAA Sea Turtle Bay Project)
This small loggerhead has quite a backstory! Barbara Schroeder writes in an email “this turtle was first captured by us in Florida Bay in 2000, she was an adult then (you can see her length has not changed). In March 2013 we satellite tagged this turtle after ultrasound revealed she was preparing to breed that summer and she was seen nesting at ACNWR in June 2013 and of course her satellite tag data showed us the same. We named her “Shiver” as it was very cold in March 2013 when we captured her.” Summary records that Barbara Schroeder sent along in the email show that the turtle has been recorded as seen nesting on the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in 2016, 2018, and now in 2021.
Shiver is a special turtle study with her history of being recaptured multiple times in Florida Bay and on the Archie Carr Refuge in multiple years. Shiver gained celebrity status with her own write up in Blair E. Witherington’s book Our Sea Turtles published by Pineapple Press in 2015. Dr. Witherington used Shiver’s data, provided by the FFWCC/NOAA Florida Bay Sea Turtle Project, to exemplify the reproductive migrations of sea turtles. In his book on page 123, Witherington writes “To track her movements over her upcoming nesting season, the researchers attached a satellite transmitter to Shiver’s carapace. Her broadcasts indicated that she left Florida Bay to enter the Atlantic in mid-April and moved along the Florida coast to the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, covering the roughly 250 miles (400 km) trip in about two weeks. Shiver lingered off the refuge and deposited several clutches over an 11-week period. Not long after her last nest, Shiver set off for home, nearly reaching her home waters of Florida Bay after a three-week swim.” The photo to to the right, taken from the book, shows a photo of Shiver and her migratory path in 2013.
As sea turtles generally nest every two years, Shiver probably won’t be encountered on her nesting beach this year. Finding her again in the 2023 Sea Turtle Nesting Season would truly be a stroke of luck with the hundreds of loggerheads that nest multiple times every season on the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. But the Sea Turtle Conservancy Barrier Island Center Sea Turtle Scouts will be out there again this 2022 season. Who knows what sea turtle we will encounter on our guided sea turtle walk night. All of the sea turtles are special! Like Shiver!
Further information on Referenced Organizations:
Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge – https://conserveturtles.org/archie-carr-national-wildlife-refuge-refuge-sea-turtles/
Sea Turtle Conservancy Barrier Island Sanctuary – https://conserveturtles.org/barrier-island-education-center/
University of Central Florida Marine Turtle Research Group – https://sciences.ucf.edu/biology/marineturtleresearchgroup/?fbclid=IwAR32HUqbqY0RdEe2pcZeTN3Zk3meCYavHVvAvxq7v5mLmQmaKEl_1JU_Qow
**UPDATE: Unfortunately, the public lost the vote, 3-2. Thank you to everyone who sent emails, made calls and attended the meeting. 15 people spoke for the changes, and 1 developer spoke against them. If nature and conservation groups unite to make changes to the local government, we have a chance of preserving a legacy for future generations….otherwise, it will only get worse, and all the work we’ve done will be for naught. “They paved paradise, put up a parking lot” as Joni Mitchell sang in 1970.**
There is a rare opportunity to reduce the impact of a highly destructive “loophole” in Brevard’s laws governing Specimen and Heritage trees at an upcoming commission meeting.
Before It’s Too Late! Let’s Save Brevard’s Remaining HERITAGE and SPECIMEN Trees
Why would Brevard County adopt a thorough, 28-page Land Clearing and Tree Protection Policy and include a single sentence, in Section 62-4334, that EXEMPTS 299,508 properties (90%) from following the policy? The result is that a large part of our county’s tree canopy (any property less than one and one-quarter acres), including heritage and specimen trees, can be clear cut at the whim of owners. Think about that for a minute…
Towering 100-year-old Live Oaks, Pin Oaks and Scrub Oaks are being cut down every day. 50-foot tall Sea Grapes, Coconut Palms, Bottle Palms, Royal Palms, Washingtonians and any other trees can be cut down for any reason, or no reason at all, under Brevard county law … No Permits Required!
After extensive discussions with Brevard County Commissioners and Natural Resources staff about the best means to reduce this destruction, the Commissioners will be voting Tuesday, March 10, on a “Legislative Intent” to amend the Specimen tree ordinance. This amendment reduces the exempt properties from 1 ¼ acres to 1/4 acres and achieves the following:
Sea Turtle Conservancy strongly supports this proposed revision to Brevard County’s tree ordinance, which would remove an exemption that allows many beachfront property owners to indiscriminately chop down large coastal scrub oaks, mature sea grape trees and other large coastal trees that play a critical role in stabilizing dune habitat and minimizing erosion following storms. The coastal vegetation to be protected by this new ordinance also helps shield important sea turtle nesting sites from artificial light coming from beachfront developments. In short, this revised ordinance will help protect some of the most important sea turtle nesting habitat in the world from the reckless removal and clear-cutting of coastal vegetation – a practice that worsens the rate of coastal erosion, especially in a time of increased storm activity and sea level rise associated with climate change, and exposes sea turtles and their hatchlings to greater levels of light pollution.
Meeting Date: Tuesday, March 10 @ 5pm
Location: Brevard County Gov’t Center, 2725 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, Bldg C, Viera
E-mails are very important if you are unable to attend the meeting. You do NOT have to be a resident of Brevard County to speak up about this issue. Please pick any or all of the 7 items above as the basis of and e-mail to all 5 Commissioners:
I Support an Amendment to reduce to 1/4 acres, or eliminate, the exemption on the cutting of our trees in Section 62-4334 of Brevard Code.
E-Mail to: email@example.com for Rita Prichett 321-607-6901
firstname.lastname@example.org for Brian Lober 321-454-6601
email@example.com for John Tobia 321-633-2075
firstname.lastname@example.org for Curt Smith 321-633-2044
email@example.com for Kristine Isnardi 321-253-6611
Together we can make this happen!
Kashmir World Foundation (KwF), in collaboration with Sea Turtle Conservancy and Brevard County, Florida, will be conducting a 3-day hands-on workshop on the design, fabrication and operation of programmable multi-copters for use in environmental monitoring. The workshop will assist you in creating a basic platform to evaluate a variety of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for diverse habitats and environments while providing the expertise you need to build, maintain, and fly your drone.
To download event flyer: FlyForConservation
The Barrier Island Center, nestled in the heart of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Melbourne Beach, Florida, is bringing back the Eco-Explorers Summer Camps program in 2016. The camps run throughout the month of June and are offered to children ages 9 to 15.
Participants will enjoy unforgettable experiences, from snorkeling to explore life below the ocean surface and kayaking and paddle boarding to observe first-hand the diversity of life on the Indian River Lagoon, to surfing to further connect with the very beach that attracts more nesting sea turtles than virtually any place on Earth.
Each session offered will cost $325 and includes transportation, certified aquatic instructors, equipment, t-shirt, a year-long Sea Turtle Conservancy honorary e-membership and a complimentary guided sea turtle walk with preferred reservation! To enroll, complete and fax THIS FORM to 321-952-3207. You may then call 321-723-3556 to make your payment. For more information, visit our website. Enrollment is limited to 13 per week and spots fill up quickly! For questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org We hope to see you there!
The holidays are near, which means it’s time to celebrate generosity and give! On December 1, 2015 Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) will be participating for a third time in #GivingTuesday. #GivingTuesday provides one day to make a BIG difference!
STC needs your help on this special day to support the Barrier Island Center (BIC)! The BIC, located in Melbourne, FL in the heart of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, is an education and outreach center which provides free or low-cost programs to visitors, local schools and community members.
These programs help to educate the public about the important eco-systems of the barrier island, wetlands, and lagoon. These areas provide vital nesting and foraging habitat for sea turtles. Since the BIC opened in 2008 over 245,000 adults and children have been able to learn through hands-on activities such as Eco-Explorers summer camps, oyster mat making, sand dune planting, and much more.
Unfortunately, the BIC recently learned it would not be receiving an annual grant of $15,000 to help fund education programs and other operating costs.
Join the movement and help STC continue it’s efforts to further these educational programs.
Can we count you in for #GivingTuesday? Help us reach our $15,000 goal! Click here to participate!
Sea Turtle Conservancy celebrated its 8th annual Tour de Turtles (TdT) with a live sea turtle release on August 2nd at the Barrier Island Center, located in the heart of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Melbourne, Florida.
Hundreds of people gathered to watch STC researchers release two adult female loggerheads sea turtles, named “Myrtle” and “Dash”, into the ocean to begin their migrations. Myrtle was named by her sponsors at Ripley’s Aquariums and Dash was named by her sponsors at Shark Reed Aquarium. The event was sponsored in part by the Florida Sea Turtle License Plate.
This year 13 sea turtles, representing four different species, were swimming in the race to conduct valuable research and raise public awareness about sea turtles.
The 2015 TdT included live turtle releases in Panama, Costa Rica, Nevis and Florida. This year is the first time a nesting turtle was released from Florida’s West Coast. Loggerhead “Amie” was named by her sponsors from the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch group and released in the Gulf of Mexico in June.
Before each turtle release, STC scientists attached a satellite transmitter to its shell using– safe epoxy or fiber class resin. The transmitter allows STC and the public to track the turtles as they travel and migrate from their nesting beaches to their foraging grounds.
Meet the competitors!
Calypso Blue IV, Leatherback
Sponsor: Atlantis Paradise Island
Cause: Commercial Trawl Fisheries
Sponsor: Ripley’s Aquariums
Cause: Plastic Debris
Sponsor: Disney Conservation Fund
Cause: Plastic Debris
Susie Q, Green Turtle
Sponsor: Turtle & Hughes, Inc.
Cause: Light Pollution
Sponsor: Shark Reef
Cause: Commercial Longline Fisheries
Cause: Water Quality
Sponsor: Four Seasons
Cause: Water Quality
Sponsor: Continents Insolites SAS
Cause: Invasive Species Predation
Pawikan, Green Turtle
Cause: Egg Harvest for Consumption
Sponsor: Four Seasons
Cause: Climate Change
Cause: Illegal Shell Trading
Sponsor: The Turtle Hospital
Cause: Boat Strikes
Sponsor: Anna Maria Island
Cause: Beach Erosion
Turtle fans can follow the turtle’s migration online at www.tourdeturtles.org, and cheer on their favorite competitor while learning the threats that sea turtle face. Fans can support their favorite turtle online by virtual adopting, tweeting, or making a pledge for every mile the turtle swims. The turtle who swims the farthest by October 31 will be crowned the winner of the “race”. while the turtle who raises the mist support online, will be crowned the “People’s choice winner”.
Earth Day is a day for us to think about how our lifestyles affect the planet, and it’s a great time to start making small changes to help keep our planet clean and safe for every creature that inhabits it, even humans! This Earth Day, and every day, we are focusing on the dangers of single-use plastic and as always, trying to incorporate the Four R’s into our daily routine–> Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Replenish!
If you’re in the Melbourne Beach area for Earth Day, join us at the Barrier Island Center (BIC) on April 22 for mangrove potting starting at 5:30 PM followed by a Sea Turtle Friendly Lighting Workshop at 7:00 PM!
1. Reduce the amount of garbage you produce by using reusable bags, water bottles, cups, coffee mugs, plates, bowls, silverware, etc. An easy way to help protect sea turtles and our environment is to get into the habit of recycling and buying products that allow you to avoid trashing plastic all together. More than 100 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean, and an easy way to decrease that number is to reuse and recycle. We especially love the Eco-friendly products by Wild Mint. In honor of Earth Month, STC partnered with Wild Mint to give our supporters a 15% discount with code TURTLE! Visit www.WildMintShop.com to go green by April 30th!
2. Become a Turtle Guardian! Turtle Guardians are a special group of STC Members that help protect sea turtles by giving sustainable monthly donations. And since it’s Earth Month, Turtle Guardians who sign up during April at the $10/month level or higher will receive a FREE reusable grocery tote! Take this handy bag with you anywhere and ditch the plastic. To learn more or sign-up, click here.
3. Spread the word about the dangers of helium balloon releases. Helium-filled balloons are frequently released into the sky to celebrate events. Like plastic trash, helium balloons end up in the ocean, especially when released near the coast. Sea turtles mistakenly eat the balloons and die. If you know of a group planning a balloon release, politely ask them to consider another attention-getter. Learn more at http://www.balloonsblow.org
4. Use reusable bags when shopping. Plastic bags often end up in our waterways as litter, and sea turtles can confuse the bags for a jellyfish and try to eat them. Reusable bags now come in all different styles and are far more practical than a plastic/paper bag that will easily rip. We especially love this sea turtle bag from Sea Bags. The bag itself is made out of a re-purposed boat sail. How cool is that?! From April 22-29, Sea Bags will donate $25 from each sea turtle bag purchased back to STC! Visit http://seabags.com/ to purchase.
5. Get outdoors! A great way to spend Earth Day is enjoying the beautiful outdoors and spot some wildlife on Earth Day is by hitting the nearest spring, river or beach for some stand-up paddle boarding (SUPing). Support sea turtles while you SUP by purchasing a Caribe Sup Tortuga paddle board. Caribe SUP donates $20 of each paddle board purchased to STC AND your Tortuga paddle board comes with a sea turtle adoption! Visit http://caribesup.com/product/tortuga/ for more information.
6. Participate in a beach clean-up: Another great way to get outdoors and help the environment is to participate in a beach, park, river or neighborhood clean-up! Work with local groups or your school to organize a clean-up to clear our planet of trash that could harm wildlife.
7. Help sea turtles every time you drive. If you’re a Florida resident, purchase a “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” specialty license plate for your vehicle! Proceeds from the sale of the sea turtle plate go to support Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Program and help fund the Sea Turtle Grants Program. The grants program awards around $300,000 each year to support research, education and rehabilitation projects that benefit Florida’s sea turtles. Click here to see what projects were funded this year. To learn more about purchasing a plate, visit http://www.helpingseaturtles.org.
8. Donate your old phones to SecondWave Recycling! SecondWave focuses solely on recycling cell phones. The materials that go into a cell phone have more than just one life and can be used for new technology. This program keeps phones out of landfills which, prevent harmful toxins from potentially seeping into waterways, and donates 100% of the wholesale value of the phone back to STC! Simply visit Secondwave’s Website to fill out a request for an envelope or print your own label and select ‘Sea Turtle Conservancy’ as your charity. Visit http://secondwaverecycling.com/ for more information!
9. Green your garden! Use compost and mulch to prevent the growth of weeds and
preserve moisture, keeping your water usage low. Research what plants and vegetables are native to your area to help reduce your use of pesticides and fertilizers that can contaminate our water ways from runoff. Switch to biodegradable lawn and garden products and find facilities that properly dispose of toxicchemicals. To find a recycling and collection facility near you, check out Earth911‘s site at http://search.earth911.com/?where.
10. Spread the word in creative ways! Love sea turtles and care about the environment? Show it on your shirt! Our friends at Loggerhead Apparel are donating 50% of all sales to sea turtle conservation for Earth Day! No special codes required. We especially love this “Word Soup” t-shirt. Every word on this shirt describes either the loggerhead sea turtle or our mission to help save these creatures. A walking conversation piece! Purchase this shirt (or any shirt you like!) and STC will receive half the price!
There are so many easy, daily ways everyone can help sea turtles and the environment that might have been a surprise to you and will probably be a surprise to others. Make sure to share this information with your friends! How will you celebrate Earth Day? Tell us on our Facebook page for a chance to win a special Earth Day prize!
By Lexie Beach, STC Communications Coordinator
Back in November, I had the opportunity to participate in a fun Citizen Science Field Excursion organized by STC staff at the Barrier Island Center (BIC) in Melbourne Beach, FL. For those who are unfamiliar with the BIC, it is an environmental education center located in the heart of the Archie Carr National Refuge that is jointly managed by STC and Brevard County’s Environmentally Endangered Lands Program. With staff and volunteers based year-round at the BIC, STC conducts a variety of programs in partnership with the local community that are building coastal awareness and stewardship for the Carr Refuge and the entire barrier island ecosystem. Activities include guided sea turtle walks, beach clean-ups, and dune restoration projects, just to name a few. The BIC also hosts visiting school groups as well as local residents and tourists and is the site of STC’s annual Tour de Turtles release each summer. The facility and its exhibits are open to the public for free and many of the programs are offered for little to no cost.
Along with a group of 20 budding conservationists, I spent a beautiful fall day exploring Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, feeding sea horses at the Vero Beach Marine Lab, checking oyster gardens in the Indian River Lagoon and learning about citizen science projects from around the world. We were also treated to several special guest presentations over a picnic lunch in Sebastian Inlet State Park, which looked especially picturesque that day.
The morning began with a short shuttle ride to Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, America’s first National Wildlife Refuge! After learning about the Refuge’s history from an extremely-knowledgeable volunteer, we were free to roam and explore the scenic trails while trying to spot local wildlife. More than 30 species of birds use Pelican Island as a rookery, roost, feeding ground, or loafing area and 16 different species of birds nest there. Several species of sea turtle as well as Florida manatees and bald eagles are also occasionally spotted within the Refuge.
Our next stop was the Florida Institute of Technology Vero Beach Marine Lab where we learned how we could help save sea horses through a citizen science initiative. We even got an up-close look at newborn sea horses as well as several other species, such as clown fish, which are bred at the Lab for aquaculture use. During our sea horse presentation, I realized that sea horses and sea turtles actually share many similarities when it comes to the threats they are faced with. Water pollution, shrimp trawling, and harvest for consumption in the Asian market are all major threats to these charismatic species which make their home right here in Florida waters.
Other highlights of the day’s adventure included a great presentation by STC Board Member, Peggy Cavanaugh, whose passion about online citizen science projects was positively contagious! Husband and wife team Paul and Anne Lins also spoke about their incredible experiences as volunteer marine mammal responders and sea turtle stranding rescues. We finished the day out on the dock of Hog Point Cove Sanctuary learning about the oyster gardens that are deployed there to help gauge the health of the Indian River Lagoon.
This particular field excursion was just one of the many environmental stewardship workshops the BIC organizes each month. The majority of these programs are free, with some of the more involved ones costing a small donation. This Citizen Science Field Excursion also included lunch and transportation from the BIC. A schedule showing all the activities taking place each month at the BIC can be accessed on the STC website and BIC Facebook page, so you can be on the lookout for programs that interest you.
As the human population on Brevard County’s coast continues to grow, STC and the BIC will play an increasingly important role in protecting the fragile barrier island and its globally important sea turtle nesting beaches by educating the surrounding community and providing hands-on learning opportunities for all ages. To learn more about the BIC, visit http://stcturtle.org/barrierislandcenter.php