Sea Turtle Tracking: Gulf Islands National Seashore Loggerhead Tracking Project

Gulf Islands National Seashore (GUIS) obtained funding from the Washington Office of the National Park Service to conduct a 3 year study, tagging several sea turtles per summer in the Florida District of GUIS. This work is being completed by Park Biologist Mark Nicholas and the Resource Management Division of GUIS. This work simulates other satellite telemetry work done by Schroeder, Foley, Balazs, Hickerson and others. GUIS has about 40 marine turtle nests each year in the park. Park Resource Management staff are also responsible to oversee and assist with the turtle nesting program on Pensaocla Beach, where there are an additional 10-15 nests a year.

GUIS is attempting to learn the post-nesting migration routes used by female loggerhead turtles of NW Florida. It is hoped that the transmitters will function long enough to learn the location of the feeding grounds of the turtles. These feeding grounds are where these turtles most likely spend the vast majority of their lives. Currently, we have very little data on where the turtles go after they nest on the beaches of GUIS and Pensacola Beach. Other data will be obtained from the transmitters as well, such as the number and duration of dives completed by the turtles.

For more information on sea turtles, check out the Sea Turtles Information section of our website.

Click on the turtle’s name to see a map of its movements.

Tagged in 2003:
AMIE – Amie is an adult female loggerhead turtle that was 91.2 cm carapace length. She was flipper tagged with XXT 413 on the front left flipper and XXT 416 on her front right flipper. She was located at 2:15 AM while on a false crawl on Pensacola Beach, just outside the Fort Pickens Area of the national seashore. She was outfitted with a Telonics ST-14 transmitter and released by 5:00 AM. She nested the next night about 3 miles west of where she was tagged. She had a shark bite scar on the back left side of her carapace.

Amie Update 11/25/03: Data indicates that Amie nested the night following her tagging in Gulf Islands National Seashore’s Fort Pickens Area. She then moved offshore and to the west. Data indicates she may then have nested in Alabama just outside of Bon Secour National Wildlife refuge on the morning of August 6th, 2003. She then moved just offshore and transmissions continued until August 9th, 2003. Then no further transmissions were received. Staff and volunteers were disappointed and speculated why transmissions had stopped. Then on October 20th, 2003 at the Celia Reef (an artificial reef that is made of metal and tetrahedral in shape) Amie’s transmitter was located by an Escambia County diver on an inspection dive. The transmitter was found on the sand bottom immediately adjacent to the structure and was in close proximity to the remains of a marine turtle, which were within the reef. It is speculated that the turtle gained entrance to the structure through a space between the sand bottom and the bottom of the metal framework. This tetrahedral shaped framework is open in appearance and allows a view of the surrounding waters. However, the spaces in the framework were not large enough for a turtle to escape.

Researcher Mark Nicholas was able to obtain a video of the artifical reef. It turns out there was a turtle under one of the artificaial structures, but it may not have been Amie. It appears to have been a large loggerhead, but Amie had a shark bite out of her carapace/plastron and from what we can tell in the video, this turtle had an intact carapace/plastron. Seems Amie must have been trying to get under the same artificial cage as well, and knocked her transmitter off. Hopefully she is out there somewhere. Researchers flipper tagged her so maybe someday she will turn up.

A good news side note: Amie’s nest that was laid at Fort Pickens hatched on 9/25/03 and 115 of the 120 eggs that were laid produced hatchlings. Staff/volunteers witnessed (due to light pollution most nests are watched closely) 113 of the 115 hatchlings enter the Gulf of Mexico. Escambia County will be reviewing the dimensions of artificial reefs to ensure current and future reefs will not act as traps for turtles.

Tagged in 2002:
KELSEA – On June 24th, 2002 at about 10 PM a female Loggerhead Sea Turtle was spotted nesting on Santa Rosa Island, Gulf Islands National Seashore’s Santa Rosa unit. It was June 24th at about 10 PM. After she finished nesting, she was outfitted with a Telonics ST-14 satellite transmitter. She was named Kelsea after the daughter of one of the park’s long time volunteers, Gigi Naggatz. Kelsea was also flipper tagged that night and now has tag XXT 409 on her left front flipper and XXT 410 on her right front flipper.

HALIE – The Fort Pickens area of Gulf Islands National Seashore had been having a green sea turtle nest on a 10-11 day cycle since June 20, 2002. Patrols were conducted on the 10th night after the 3rd nest. No turtle was found. However, on the 11th night, a Green Sea Turtle was encountered on a false crawl by the patrol. It was about 2:45 am, July 21, 2002. She was outfitted with a Telonics ST-14 transmitter. She was also flipper tagged with tag XXT 411 on her front left flipper and XXT 412 on her front right flipper. She measured 111 cm curved carapace (shell) length. She was released at about 6 am as the sun was rising. She is believed to have nested for the 4th time the next night about 5 miles from where she was tagged. Halie was a sea nymph in Greek Mythology and her name means “salty.”

Tagged in 2001:
beroe_guisBEROE – Beroe was named by Mrs. Stewart’s 2000-01 3rd grade class of Weaver Elementary School, Calhoun County, Alabama. “Beroe” is originally a Greek word. Beroe was the daughter of Aphrodite and part of the Oceanides, and the name means “she who brings eggs”.

Due to a slow turtle nesting season, and some bad luck, park biologists and volunteers spent 20 nights searching for “Beroe”. She was tagged on July 14, 2001 in the Santa Rosa Area of Gulf Islands National Seashore. She was found nesting just after midnight. Tagging procedures commenced at 0200 hours and she was released at 0445 hours. She was out fitted with a Telonics ST-14 satellite transmitter and was also flipper tagged with tag “XXT 401” on the left front flipper and “XXT 402” on the right front flipper. She measured 102.9 cm curved carapace (shell) length. (Beroe photo credit – Andrew Diller).

KENDI – A Kendi is a female loggerhead turtle that was found nesting on Pensacola Beach on July 27, 2001 by Kendi Arredondo. Kendi was on vacation with her family on Pensacola Beach. While walking to their beach site from the house at around 9 PM, she found the turtle nesting. She let her family know about the nesting turtle. At that point, Jeri Davis, on vacation with Kendi, called park dispatch. They had observed the phone number on a light switch sticker in the beach house. The sticker was designed to remind residents and vacationers to turn off their out door lights so as to lessen turtle/hatchling disorientation. The stickers were designed and paid for by the National Park Service, Santa Rosa Island Authority and Gulf Power.

Biologists and volunteers from the park arrived just in time to detain the turtle before she finished the nesting process and entered the Gulf of Mexico. Tagging procedures commenced at 2200 hours and she was released just after midnight. Kendi was out fitted with a Telonics ST-14 transmitter. She was flipper tagged with tag XXT 403 on her left front flipper and XXT 404 on her right front flipper. Many thanks goes out to the whole family on vacation from Texas for their quick thinking and responsible actions.

Tagged in 2000:
SANDY – “Sandy” was named by the Pensacola Beach Elementary Kindergarten class of 1999. She is also named after a certain wife that has put up with a lot of late night calls regarding turtles. Sandy measured 103.9 cm long curved carapace (shell) length and was tagged after she nested on the beach at the Santa Rosa Area of GUIS on the 28th of June, 2000 at about 3:00 AM Central time. (Photo by Mark Nicholas)

SHELLY – “Shelly” was named by the 1999 2nd and 4th grade classes of Pensacola Beach Elementary School. measured 99.8 cm ong curved carapace (shell) length and was outfitted with the transmitter after she nested in the Perdido Key Area of GUIS on July 13th, around 4 AM Central time.