International Women’s Day is a perfect opportunity to celebrate the outstanding contribution to science by the young female marine biologists who work on our turtle projects!
Our research team in St. Croix is made up mainly of women, in the early stages of their professional lives in Marine Biology and Conservation. They are a bright and diverse group of women from many different backgrounds. This year at the International Sea Turtle Symposium, these future leaders worked hard to present research and conservation ideas based on our studies at Sandy Point. It was a tremendous experience for them to be able to share their ideas with other researchers, turtle enthusiasts and students. Well done everyone!
Romina presented her poster on the volunteers who contribute to all sea turtle programs on St. Croix, from the East End Marine Park and St. Croix Environmental Association, all the way west to Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge. Volunteers help in so many ways!
Emma presented her and Makayla’s poster on testing of new equipment for reading the tags that we use to identify our leatherbacks. It was very well received and there were a lot of followup questions, even after the symposium 🙂
Carmen presented her work on understanding the effects that mother turtles have on the hatching success of their eggs. Do bigger females have bigger eggs and do they hatch better? Answering questions like this help us understand more of the biology of our turtles.
Dana looked at differences in hatching success of nests at Sandy Point, comparing two critical years – the year before Hurricane Maria, and the year following the hurricane. Hatching success was lower following the hurricane, indicating that severe weather events impact the nesting beach in a number of ways.
Alyssa reviewed two years of turtle injury data. Our turtles show up on the beach, sometimes with cuts, scrapes and shark bites. We keep track of each turtle’s injuries as well as the rate of healing over the season. Leatherbacks are extremely resilient!
Nina used the GPS points of all of our nests at the refuge to look at the distribution of nests and how that might be used to help the refuge manage the nests. She found that some sections of the beach produced more hatchlings (of course it’s the same area that people love to use!). Answering questions that help with management are critical to updating the conservation plan for the refuge.
We had a wonderful time reuniting with all old sea turtle friends and enjoyed a pizza dinner with everyone who contributed to the 2018 leatherback season at Sandy Point! What an amazing week!
The St. Croix Leatherback Project is supported by the Sea Turtle Census Initiative, which is sponsored by The Ocean Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) organization, based in Washington, D.C., but working globally to protect our oceans.