SCCF completes nighttime survey work for season
July 31 marked the last day of the 2020 nighttime surveys, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation reported. COVID-19 restrictions prevented the hiring of its seasonal nighttime interns this year, but its smaller team — aided in part by Sanibel Sea School and SCCF Marine Lab staff — successfully accomplished a full nighttime tagging season starting on May 1 and surveying Sanibel every night from dusk to dawn in search of nesting females.
As always, the SCCF team identified the individual turtles based on unique tag IDs and collected morphometric and behavioral data. This year, it is also conducting a research project to investigate the long-term impacts of the catastrophic 2018 red tide event. Blood samples from encountered turtles will be sent to the University of Miami for a comprehensive health analysis and to the Florida Wildlife Research Institute to quantify brevetoxin concentrations.
The SCCF reported that 91 days and approximately 1 million bug bites later, it wrapped up night patrols with 363 documented sea turtle encounters with 185 different individuals. Interestingly, 19 of the females were 2017 nesters and 16 last nested in 2018, suggesting that more of the islands’ turtles may be on a three-year rather than two-year remigration interval. The SCCF team is interested to see how health status and toxin concentrations compare between the two groups.