Danielle O’Neil, Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Dr. Deby Cassill, University of South Florida-St. Petersburg
University of South Florida St. Petersburg
Loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) have major nesting sites along the protected shores of the southeastern United States, an area where the species are listed as either endangered or threatened. In this study, the effects of beach renourishment and nest relocation on the rate of emergence of Loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings from their nests. The study location was the beaches of Pinellas County, Florida; the study period was five years, 2006 through 2010. Because beach renourishment can be environmentally detrimental for sessile organisms such as sponges and coral, we hypothesized that beach renourishment would negatively affect hatchling success of the Loggerhead sea turtles. If the data supported our working hypothesis, then increased efforts to relocate Loggerhead sea turtles nests from renourished beaches to natural beaches would be justified. Contrary to our working hypothesis, this study found that the hatchling success of Loggerhead sea turtles was unaffected by nest relocation (leaving the nest in-situ versus relocating the nest), by beach type of origin (nest constructed by the Loggerhead sea turtles on natural beaches versus renourished beaches) or by the type of beach into which nests were relocated (natural beach versus renourished beach). Hatchling success was unaffected by relocating nests to less populated beaches to reduce light pollution or to higher ground to reduce to possibility of washout by high tides during storms. Ironically, our study of ~53,700 Loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings showed that they are capable of surviving the interventions of humans to save them. Additional studies of hatchling success in other Florida locations are needed before our results can be generalized to Loggerhead sea turtles within the southeastern United States.
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Dellert, Lauren, "The Effect of Nest Relocation and Beach Renourishment on the Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) in Pinellas County, Florida" (2012). USFSP Honors Program Theses (Undergraduate). 112.