A project of Conservancy of Southwest Florida in conjunction with the partners and sponsors detailed below.
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The Conservancy of Southwest Florida began in 1964 when community leaders came together to defeat a proposed “Road to Nowhere” and spearheaded the acquisition and protection of Rookery Bay. The Conservancy is a grassroots organization focused on environmental issues in Southwest Florida.
Partnering with like-minded organizations, the Conservancy works to manage growth and protect area waters, land and wildlife. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida does this through the combined, multi-disciplinary efforts of environmental education, policy and advocacy and environmental science and research. Additionally, the Conservancy Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic treats more than 2,400 injured, sick and orphaned animals each year and releases about half back into their native habitats.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida and Conservancy Nature Center are located in Naples, Florida at 1495 Smith Preserve Way, off Goodlette-Frank Road at 14th Avenue North. For information about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, call 239-262-0304 or www.conservancy.org.
ABOUT THE CONSERVANCY SEA TURTLE MONITORING PROJECT: The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has been monitoring sea turtle nesting activity on Keewaydin Island since 1983. Keewaydin Island is an un-bridged, primary barrier island located in Collier County, near Naples, Florida. It is approximately 12 km in length and contains relatively few permanent residents and several weekend homes. This is particularly the case during the summer months.
The State of Florida owns approximately 85% of the island. These lands are included in the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (RBNERR.) The southern 7.2 km of the island are monitored every night between May 15 and August 15. Over the years, Conservancy sea turtle researches have collected data on approximately 1,999 individual turtles, 4,500 nests and recorded 240,500 hatchlings as having successfully entered the Gulf of Mexico. The majority of these nests and hatchling were loggerheads. However, 31 of the nests were from green turtles and one nest in 2015 was laid by a leatherback turtle.
The sea turtle beach monitoring program is multifaceted. It involves monitoring sea turtle nesting activity and reproductive success; preventing nest depredation by resident wildlife, principally raccoons, and most recently feral hogs and coyotes.
Aside from simply protecting nests, the night work has also made it possible to develop an extensive database on the turtles which nest on Keewaydin. Sea turtles typically return to the same beaches to nest, so tagging has made it possible to document both in-season and out-of-season returns by individual turtles. Though loggerheads typically nest four to five times in a season, several have nested seven times. Tagging data is slowly helping us gain insight into lives of these remarkable animals. The project is also one of 27 Florida beaches that are part of the statewide Index Nesting Beach Survey.
With the generous support of our donors in 2009 we began a cooperative satellite tagging effort of post-nesting loggerhead turtles with Dr. Kate Mansfield and one of her graduate students, Katrina Phillips, of the University of Central Florida. Thanks to the continued support of our donor-base and a series of three grants the Sea Turtle License Plate Program and our partners at UCF, the Conservancy's Sea Turtle Monitoring Program was able to continue the satellite tagging through this past summer; 2016. To date we have satellite tagged 46 loggerheads. The objectives of this research are to determine the location of foraging areas utilized by post-reproductive female loggerheads and to see if individual turtles consistently return to the same foraging areas over multiple nesting seasons. In light of the Gulf oil spill, the resulting tracking data will also help us determine if any of these animals are at risk from the oil that remains in the Gulf. We will also be able to assess potential risks from commercial bottom long line fishing if a turtle enters an area where this activity occurs.
This satellite tracking project is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Kate Mansfield and Katrina Phillips, both of the University of Central Florida. Kate also supervises the annual sea turtle monitoring effort in the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. Katrina is a PhD student who is studying under Kate's direction.
This project is made possible by the generous support of the private individuals listed at the end of this paragraph. Additional support for our satellite tracking effort is provided by grants awarded from the Sea Turtle Grants Program. The Sea Turtle Grants Program is funded from proceeds from the sale of the Florida Sea Turtle License Plate. Learn more at www.helpingseaturtles.org