The work I am doing here in Puerto Rico with the ATMAR (Amigos de las Tortugas Marinas) organization is very important. Many sea turtles are critically endangered including the Hawksbill sea turtles. Only about 1 in 1,000 baby sea turtles will survive to reach adulthood and reproduce. Due to this staggering statistic they need all the help they can get. Sea turtles face many challenges such as natural predators like crabs, birds, and sharks, getting caught in fishing nets, ocean pollution, trash, light pollution, and poaching. Now they are facing another challenge, rising temperatures. The sex of sea turtles depends on the temperature of the sand they are born in. Warmer sand produces females and cooler sand produces males. Recently there has been concern due to the rising temperatures because more and more females are being produced. This skews the male to female sex ration and could potentially lead to a big problem in the future. With fewer males less eggs will get fertilized which leads to less sea turtles overall. The other challenges I listed above are being confronted such as TED’s which stand for Turtle Exclusion Devices and allows sea turtles to escape nets, turtle friendly lights are used around beaches, and beach patrols are discouraging poachers. This new problem however can not be so easily solved as it involves the entire planet. What can people do to help mitigate this extremely daunting problem? Change your light bulbs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs last 10 times longer and use two-thirds less energy than regular light bulbs. Only use heating and air conditioning when you are home and turn them off before you leave. Try to drive less. And last but certainly not least conserve electricity. Turn off lights and unplug electronics and kitchen appliances when you are not using them. You don’t have to travel to Puerto Rico for an internship to help sea turtles. You can help right at home by making a few simple changes.
This is my first post from Maunabo Puerto Rico. My first day was a long one and contained many firsts for me. I dug up my first nest, held my first baby leather back turtle, and measured my fir st nesting leatherback, which by the way are massive. They can weight up to 1,000 pounds and are about 5 to 6 feet long.
A typical day for me involves waking up at 6:30am. Then we head out in groups of three to do beach patrols which involves walking the beaches looking for new nests or nest that have hatched. We mark new nest with flags and a GPS. If we notice a nest has hatched we dig it up in case some of the baby turtles are still stuck in the sand. We take notes about how many turtles were alive, dead, and how many eggs had yolk or not yolk. The beach patrols take about 2 to 3 hours depending on what beach you are patroling. Amigos de las Torgugas Marinas patrols three beaches, playa de Mario, Larga, and California. We also do night beach patrols which involve waiting for adult female leatherback turtles to emerge from the sea and nest. This ensures we know where the nests are and we are able to tag the turtles that are not already. We measure them, put metal tags with numbers on their rear flippers, and put pit tags in their shoulders. When they are laying their eggs the turtles are in a sort of trance, so they don’t feel it when we are tagging them and they don’t move which makes the process much easier.
So far I have learned how to identify and differentiate between leatherback, hawksbill, and green turtle crawls and nests. I can utilize a GPS to mark new nest locations and find older ones. I now know how to tag a turtles flipper and pit tag them while they are laying their eggs. Although so far I have not been able to tag a real turtle hopefully soon I will be able to.
Tomorrow morning I start my summer adventure and journey to Puerto Rico. For my first post I just want to give some back ground and over view of what I am going to be doing this summer. I start off in Maunabo, Puerto Rico working for an organization called ATMAR which is short for friends of the turtles. I will be there for 7 weeks and I will be working with Hawksbill sea turtles. After that I travel to David, Panama where I will be an intern at Alouatta Sanctuary for 4 weeks working with mantled howler monkeys. Every week I will upload new posts discussing my daily tasks, what I am learning, and all of my new experiences, along with pictures as well.
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