Saving Sea Turtles in the Bahamas with Earthwatch

 
$4,410
$5,590
Raised
Remaining
Surveying for turtles in mangroves
Surveying for turtles in mangroves

Thank you for supporting and following along with Earthwatch’s sea turtle conservation efforts in the Bahamas! Dr. Annabelle Brooks and her team will resume their research off Cape Eleuthera with the help of Earthwatch volunteers from June – November 2015. In the meantime, I’m pleased to share with you now some preliminary highlights from the data collected in 2014:

  • 92 volunteers helped tag 172 turtles (including 88 NEW turtles) across 7 foraging locations. They also conducted 60 abundance surveys (plotting turtles using GPS), and 199 baited remote underwater video surveys (BRUVS).

  • The BRUVS captured at least six different species of sharks, which are known to prey on turtles.

  • Close to 1,000 data points were collected as part of a habitat mapping project, which will be used to create high resolution maps of all research sites.

  • All turtles that had been captured before were captured in the same site as their first capture. Dr. Brooks says, “It has been remarkable to observe how attached they are to specific areas… This highlights how important it is to understand the dynamics within foraging grounds, and also how critical this habitat is for their survival.”

In addition to providing data for Dr. Brooks’ research, Tracking Sea Turtles in the Bahamas also contributes conservation-relevant data for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, which includes the endangered green turtle and the critically endangered hawksbill turtle.

None of this data collection would be possible without the ongoing support you provide as a concerned conservationist. On behalf of our scientists, volunteers and staff, thank you again for all that you do for Earthwatch and for sea turtle rescue. We look forward to sharing more results and updates after the 2015 fielding season begins in June!

Sincerely,

Heather Wilcox
Director of Annual Giving & Advancement Services

P.S. Remember, you don’t just have to read about this research from afar… you can participate in it directly as a volunteer! Our 2015 teams are still accepting volunteers. Visit Tracking Sea Turtles in the Bahamas to learn more about daily life on the ocean as a turtle biologist, or to take the plunge and reserve your spot as a volunteer today!

A volunteer assists with flipper tagging
A volunteer assists with flipper tagging
Spotting turtles
Spotting turtles

Links:

“Swimming With Sea Turtles in the Bahamas” kicked off its 2014 research season on February 13th with a team of 9 spirited and eager volunteers who travelled to Cape Eleuthera to help Dr. Annabelle Brooks collect data on the endangered green and hawksbill sea turtles. At the time of our last report, in June, we were expecting just over 60 volunteers to participate throughout the season. However, I’m thrilled to report that we’ve already surpassed this number, and now expect that more than 90 volunteers will have  contributed to this research by the time Dr. Brooks concludes her field research for the year, in mid-November!

In addition to a well-earned break for the holidays, Dr. Brooks will spend the months that follow analyzing the data that was collected. We will be sure to share those outcomes with you as soon as they become available in 2015.

Although Earthwatch volunteers do contribute financially to the research they participate in, the cost of scientific equipment, permits and licenses, and 24/7 support staff quickly exceeds what we can reasonably ask them to contribute on top of their time and labor. This is why donors like YOU are so critical to Earthwatch’s success! Your proactive gifts bridge this funding gap and make it possible to conduct world class citizen science research in nearly 30 countries around the world.

Your support also allows Earthwatch to make multi-year commitments to innovative new studies and to highly skilled, emerging scientists that are often overlooked by other funders. In 2015, Earthwatch will debut ten new expeditions! That’s ten new scientists, dozens more species, and hundreds more volunteers who will join the fight to create a sustainable future – all made possible only because of generous gifts like yours.  

Thank you for your ongoing interest in and support of Earthwatch’s turtle conservation in the Bahamas! None of this work would be possible without the commitment and generosity of donors like you!

Sincerely,

Heather Wilcox
Director of Annual Giving & Advancement Services
hwilcox@earthwatch.org

Links:

“Swimming With Sea Turtles in the Bahamas” kicked off its 2014 research season on February 13th with a team of 9 spirited and eager volunteers. A second team of 8 volunteers arrived on April 10th to continue monitoring and data collection.

Turtle activity is strongest in the mid-summer to fall months, and this is when the majority of data collection will take place. The next teams of Earthwatch volunteers are due to arrive in the field at the end of June, and will consist of two dozen teenagers. Earthwatch reserves portions of many of its programs specifically for teens, who will receive a modified curriculum designed to enhance their learning experience, and provide them with additional resources they can use as they decide their future plans for higher education and careers. Earthwatch has a notable track record of inspiring teens to pursue science careers, including some who have gone on to become Earthwatch scientists themselves!

The 2014 research season in the Bahamas will conclude with a flurry of activity from 5 consecutive teams of volunteers from August 22nd – November 16th, with each team joining the research for 10 days. At this time, we expect that more than 60 volunteers will have participated and more than $150,000 will have been raised to support the many costs of this critical research, ranging from boat maintenance, to field and lab equipment, to room and board for the volunteers.

Thank you for your ongoing interest in and support of Earthwatch’s turtle conservation work in the Bahamas! None of this work would be possible without the commitment and generosity of donors like you!

Sincerely,

Heather Wilcox

Swimming With Sea Turtles in the Bahamas
Cape Eleuthera Institute, Eleuthera Island, the Bahamas
Earthwatch Scientists: Annabelle Brooks, Dr. Karen Bjorndal, Dr. Alan Bolten

Thank you for your generous contribution to Earthwatch’s “Swimming With Sea Turtles in the Bahamas” research expedition! The 2014 research season for this project is about to begin, on February 13th, and will operate until November 16th. We look forward to providing you with real-time participation and research updates throughout the year. In the meantime, here’s a brief summary of the research and activities your thoughtful donations are helping to make possible.

In order to save the green sea turtle and the hawksbill sea turtle from further decline, researchers need to ensure their habitats are protected from coastal development. But where exactly are these turtles most likely to be found, and why? With your help, these are the critical questions that Earthwatch scientists and volunteers will try to answer. The data they collect will then help researchers and the government create plans that will protect the right habitats – and the most turtles - from further harm.
 
The research focuses on five objectives:

  1. Recording Sea Turtle Abundance and Distribution: Scientists know that shallow waters serve as important feeding grounds for juvenile hawksbill and green sea turtles, but the characteristics of foraging grounds can vary greatly. Plotting the frequency of turtle visits to each site will help researches identify which ones are most popular.
  2. Mapping Habitat and Food Resource Availability: When compared with sea turtle numbers from the first objective, mapping food resources found in the foraging sites should help researchers understand how green sea turtles and hawksbills choose where to dine.
  3. Assessing Predation Risk: A suitable habitat is not just rich in food supplies; it’s also free from predators. Researchers hypothesize that areas crowded with predators will have fewer sea turtles.
  4. Long-Term Monitoring: Turtles travel throughout their lifetime. By tagging and monitoring their movements, scientists can determine what (and where) turtles eat while they grow.
  5. Determining Fine-Scale Movements: This objective involves tracking individual turtles to understand their daily movements and activities, using tags that transmit the turtle’s location,

Earthwatch scientists and volunteers will work towards these objectives using the following research methods:

  1. Turtle Abundance Surveys: From a boat, volunteers will spot turtles and record their locations via Global Positioning System (GPS), as well as the time, wind speed, cloud cover and other conditions.
  2. Habitat Surveys: Volunteers will snorkel through sites where turtles feed to collect sea floor habitat data (e.g., percentage cover of seagrass, algae, and sand) and determine physical characteristics such as depth, temperature, dissolved oxygen content, and mangrove root density. Volunteers will also collect plant tissue samples for chemical analysis and use GPS to identify locations of various sea floor characteristics.
  3. Tagging Sea Turtles: When a turtle is caught, volunteers will record the data as the scientists measure and weigh it, collect tissue samples, tag it, and finally release it gently back into the water.
  4. BRUV Work: From a boat, volunteers will bait, deploy, and retrieve Baited Remote Underwater Video units (BRUVs) that record the animals that swim into range.
  5. Acoustic Telemetry: Volunteers deploy acoustic transmitter tags and acoustic hydrophones either from a boat or while snorkeling. The data from these units will help us understand individual sea turtle movements within their foraging grounds and their habitat preferences.
  6. Data Management. In the evenings, or during unfavorable weather, volunteers will help with one of the most pivotal steps in any scientific research - entering and analyzing data – by transferring notes from the field into a database and analyzing BRUV video footage.

As you can see, there is a LOT of work to be done this year in the Bahamas in order to gain the knowledge and understanding needed to successfully protect the green sea turtle and hawksbill turtle from further endangerment, and none of it would be possible without the generosity of donors like you. Thank you for your ongoing support of this research!

Sincerely,

Heather Wilcox
Director of Annual Giving & Advancement Services

P.S. If you are considering taking the plunge yourself and volunteering on this expedition – which we strongly recommend! - you can learn more about it here:

Links:

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Project Leader

Joanna Freed

Boston, MA United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Saving Sea Turtles in the Bahamas with Earthwatch