Join me in the Turtle Crawl May 3rd!
Okay, I finally caved to the challenges and registered for the annual Turtle Crawl triathlon on Jekyll Island, May 3, 2008. It’s an Olympic distance tri (1,500m swim (almost a mile), 40 km bike (25 miles) and 10k run (6.2 miles) – a perfect blend of speed and endurance (of which I have neither!). It’s been years since I’ve done more than run across the street but once upon a time I was a pretty decent marathoner and triathlete (see photos from the Pinehurst Olympic Distance Triathlon a few years ago where I’m actually smiling!) so it was just too hard too pass up this opportunity to support the Georgia Sea Turtle Center in this event even if it means drowning off the beautiful beaches or collapsing along the scenic roadways of Jekyll Island. There will be a number of talented athletes and a lot of very dedicated “weekend warriors” who’ve been training for this event and I’m proud to run alongside (well, okay, BEHIND) them – my goal is simply to survive and maybe finish before the 4 ½ hour time limit.
If you’re not quite so adventurous as to join the triathlon, please at least come support all these dedicated people who are torturing their bodies to support the GSTC and stay to have some fun with us in the annual Nest Fest that afternoon where the GSTC team and many of our colleagues from the area will have crafts/games/exhibits and lots of family-oriented fun about our local ecosystem. We’ll even be releasing 3 of the sea turtle patients from the Georgia Sea Turtle Center that day!!
The triathlon begins at 7:30 and Nest Fest begins at noon. For more info, please visit the Jekyll Island Website.
See you there!
Dr. Bill Irwin, Director
So my adventures here in St. Kitts have been amazing! Seeing all those nesting mothers on the beach has been breathtaking. The incredible experience I’m having doesn’t end there though!
Today, Dr. Stewart, Research Assistant Sara Ramirez and myself were guests at the St. Kitts and Nevis Defense Force Cadet Corps meeting. We were provided the opportunity to talk about the turtles that are found here, the nesting program, and with the long distance help of the GSTC education staff we even “rescued” our own turtle from marine debris!
The students were great and had some pretty incredible questions. At the end of the program the students had prepared a special thank you for us and selected a cadet to come forward and read it. It was awesome to be so appreciated by them!
Well the adventures continue and I’m headed off to patrol for the evening! Rumor has it a Mr. Leatherback may be swimming into town…
~Jeannie Miller, Aquarist – on location in St. Kitts, West Indies
Even after studying sea turtle navigation for 10 years I have no explanation for this. Bev, who was stranded near Panama City Beach, FL, spent a year there in treatment at Gulf World, was transported to the GSTC on Jekyll Island, Ga (over land, by vehicle), spent a few months here, was transported back to PCB, FL (over land, by vehicle) and released in November 2007, has actually found her way back to Jekyll Island!! Is this a coincidence? Probably. But it sure does show that fact is sometimes stranger than fiction!
Dr. Bill Irwin, Director
Above: Bev’s entire satellite track. [Note: the dotted line across south FL is the tracking program's best interpretation of the data because she was really cruising when she went around the end and we only received sporadic, low-quality transmissions.]
Below: The last few days.
Keep track of her movements at SEATURTLE.ORG:
As migratory reptiles, sea turtles spend the majority of their lives performing some amazing feats of navigation, from hatchlings leaving the nest, to juveniles finding suitable foraging habitats, to adults returning to their natal beach to nest. How do they do it? What cues do they use? Would YOU be able to survive as a sea turtle? Come join Georgia Sea Turtle Center’s Director Dr. Bill Irwin as he presents information from his doctoral dissertation (Magnetic Orientation and Magnetoreception in hatchling loggerhead Sea Turtles) and other information about the sensory abilities of sea turtles. Learn how GSTC researchers and other scientists track turtle movements all over the world.
Where: Brunswick Library
When: April 28 @ 7 pm
Bill Irwin, Ph.D. was hired in January, 2007 as the Director of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island and oversees all rehabilitation, research and educational aspects of the center. Prior to coming to Georgia, Dr. Irwin served as professor of Biology in the North Carolina college system, as the Director of a large education center, and as an Educator with various organizations and institutions along the Atlantic coast. He has an A.S. in Computer Systems Engineering, a B.S. in Biology from the University of Massachusetts and a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Irwin has an extensive research background surrounding sea turtles including behavioral studies with hatchling loggerheads and is a member of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group. Published works, primarily concerned with how sea turtles use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate, have appeared in the Journal of Experimental Biology, Biological Conservation and Journal of Comparative Physiology.
With the summer fast approaching there is lots of excitement about the upcoming turtle nesting season, myself and four other lucky members of the GSTC family are spending some time during this nesting season a bit differently. We will be heading to St. Kitts in the Caribbean to lend a helping flipper to the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network. I arrived here on April 11th and we will continue to send some GA turtle power down to assist with peak leatherback nesting season until June.
Dr. Norton and Dr. Stewart formed a collaborative with Ross University in 2005 and started performing nest monitoring, health assessments and training workshops for veterinarians in the Caribbean. With the completion of the GSTC and the hospitality of Dr. Stewart we have been able to expand the collaborative to include sending some additional flippers to Dr. Stewart to help with the nesting program. We also plan to continue the veterinary training workshops as well!
Upon arrival here I jumped right in assisting with nightly patrols and tagging of the female leatherbacks that come to nest on Cayon to Keys Beach here on St. Kitts. Much like what we do at Jekyll Island, we hit the beach at approx. 8:00pm and then patrol (on foot!) until 6:00am. Any females that are encountered are given a complete physical exam, get blood taken for a health assessment, and a new pair of tags for identification. Nest location is also recorded, and eggs are relocated if they are deemed not to be in a safe location.
Last night, we were treated to an extra special event! We stepped foot on the beach and found 8 crawls! It was practically a leatherback arribada! We quickly processed those and then the long night was on. At 4:00am, we decided it was time to head home after one last lap. On our way back to the vehicles we saw a female just starting to make her way up out of the water. We sat and watched as she found her way up the beach and started to dig. Once she started laying eggs we jumped into action and tagged her, did her exam, and took all the needed data. Her carapace alone was approx. 5 feet long! We thought it couldn’t get any better but then the sun started to come up and we were treated again! We got to watch this lovely lady return to her watery home in the daylight. She surfaced 4 or 5 times on her way out as we danced happily across the beach!
There was time for one last picture of the weary but ecstatic team before we found our way off the beach and into our beds!
What an adventure this all is! I’m very fortunate to be able to have this experience and the honor to represent the GSTC and to work with the Dr. Kimberly Stewart and her great team that comprise the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network!
~Jeannie Miller, Aquarist- on location in St. Kitts, West Indies!