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ISTS Day 3: Foraging, Physiology, and Movement… Among Other Sea Turtle Things

April 14, 2011

There was nothing special about today, but I managed to see most of the presentations dealing with foraging and movement of sea turtles. Most specifically I was able to see a number of presentations about leatherback sea turtles, my new obsession. These gigantic creatures are kind of freaky looking at first, but being the biggest and most unique of the sea turtle species I now find myself absolutely in love with them. I keep hearing Marc Ward of Sea Turtles Forever talk about one leatherback female named Rosie that he’s seen nesting repeatedly, and oh gosh I wish I could be there to see her!!

Anywho, back to the conference. I had planned to be here since 8am watching presentations, but honestly I cannot get up that early no matter how hard I try. I arrived just in time to watch a presentations about conservation of leatherbacks and loggerheads in South Africa. It was supposed to be about conservation, but it also talked a lot about how the different biologies of the turtles allowed for one species population to recover faster than the other (the leatherback being better suited for recovery). The reason for leatherbacks having more success is because their nesting is less specific, and so they cover a wide area. The loggerheads return to very selective beaches. There were also several comments made about how now the population of leatherbacks in that area is estimated to be made largely of males now, an explanation for why not more females are coming to nest on South African beaches. Or something like that.

I saw another super cool presentation about loggerhead babies being tagged and released off of Western Florida, and they were observed following the Gulf Stream north, but also swimming away from the stream, unexpectedly. There was another presentation about Australian flatback turtles and their migration patterns, as well as those of Eastern and Western Pacific leatherbacks (yes, there’s a difference). The West Pacific leatherbacks are so cool because depending on where they nest and at what time of year, they follow different migration routes. Those that breed in the winter tend to stay around Australia and tend to be larger in size, especially longer in length. Those that breed in the summer migrate across the entire Pacific ocean to forage off the Western U.S. coast, and tend to have a wider carapace (shell).

One last thing I learned today: the U.S. Mid-Atlantic Shelf is an important foraging location for juvenile loggerhead turtles born in Eastern Florida. It was observed in a study being presented that there are distinct seasonal and day/night trends in the sea turtle surfacing behavior. It was observed that loggerheads rarely dive deeply at night, which would make sense because there is less light for foraging so why waste the energy.

Sorry if I bore you, but you did have the choice to stop reading you know.

Now I’m just manning the table, protecting our merchandise with my life. We’re out of free chocolate (bummer), but on the bright side I got a free poster of butterflies in Sri Lanka. I also got a free poster from a Nicaraguan organization. And speaking of posters I haven’t been able to check out that other plastics one yet. It will happen tonight sometime! One hour until my last poster presentation!

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