Conservation projects differ from location to location based on the local environmental conditions and resources available. Here in Kyp, the predators (dogs and foxes) require that we protect each nest with grids, and the availability of bamboo allows us to repurpose the natural litter along the beach to stabilize the grids and aid in further protection.
Teams of two to four people per sector work together to monitor all four sectors of beach across a span of over 10 km every morning. The first step is locating the new sets of tracks from the previous night, made obvious by the upturned moist sand below. Next, we follow along the track to determine the turtle’s nesting activity. She may have a swim, body pit, abandoned egg chamber, and/or a nest as her final activity. The direction of the nest is also recorded. If a nest is present, the egg chamber must be located and protected, and a sign is added to notify beach goers of the grid’s purpose.
Data is collected on the nest location by GPS, distance from shore, distance from the start of the beach sector, and top egg height. If the nest is too close to the sea it is at risk for inundation, and must be relocated. During relocations, additional data is collected and steps are taken to ensure the nest is as similar to the original as possible and that the eggs are not exposed for any longer than necessary. Environmental data is also collected, such as car tracks on the beach, fishermen, boats, fires, and dog activity.
There are also teams of two to three people who go out each night to locate, tag, and collect data on the nesting adult turtles. I have not yet experienced a night survey, but those who have gone thus far are seeing increasing activity. Sometimes a turtle will come ashore injured or wash ashore dead. This is referred to as a stranding. In the case of an injury, the turtle is assessed and may be taken to the Sea Turtle Rescue Center. In the case of a dead turtle, data is collected and the Coast Guard are informed to collect the remains.
The collection of data from all surveys not only helps us to keep track of the nests, future hatchlings, and fate, it also allows us to see patterns in activity and understand how the loggerhead sea turtles utilize the area, as well as how to better protect them. I have taken on the responsibility of transferring the data from all sectors into the main database, and thus am able to see what data are analyzed, and how.
Having settled in quickly here, I hope to take on more responsibility over the course of the next three months in all areas of the project, from morning and night surveys to training volunteers to organizing bamboo collections and shopping trips. Each day brings a new adventure in Kyparissiakos Bay, and I welcome it with dirty, open arms.
Loggerhead tracks with dog tracks:
Measuring top egg height:
Placing the grid:
Securing the grid and protecting the borders:
The final product: