Happy New Year to you and the loggerheads!

Dry Tortugas National Park was named after two things: 1) it was “dry”, which warned mariners of the lack of fresh water, and 2) the waters were full of “tortugas” (which is Spanish for turtles).

Dry Tortugas National Park is mostly water. Here though, you can see Fort Jefferson (complete with moat) surrounded by the water that makes the Park so beautiful.

Dry Tortugas National Park is about 70 miles west of Key West, FL and is mostly water with some tiny islands. In this picture, you can see Fort Jefferson (complete with moat) surrounded by that water that makes the Park so special and beautiful. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

While there were once many sea turtles swimming in the idyllic tropical waters, the Dry Tortugas subpopulation of loggerhead sea turtles is now one of the smallest of an already threatened species. Numbers are estimated between only 250-500 adult females nesting in this area.

In order to better understand how these female loggerheads – who nest on the beautiful white sandy beaches in the Park – use the habitats available in the water, we satellite-tagged them after they completed nesting. Essentially, this means we glued a small, temporary tag on their shells that transmitted coordinates when the turtles came to the surface.

Loggerhead tracks on the beach almost make  you think a heavy-duty tractor was there instead.

Loggerhead tracks on the beach almost make you think a heavy-duty tractor was there instead. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

We then matched up this location data to a habitat map of the seafloor in the Park. To accurately map this, we used a digital imaging system called ATRIS. We found that the loggerheads showed high “site-fidelity” (they stayed in a concentrated area for long periods of time) to areas near the nesting beaches with diverse habitat.

We published these results as a short communication in Oryx, a scientific journal with Cambridge University Press. It was just released online and, I think, comes as a nice way to start the New Year.

Credit: NOAA A loggerhead sea turtle nesting on the beach. Looks like she kicked up a lot of sand while digging her nest.

A loggerhead sea turtle nesting on the beach. Looks like she kicked up a lot of sand while digging her nest. Credit: NOAA

As we move forward into another year, it’s a great opportunity for us all to reflect on where are lives have been and where they are headed. I feel proud to start the year off with a published article that can help move the conservation of sea turtles and diverse oceanic habitats forward. I hope and plan to contribute to even more meaningful science this year.

No one person alone can ‘save the world’, but together, with each of us doing a small part, there’s always hope for more peace, more enlightenment and more wisdom. What are your plans for this year?

Happy New Year!

…and here’s a link to the article:

Breeding loggerhead marine turtles Caretta caretta in Dry Tortugas National Park, USA, show high fidelity to diverse habitats near nesting beaches
Kristen M. Hart,David G. Zawada,Autumn R. Sartain and Ikuko Fujisaki
Oryx,
FirstView Articles
http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?aid=9491669

One thought on “Happy New Year to you and the loggerheads!

  1. Pingback: The Bahamas: a dreamy escape for sea turtles too | Autumn Sartain

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