For my first week interning at Rookery Bay Research Reserve on Sea turtle patrol, we had quite the week! On my very first day out, May 22, a camera crew filming a documentary about the Reserve joined us to get footage and pictures of us in action. Luckily for all of us, we had three nests (one on Cape Romano and two on Morgan Beach) and two false crawls. My dad, who drove down with me from Massachusetts, signed on as a volunteer so he could join us and help locate the eggs on one of the nests!
The rest of the week was just as eventful. I got to meet many of Rookery Bay’s wonderful volunteers and was taught how to drive our boat, Tursiops. In total, we found eight nests this week, and had ten false crawls. One of the nests was particularly interesting because the mama turtle went all over the place! There were three abandoned chambers, at least two body pits, and raccoon and bobcat tracks all over the place. Although we couldn’t locate the eggs, it made for one of our most complex crawl diagrams ever! Trying to figure out the story of what happened when the sea turtle was trying to nest is extremely enjoyable, as it makes you feel like a detective—I’m still getting the hang of it.
As if this week wasn’t already interesting, we also got to release a juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtle on Friday afternoon. The turtle was found in distress (most likely due to red tide), and was brought into CROW (Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife) for rehab. After a quick recovery, we were asked to release the turtle near our field station on the way to Goodland. Being able to see a sea turtle up close, especially one that is critically endangered and the rarest of all sea turtles, was an incredible experience and one I won’t forget. I’m excited to see what the rest of the summer has in store!
Anthony Himmelberger, Sea Turtle Intern