Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Tracks of A Sea Turtle in San Diego


Yesterday we were able to continue our successful run for the 2009-2010 San Diego Bay monitoring season, with two more turtles making an appearance. The first turtle who visited us was actually the very first one we found this season, "Bonita." The second turtle of the day was a brand new recruit (more on this juvenile to come in another post)!

Bonita was equipped with a satellite tag on November 5th, and she's been leaving her tracks since then. NOAA researchers have posted her path from the last two months on the wonderful sea turtle website (fresh with a new look!), SeaTurtle.org. See her tracks throughout the southern section of the San Diego Bay, covering 91km since November.

Researchers recovered the GPS tag and will be able to download the full data collected from this high-tech piece of equipment. The tag, a Wildlife Computers MK10-AF Argos-linked GPS transmitter, records not only the turtle's position, but other information about the animal's habitat as well, such as water temperature and depth.

Yesterday I was also able to meet the two new students affiliated with San Diego State University who will be continuing work very similar to the project I did for my Capstone project while at UCSD's SIO last year. In the coming years, and with support from the Port of San Diego, they will work with NOAA researchers and follow the localized movements of the turtles in the San Diego Bay and gather more detailed information about the water temperature and other factors affecting the turtles and their habitat. And with new developments regarding the life span of the South Bay Power Plant being made nearly every month, these findings on the turtle's habitat use will be useful to state and local regulators, power plant operators, and marine scientists alike.

(Photo: You don't usually see green sea turtle tracks on beaches of San Diego! These tracks were left by one of the green turtles as it was released back into the San Diego Bay after being weighed, measured and tagged.)

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Good Start to the New Year!

(Photo: NMFS Permit # 1591)

So far, a total of eight (8) turtles have been caught this season while monitoring at the South Bay! Having been out only four times, NOAA scientists are averaging two turtles for every monitoring field day. Not a bad start to the season!

Tomorrow, we'll be out again and are hoping to continue this great trend in 2010. We'll be joined by some more local students as well.

For a number of years now, NOAA researchers, in partnership with Pro Peninsula (now part of the Ocean Foundation) and the Port of San Diego, have provided a select handful of students the chance to see science in action. On-site experiences start before the classes actually visit the field research station. This prep work provides students with background information through activities, classroom visits by researchers, and even visits to the Chula Vista Nature Center to see green turtles up close.

These experiences help the students to make the most of the time they actually spend on-site. At the South Bay, students help spot turtles resting in the "jacuzzi", witness the weighing, measuring and tagging of all the turtles found that day, and get the chance to ask the scientists about thier jobs, school experiences, and neat questions like "what does the nose of a sea turtle feel like?"

Because this research takes place at the power plant where access is limited, and combined with the fact that these turtles being studied are endangered, the number of people allowed to witness this amazing experience is very limited. The few classrooms able to participate in this moving and hands-on experience are extremely grateful for the funding support received from the Port and other sources, and for the researchers and staff who volunteer their time to enhancing this educational experience.

I know I am looking forward to seeing another group of excited San Diego students out in the field tomorrow- because I remember being a kid, seeing sea turtle researchers up close and personal, and thinking, "I wonder if I could do that one day, when I grow up...?"