Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Turning Off the Heat: Impacts of Power Plant Decomissioning on Green Turtle Research in San Diego Bay

A paper by myself and Dr. Seminoff discusses some of the collective work of NOAA scientists during my master's program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography's Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation and may now be accessed online in Coastal Management Journal.


Abstract:
Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) are among the most high profile species in San Diego Bay, California, and understanding impacts of coastal development and industry is essential to the management and conservation of this local population. Here we describe power plant changing energy production and its impact on turtle habitat use and our ability to research and manage this population. For over 20 years, green sea turtles have been captured, assessed, and tagged near the South Bay Power Plant (SBPP) in the San Diego Bay; from 2002–2011, 104 turtles were captured on 212 occasions. As the 50-year-old SBPP generates less energy, effluent patterns change and water temperatures decrease, presumably to more natural conditions. There has been a concurrent decrease in turtle-capture success, perhaps due to lesser visitation to the effluent site where nets are tended. Seasonal catch-per-unit-effort declined from a high of 4.14 turtles per monitoring day, to a nine-year low of 1.33 during the 2010–2011 season. It is already apparent that management decisions related to energy policy are affecting the habitat and behavior of this stock of endangered turtles. Green turtles are expected to remain in the San Diego Bay after the SBPP becomes inoperative and continuing research will monitor future impacts and distribution shifts resulting from the expected changes in thermal pattern within south San Diego Bay. Research efforts to study this population (i.e., capture methods and locations) will require modification in response to these changes. Lessons learned here are applicable to the immediate coastal development of San Diego, as well as at similar interactions between marine turtles and industrial thermal effluent discharge throughout Southern California, the United States, and beyond. 


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cooperative Efforts to Reduce Sea Turtle Bycatch

My research is made possible through many partnerships - as is typically the case when working with long-lived and migrating animals like sea turtles.  One group I partner with is Grupo Tortuguero, a community-based conservation and research program based in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.  While green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) is one species common to the Pacific waters off of Baja's coast, another species of sea turtles is even more common to see - the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta).  The loggerhead turtles in the Pacific Ocean feed off the the Mexican coast, where they eat pelagic red crabs, and other benthic (bottom dwelling) invertebrates.  Yet these loggerheads do not nest along the Mexican coast, instead, most of them come all the way across the Pacific Ocean from their nesting grounds in Japan!

Grupo Tortuguero has collaborated with fishermen in Mexico, as well as fishermen in Japan, to help find creative ways to reduce the number of marine turtles captured in their fishing nets and lines.  Finding a solution to this problem not only protects the turtles, but it can help the fishermen make more money, by not loosing fishing gear to tangled turtles, and by not wasting time having to remove turtles from their nets and lines. So this cooperative is a win-win for all parties involved.

This short video shows a new turtle-release method being tested and demonstrated at a recent meeting in Japan.  (Note on the end - those surface lines appear to be in place for the sake of this test at the aquarium...)  Enjoy!


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Injured San Diego Turtle is Being Released!

If you recall back in February, NOAA researchers captured an adult male green sea turtle during one of our regular monitoring days, and noticed the turtle was not in good condition.  That day the turtle was taken to receive medical attention at SeaWorld, where the turtle was dubbed "Bruce" as his recovery began.

Today, several news sources reported that Bruce will be returned to the San Diego Bay today!  He has apparently recovered from his multiple injuries and severe dehydration, and has bulked up to a respectable 300 pounds. 

Here are some of the brief articles sharing this great news!

With any luck, I'll get to see Bruce again this year, as NOAA's monitoring in the South Bay will begin in the coming weeks. I'll keep you posted!


(This one from the LA Times has a great picture of Bruce!)
Green sea turtle once near death will be returned to San Diego Bay
Los Angeles Times
Bruce, the Pacific green sea turtle found close to death with gunshot wounds to his neck in January, is set to be returned to San Diego Bay on Tuesday. ...
Bruce the turtle ready to return to San Diego Bay
San Jose Mercury News
AP SAN DIEGO—A Pacific green sea turtle that was found near-dead of gunshot ... that Bruce the turtle is ready to be returned to San Diego Bay on Tuesday. ...
Recuperated Sea Turtle Returns to Ocean
NBC San Diego
By Sarah Grieco A sea turtle named "Bruce" by SeaWorld staff was found in San Diego Bay shot four times in the neck in February 2011. ...
Bruce The Sea Turtle Released To San Diego Bay
KPBS
Bruce the green sea turtle will be released into San Diego Bay today after undergoing nine months of veterinary care at SeaWorld San Diego. ...
Bruce the Turtle Ready to Return to San Diego Bay
KOLO
The Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/vjdtlm) reports that Bruce the turtle is ready to be returned to San Diego Bay on Tuesday. At Sea World, Bruce has ...
Bruce the turtle ready to return to San Diego Bay
Ventura County Star
AP SAN DIEGOSAN DIEGO (AP) - A Pacific green sea turtle that was found ... that Bruce the turtle is ready to be returned to San Diego Bay on Tuesday. ...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Let the research begin!

Well, two years after graduating from UCSD's Scripps Institution of Oceanography's Marine Biodiversity and Conservation masters program, I'm back in school.

Now it's a PhD program at UCSD, in the Biological Sciences' Ecology, Behavior and Evolution (EBE) department. Over the next five years, my research will still be focused on the incredible reptiles which come and visit us in San Diego - our green sea turtles! But now, I will be studying the population of green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) which reside not only here in San Diego's Bay, but throughout their entire geographic range in the Eastern Pacific from Los Angeles to Central Mexico.

My research will aim to help answer some very important questions about these animals - seemingly simple things - like how old are the turtles when they are in the open ocean? how old are they when they settle closer to the coast? can we make a more refined connection between the age of a turtle and its size? do some turtles stay in the open ocean and never move in close to the coast? is there an impact over time on the turtles living near human communities? can we tell which turtles have been affected by pollution from our cities, like San Diego? how fast do the turtles grow???


Believe it or not, we do not know a lot of the very basic information about sea turtles! This is a very common challenge for scientists studying large, long-lived, and migratory animals in the ocean. Other animals like some whales, dolphins, seals and sharks are the same way - they are all familiar animals, like sea turtles, but very basic questions about them remain unanswered since there are some many difficulties in studying them.


All of these questions driving my research are important because they will help us to better know how many of these animals are in the different parts of the Pacific ocean, and how the entire population of East Pacific green sea turtles is doing over all.  Knowing the population size of this species is key, because they are an endangered animal, protected by the Endangered Species Act.  I will continue to partner with scientists at NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center to do this research, as NOAA's branch, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is responsible for assessing and managing endangered species found in the oceans.


My research will help manage this population, so we can better understand the impact of things like fishing and pollution on the overall size of the population of turtles.


Stay tuned, as I'll continue sharing this journey!


PS - A recent article in the Voice of San Diego discussed the wetlands in the South San Diego Bay, where I help monitor the sea turtles residing there. A couple of times in the article it was said that the sea turtles will no longer be in the bay, now that the power plant has been turned off... this is not the case! The turtles are still in the bay!  The water in the South San Diego Bay is still a good temperature for the turtles, and there is still plenty of eelgrass for the turtles to eat!  Not to fear, our turtles like their home in San Diego, and won't be going anywhere any time soon!


What we may see, as discussed in previous posts, is that the time of year when turtles are visiting the bay will shift a little bit.  The turtles used to be in the south bay especially in the winter, when the power plant kept the cooler water warmer, but then they wouldn't be in the south bay as much during the summer, when the power plant made the water too hot much of the time.  Now, we may start seeing a change in these patters - we may see the turtles more in the summer when the bay is warm, and we may see them less in the winter, when the water cools a bit.  Again, NOAA researchers are working hard to continually monitor this population, so they are in good hands!  Stay tuned as our South Bay monitoring season will start in just a few weeks!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Turning off the heat: Impacts of power plant decommissioning on green turtle (Chelonia mydas) research in San Diego Bay, CA USA

Turning off the heat: Impacts of power plant decommissioning on green turtle (Chelonia mydas) research in San Diego Bay, CA USA


Paper currently in review.


Abstract

Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) are among the most high profile species in San Diego Bay, California, and understanding impacts of coastal development and industry is essential to the management and conservation of this local population. Here we describe power plant changing energy production and its impact on turtle habitat use and our ability to research and manage this population.

For over 20 years, green sea turtles have been captured, assessed and tagged near the South Bay Power Plant (SBPP) in the San Diego Bay; from 2002-2009, 73 turtles were captured on 173 occasions. As the 50-yrs old SBPP generates less energy, effluent patterns change and water temperatures decrease, presumably to more natural conditions. There has been a concurrent decrease in turtle-capture success, perhaps due to lesser visitation to the effluent site where nets are tended. Seasonal catch-per-unit-effort declined from a high of 4.14 turtles per monitoring day, to a seven-year low of 1.45 during the 2008-2009 season. It is already apparent that management decisions related to energy policy are affecting the habitat and behavior of this stock of endangered turtles. Green turtles are expected to remain in the San Diego Bay after the SBPP becomes inoperative and continuing research will monitor future impacts and distribution shifts resulting from the expected changes in thermal pattern within south San Diego Bay. Research efforts to study this population (i.e. capture methods and locations) will require modification in response to these changes. Lessons learned here are applicable to the immediate coastal development of San Diego, as well as at similar interactions between marine turtles and industrial thermal effluent discharge throughout Southern California, the United States and beyond.


PDF version of poster available


PDF draft available by contacting author


Key References


California Energy Commission. 2005. Staff Report CEC-700-2005-013: Issues and Environmental Impact Associated with Once- though Cooling at California’s Coastal Power Plants. Available at http://www.energy.ca.gov/2005_energypolicy/documents/index.html#051005 (accessed December 1, 2009).


Carr, A., L. Ogren, C. McVea. 1980. Apparent hibernation by the Atlantic Loggerhead Turtle (Carretta carretta) off Cape Canaveral, Florida. Biological Conservation 19:7-14.


Clifton, K., D. Cornejo and S. Felger, 1982. Sea turtles of the pacific coast in Mexico. In Biology and Conservation of Sea Turtles, ed. K. Bjorndal, 199–209. Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington DC.


Deutsch, C.J., 2000. Winter movements and use of warm-water refugia by radio-tagged West Indian manatees along the Atlantic coast of the United States. Final Report prepared for the Florida Power and Light Company and U.S. Geological Survey. 133 pp.


Dutton, P. and D. McDonald. 1992. Ultrasonic Tracking of Sea Turtles In San Diego Bay. In J.I. Richardson and T.H. Richardson (Compilers), Proceedings of the Twelfth Annual Workshop on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation (pp. 218-221). Washington DC: NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SEFC-361.


Eguchi, T., J. A. Seminoff, R. LeRoux, P. H. Dutton, D. M. Dutton. 2010. Abundance and survival rates of green turtles in and urban environment: coexistance of humans and an endangered species. Marine Biology DOI:10.1007/s00227-010-1458-9.


Felger, R., K. Clifton, and P. Regal. 1976. Winter Dormancy in Sea Turtles: Independent Discovery and Exploitation in the Gulf of California by Two Local Cultures. Science 191(4224):283-285.


Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 2008. Summary of Artificial Warm Water Refugia Issues. Available at: http://myfwc.com/manatee/habitat/warmwat.htm (accessed December 1, 2008).


Guerra-Correa, C.G., C.M. Guerra-Correa, P.D. Bolados, A. Silva and P. Garfias. 2008. Sea turtle congregations in discrete temperate shoreline areas in cold Northern Chilean coastal waters. In A.F. Rees, M. Frick, A. Panagopoulou and K. Willams compilers. Proceedings of the Twenty-Seventh Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation (pp. 211-212). Washington DC: NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SEFSC-569, 262p.


Hochscheid, S., F. Bentivegna, M. N. Bradai, and G. C. Hays. 2007. Overwintering behavior in sea turtles: dormancy is optional. Marine Ecology Progress Series 340:287-298.


Inman, D.L., and B. M. Brush. 1973. The Coastal Challenge. Science 181(4094):20-32.


Laist, D., and J. Reynolds. 2005a. Influence of Power Plants and Other Warm-Water Refuges on Florida Manatees. Marine Mammal Science 21(4):739-764.


Laist, D., and J. Reynolds. 2005b. Florida Manatees, Warm-Water Refuges, and an Uncertain Future. Coastal Management 33(3):279-295.


Langford, T.E.L. 1990. Ecological Effects of Thermal Discharges. London: Elsevier Applied Science.


McDonald, D., P. Dutton, D. Mayer, and K. Merkel. 1994. Review of the Green Turtles of South San Diego Bay in Relation to the Operations of the SDG&E South Bay Power Plant. Unpublished report prepared for San Diego Gas and Electric, San Diego, CA.


Packard, J., R. Frohlich, J. Rynolds, and J. Wilcox. 1989. Manatee Response to Interruption of a Thermal Effluent. The Journal of Wildlife Management 53(3):692-700.


Stinson, M. 1984. Biology of sea turtles in San Diego Bay, California, and in the north eastern Pacific Ocean. San Diego State University. San Diego: Master's Thesis.


Torezani, E., C. Baptistotte, S.L. Mendes and P.C.R. Barata. 2010. Juvenile green turtles (Chelonia mydas) in the effluent discharge channel of a steel plant, EspĂ­rito Santo, Brazil, 2000–2006. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 90, pp 233-246 doi:10.1017/S0025315409990579.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Calling All Teachers!

FREE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOP:
Bringing the Ocean and Sea Turtle Science into the Classroom
Thursday, April 14th 4:00 - 7:00 pm
Town and Country Hotel
San Diego, CA

Registration Deadline Extended to April 10!
The International Sea Turtle Society convenes a uniquely important four-day symposium each year that brings people together from all around the world (more than 1,000 people from over 80 countries!), all dedicated to the research and conservation of sea turtles. The 2011 Symposium marks the return of this meeting to the U.S. for the first time in four years, and it will be the first-ever Symposium hosted on the U.S. west coast! The theme of this year’s meeting is The Next Generation of Research and Conservation. Throughout the week, major efforts will be made to recognize and support student contributions to the Society and to advancing research and conservation of sea turtles around the world.

The Symposium is partnering with the Ocean Connectors program to host a special Teachers Workshop on April 14! This unique educational workshop will be provided FREE of charge and will focus on ocean conservation through the biology of sea turtles while meeting state learning standards. Special guest speaker Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, world-renowned sea turtle biologist, will commence the Teachers Workshop with a thought provoking and inspiring lecture on "Oceanophilia: The Neuroscience of Emotion and our relationship to the Ocean (and sea turtles)". Following the lecture, teachers will be introduced to online resources and classroom activities to inspire the next generation to protect, understand, study, and respect our oceans. Participants will receive 3 hours professional development credit.

Register for this free workshop by e-mailing Frances Kinney at frances@propeninsula.org.
Please provide the following information:
1) Full Name
2) Name of School, District, and Grade Level
3) E-mail and Phone Number

Please help us spread the word about this special opportunity – invite a fellow educator to join the Teachers Workshop!

Enrollment confirmation and Workshop details will be sent via e-mail. For more information, please contact Frances Kinney at frances@propeninsula.org or Barbara Andrews at BAndrews@calacademy.org.

Marine Turtle Conservation: a diagnostic tool for success


By Cali Turner Tomaszewicz, Danielle DiIullo, Aly Fleming, and Michelle Lande


About the Project

Marine turtles, as a group, are some of the widest ranging animals on the planet. They are adapted for almost every marine habitat from the ocean's surface to depths of up to 1000m, from one side of an ocean basin to the other and then up onto the beaches at the ocean's edge. Despite this miraculous range and flexibility, all seven species of sea turtles are threatened or endangered, some even critically. In addition, most nesting takes place in countries that lack the resources to properly protect the turtles. Fortunately, in recent decades, the world has begun to notice and efforts to promote conservation have been initiated in coastal nations around the globe.

These conservation initiatives range in scale from local community operations to international NGO projects. While nearly all efforts are well-intentioned, not all have experienced great success. Just as marine turtles' range is so broad, so are the threats that face them, making their preservation extremely challenging.

By examining a wide range of conservation projects and much of the relevant scientific literature, we have created this website as a diagnostic tool in hopes that it will aid current efforts. There are seven elements to our Diagnostic Tool that we feel have been demonstrated by many conservation groups as crucial elements of a successful conservation program. We have focused here on the socio-economic and cultural components of marine turtle conservation. We feel these are just as integral to successful conservation as basic biological principles.

1. Base foundation on local socioeconomic and cultural conditions and practices

2. Match varying scales – ecological, spatial, social


3. Harness local and external knowledge

4. Facilitate and utilize a strong, responsive legal capacity


5. Identify and address limitations


6. Promote longevity and adaptability

7. Share and learn from practices

More Information

How to Use the Diagnostic Tool
Creating the Framework
How to Define Success
What is Least-Cost?
References
Links

Comments and questions may be addressed to co-author: Cali Turner TomaszewiczContact: cali.turner@gmail.com - Will also be available at the 2011 ISTS.

Other co-authors:, Dani DiIullo, Aly Fleming and Michelle Lande

Created as a graduate project at Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, University of California, San Diego

(c) 2008

Friday, February 4, 2011

San Diego Bay Sea Turtle, Recovering at SeaWorld

The Power Plant is Closed - and the Turtles are Still Here!

December 31st, 2010, was the last day of operation for the South Bay Power Plant. For over 50 years, this massive plant has produced energy for San Diego businesses and residents, and now the four-unit energy-generator is silent. This was no surprise (read some past blog posts to learn more!). Regulators, residents and researchers all knew the power plant's days were numbered, it was just a matter of time. The plant used old technology, called once-through-cooling (OTC), and pulled in water in from the San Diego bay to cool and condense the steam used for the plant's operation, and the warmed water was then discharged back into the bay.

For several decades, the population of green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) which forage (or eat) in the south part of the bay have been monitored by graduate students and researchers from NOAA's protected resources division at the Southwestern Fisheries Science Center. Since the power plant's closure, researchers have conducted two monitoring days, and each time turtles have been found. The first day yielded a remarkable 6 turtles found. And last week, while conducting a regular monitoring session, NOAA researchers, whom I've assisted for the past three seasons, found one sea turtle. This turtle, however, wasn't looking very good.

The large male green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas)
found in the San Diego Bay, and was later taken to Sea World
for rehabilitation.

The large male green turtle had been found in past years, as well as earlier this monitoring season. When I first met this particular turtle, two things were immediately noticeable: 1) a large portion of his tail is missing, 2) one of his rear flippers was quite mangled and injured. Neither of these injuries were recent, and were each likely due to entanglement and or interaction with a boat.

The left rear flipper and tail showed past injuries. The white bar is a
sonic tag used to monitor the turtle's location locally within the San Diego Bay.

Floating debris, such as discarded fishing line and plastic pollution, and boat strikes are common causes of injuries to turtles around the world. But the other thing that researchers noticed about this turtle, which was different from the past years, was that he was more lethargic than usual, and he had lost a considerable amount of weight. (Weighing and measuring turtles, in addition to tagging and photographing them, is part of the monitoring program for this endangered species.)

Images from SeaTurtle.org Image Library

The turtle found in the San Diego Bay last week is part of a population of green turtles that breed and nest at beaches in Mexico and off-shore islands and are an endangered species that is protected by the US Endangered Species Act and additional international agreements, such as CITES. Genetic research by NOAA's scientists is helping to identify where exactly the sea turtles in the San Diego Bay nest and breed.

Standard protocol for when a turtle is deemed to need immediate medical attention, is to transport the animal to the veterinarians at Sea World. NOAA scientists determined that this large male turtle needed help, and so we took him to Sea World for diagnosis and rehabilitation. This was the first such animal that I have encountered during my time helping NOAA which was is poor enough condition to warrant intervention. A goal of endangered species research is to be as minimally intrusive into their normal behaviors as possible.

Later in the week, I heard the news that x-rays had shown this turtle to have been shot. I couldn't believe the news. After thinking about it some more, I really wasn't all that surprised that some people might do this - after all - I've heard plenty of stories about sea lions being shot by people who view them as an annoyance, despite the animals being a protected species. And it seems there will always be a few people out there who give humans an especially bad image.

The doctors at Sea World said that the wounds from the four shots did not look new, so the shooting was not a recent incident. It is likely that a combination of factors, including being entangled when he sustained his tail/flipper injuries, cool winter temperatures, and any number of threats (trash, pollution, boats & etc.) were the cause of this turtle's lethargic state.

But the good news is that the large green turtle has received a good prognosis from the veterinarians treating him, and he should be released, perhaps later this summer, so that he can continue his life-journey as one of San Diego's sea turtles.