15 October 2008

Nest Assessments and Kemp's ID

Sally and I assessed the next to last loggerhead nest, Santa Rosa 8061, this morning. One hundred thirty-four out of 136 eggs showed no signs of development... That's a lot of hard work for a momma turtle with little discernible result.

Normally, I post lots of photos of my day at work, but that assessment was just no fun. I had to dig 136 eggs out of a two foot deep hole (Gustav and Ike had deposited lots of extra sand on the beach there) and open each egg to determine what happened. The eggs just looked infertile, but it was a depressing, messy job. I don't think I'll ever eat scrambled eggs again!

We do still have one loggerhead egg in a cooler. It still looked viable at the assessment, so we took it back to the office. Sally and I 'candled' the egg -- holding a bright flashlight under it while in a dark room -- to see the embryo inside. It looks a little small, but the shadow of the tiny turtle head was unmistakable. Hope the little guy will hatch in a few more days.

The state also asked us to mail samples from each of our reported Kemp's ridley nests from this season. They seem to think we can't identify the species! Luckily, when we assess nests, we do save at least one hatchling or embryo from each nest (if there's one that didn't survive) for a variety of reasons. They're stored in the freezer until we need them, and today we did. So, I had to find dry ice in Gulf Breeze, which is not an easy task. Eventually, I found some at Winn Dixie and packaged the little critters up for FedEx. It seems strange to me to be able to do that -- in the Caribbean, that would require all kinds of CITES permits and other red tape. Secretly though, I can't wait for the state to call us back and tell us we were right all along!

That leaves just one more nest for this season, Pensacola Beach 8201, which should hatch very soon. After that, my time here will be almost done! Hard to believe a year and a half could fly by so quickly. I'll miss the park tremendously, but I have much more to look forward to back home...

The last nest is another loggerhead... Can you see the difference between the two species (Kemp's are the last three images, the first two images are loggerheads)? I don't know why the state thinks we can't tell.

* update - We didn't have a sample from one of our Kemp's nests as there were no dead hatchlings or unhatched embryos, so we emailed the state photos of those hathclings instead (if you know me, you know I take way too many pictures!). We had an almost immediate species confirmation from the state... After they see the five hatchlings Mark and I mailed, maybe they'll be less skeptical next year!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The difference is that the Kemp's look more like crabs than turtles and the State thinks you might be confused...just kidding of course. :) Rhonda

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