2011 Sea Turtle Research Internships

Four focus areas
• • • • Science training Paper writing Spanish Cultural adaptation-teamwork


Nest Protection

Habitat surveys

Field Work


Climate change Studies

Community outreach


•Cabo San Lucas area •Puerto Vallarta area •Cancun area •Bay Islands, Honduras •Costa Rica •Brazil

Orientation Spanish Classes Field work Paper and presentations 3 units Geography 499 or Bio 499 • 3 units Latin American Studies 499 • $500 scholarship • • • • •


"For in the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught." -B. Dioum

Slides borrowed from:
http://www.wcc.hawaii.edu/facstaff/miliefsky-m/MarBioPPTs/009d-Marine%20Reptiles.ppt. http://www.sacs.k12.in.us/school155/images/files/b18_file439_5277.ppt. http://marinediscovery.arizona.edu/lessonsF00/brittle_stars/2.html

And Previous Science Exchange interns: Monica Rosquillas, Sarah Maxey and Daniel Soares and Jeff Weaver

Sea Turtles in Mythology
• Turtles have long been revered in myths. • Most Indian tribes see turtles as being sacred. • The are seen as being supernatural because of their powers for survival. • The Greeks saw turtles as standing for wisdom.

More Sea Turtle Myths
• In a Chinese myth, a turtle was believed to have developed the world within its shell. • Some Indians believe that the world in which we live was formed on the back of a turtle.

Sea Turtles
• Sea Turtles have long fascinated humans, and have figured prominently in the mythology and folklore of many cultures • Millions of sea turtles once roamed the oceans, but now only a fraction remain • Their spiritual significance has not saved them from exploitation for food and profit

Sea Turtles
• Trade in sea turtle meat, eggs, shells, oil, and leather has driven almost every species of sea turtles to the brink of extinction • Also, thousands of sea turtles die each year in shrimp nets, gill nets, long-line hooks, and polluted waters • Dramatic changes to coastlines and beach property also affect sustainability

Sea Turtles
Common Characteristics
• Large, air-breathing reptiles • Inhabit tropical & subtropical seas throughout the world • Shells consist of an upper part, called a carapace, and a lower section, called a plastron • Hard scales (scutes) cover all but the leatherback; the number & arrangement can be used to identify the species

Sea Turtles
Common Characteristics
• Don’t have teeth, but jaws have modified “beaks” suited to their particular diet • Don’t have visible ears, eardrums covered by skin • Hear best at low frequencies • Sense of smell is excellent • Vision underwater is good, above water they are nearsighted

Sea Turtle Anatomy



Green Sea Turtle
• 4 pairs of large scales on either side (coastal scales) Does not have thick overlapping scales Carapace high domed Color light to dark green with dark mottling

• • •

Green Sea Turtle Carapace

Green Sea Turtle
•Diet •Adult greens feed mostly on seaweeds and seagrasses although immature greens are carnivorous.

Green Marine Turtle
•World Wide Range and Breeding Grounds

•The range of the Green Marine Turtle, • ( Chelonia mydas ), is the largest of any of the sea turtles

Black Sea Turtle
Introduction The black sea turtle is controversial because not all scientists consider it to be a species. It is often considered to be merely a subspecies of the green turtle and it is classified as Chelonia mydas agassizii.

Black Sea Turtle
General Description The head size is comparatively smaller than that of green sea turtles. •Adult black turtles weigh as much as 220 pounds. •It nests at night and has 70 eggs.
06/13/11 20

Black Sea Turtle
•Diet •Black sea turtles are not carnivores •Their diet consists mainly of algae, sea grasses, jellies

Sea Grass

Red Algae


Loggerhead Sea Turtle
•Description •long, slightly tapering carapace •5 pairs (rarely 6) of large scales on each side (coastal scales) •Carapace longer than wide •Color red-brown to brown •Adult carapace approx. 1.0m

Loggerhead Sea Turtle Carapace

Loggerhead Sea Turtle
•Diet •Loggerheads are carnivorous •They feed mostly on shellfish, crabs, sea urchins and Crab jellyfish.

Sea Urchins


Loggerhead Sea Turtle
World Wide Range and Breeding Grounds

•Loggerhead turtles can be found in all of the oceans of the world •Major nesting areas are in Australia, Japan, United States and 24 06/13/11 Central America

Loggerhead Sea Turtle


•The Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) is on the endangered species list Internationally and in all countries where they nest. • The loggerhead turtle has lost 50-80% of its annual nesting population in the last decade. • Further loss of only hundreds of loggerhead turtles annually may threaten the survival of the species in worldwide

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
•Diet •The olive ridley turtle is carnivorous, feeding mostly on shellfish and small crabs.




Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
•World Wide Distribution

•The largest "arribada" thus far recorded in Ostional (Costa Rica), took place in November 1995 when a calculated 500 000 females came ashore.

Hawksbill Sea Turtle
(Eretmochelys imbricata) The Hawksbill Turtle gets its name from its hawk-like beak. . This turtle's shell is the source of "tortoise shell", and because of this commercial exploitation has caused their numbers to dwindle. Their shell and oils are in constant demand, placing this turtle in danger.
•Sponges make up a major part of the diet of hawksbills. •They also feed on seagrasses, algae, soft corals and shellfish.

Yellow Sponge

Hawksbill Sea Turtle
World Wide Range and Breeding Grounds •

•The Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), prefers shallow coastal waters. • It is the most tropical of all sea turtles.

Leatherback Sea Turtle
Dermochelys coriacea) •The Leatherback is the largest of the sea turtles. They can reach a length of 6 feet

Leatherback Marine Turtle Carapace

Leatherback Sea Turtle
•Unlike the other turtles, the Leatherback's shell has no scales. Instead it is covered with a rubbery leather-like skin. •The leatherback turtle is carnivorous and feeds mainly in the open ocean on jellyfish and other softbodied invertebrates

Sea Nettle Jellyfish (Chrysaora fuscescens)

Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle
•Background •Modern history finds this smallest of sea turtles fighting its way back from the brink of extinction.

Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle
Range and Breading Grounds

• The range of the Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle is from the Caribbean Sea to Eastern Canada • The only major nesting site is in the Gulf of Mexico
06/13/11 34

Sea Turtle Population Decline

•Typical sea turtle population reduction

Mating- at sea Migration- occurs in late spring; female is accompanied by male Egg laying behavior- return to same beach (natal beach)

Kemps Ridley nesting

Usually nest at night Front flippers dig pit, rear flippers carve out burrow

Egg tooth- used to chip away at shell Group effort to get out of nestemerge at night (safer) and head towards brightest light Artificial lights- confuse hatchlings

Turtle nest Cross section

Leatherback hatching

Kemps Ridley hatchlings

Clutch size- about 100 eggs & covers pit with sand Egg incubation- 2 months depending upon species Sex determined by temperature- males lower temp, females higher temp – pivotal temperature ~31 C

• Sight • Position of the moon • Wave direction • Internal compass (turtles that we know use this: loggerhead and leatherback)

• Some turtles migrate over 2600 km but most will only travel 1000 km.

A. Incidental fishing B. Direct Fishing C. Egg Poachers D. Beach Development E. Marine Debris F. Rising sand temperatures G.Fibropapilloma

To Sell for •Meat – BBQs or Soup • Eggs- Cocktails •Jewelry • Leather Strong cultural traditions at parties Eggs through to be an aphrodisiac
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES): turtle commerce prohibited in countries that signed agreement

Marine Debris- plastic bags, soda can plastic rings, fishing line, oil and tar

Costal development and habitat degradation- noise, light, beach obstructions- affect nesting habitat

Fibropapilloma- virus in Green turtles Affects ability to feed, see, move about, or breath May be due to pollutants, blood parasites, or habitat change

Turtle Excluder Device

2. How can we protect the turtles and their habitat?
• Protect nesting grounds • A. Reserves and wildlife refuge • B. Relocate eggs to hatcheries. • C. Patrol the beaches from poachers • D. Prevent coastal development and activity.

2. How can we protect the turtles and their habitat?
• Education • A. Get locals involved • B. Decrease international trade of products • C. Scientific research • D. Tell others

2. How can we protect the turtles and their habitat?
• Improvements • A. Improve fishing trawls (TED) • B. Protect with turtle farms • C. Decrease pollution and trash • D. Get involved

3. Problems being faced with enforcing laws
• Not all countries have the money or manpower to control poaching on beaches. • Violations of poaching may only face a simple fine, or may be disregarded.

3. Problems being faced with enforcing laws
• Jurisdiction varies between governmental agencies: • water = fishery depart. • land = wildlife and forest depart.

3. Problems being faced with enforcing laws
• Turtle farms for trade and reinstatement cost millions of dollars and take 20 to start.
• “to some people . . . trade and conservation appear to conflict, but if properly applied, they could well be the key to surviving the species” • --H. Reichart

3. Problems being faced with enforcing laws
• Local people are not educated enough in rural countries and need turtle meat as a source of protein. • Not all nesting beaches can be protected.

1964: Conservation of Tortugas began in Mexico 1990: Total ban on sea turtle take in Mexico 1994: Conservation of Tortugas began in Los Cabos area ( 80% of nesting )


Saving the Sea Turtles One Egg at a time

Analysis of Sea Turtle Nest Temperatures and Future Global Warming Effects on Two Coasts of Mexico
Nick Furst, Allison Baxter, Armando Lorences Camargo, Carla Cristina Sanchez Salazar, Katherine Comer Santos International Sea Turtle Symposium San Diego, 2011

Sea Turtle Internships through The Science Exchange Summer 2010

Akumal, Baxter 2010

San Cristobal, Furst 2010

Map of Locations at San Cristobal and Akumal

• Incidental fishing, habitat loss, poaching, pollution, disease, lethal nest temperatures due to global warming. • Nests in other studies are currently reaching lethal limits (Matsuzawa et al.
1985; Matsuzawa et al. 2002; Hays et al. 2003;Valverde et al. 2010; Fuentes et al. 2010).

Akumal green, Baxter 2010

Research Questions
1. Are nests in our study areas currently in danger of reaching lethal limits? 2. Can we use regional weather station data to monitor our study sites? (Is there a significant correlation?) 3. Can we use weather data to monitor sand temperatures at our study sites? (Is there a significant correlation?) 4. Will global warming cause sand temperatures in 2100 reach lethal limits on these beaches?

Nadia releasing hatchlings in Akumal, Baxter 2010

• Metabolic heat produces about 1.7 C of heat compared to surrounding sand temperature
(Segura and Cajade 2010).


• The lethal limit for embryos occurs at around 34C (Bustard and Greenham 1968; McGehee; 1979; Yntema and
Mrosovsky 1980; Miller et al. 2003)

Akumal, Baxter 2010

Assumptions (cont.)
• Future air temperatures were modeled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and are predicted to rise about 1.8 C by 2100
(IPCC 2007)

Methods and Materials
• Followed Hawkes et al. 2007 and Gallegos et al. 2009 • Walked daily to check sand thermometers buried at nest levels in different areas of Akumal and San Cristobal beaches • Measured daily climate variables at the beaches • Downloaded weather data from local weather stations

• Dependent:
– max sand temperature

• Independents:
– min and max air humidity – min and max air temperature – dew point – wind speed – precipitation

•Used a Pearsons Correlation Matrix
(PSPP freeware)

Akumal, Baxter 2010

• Only minimum air temperature was sig. correlated with maximum sand temperatures • R values =
– 0.64 at Akumal – 0.68 at San Cristobal (p<.05)

R=. 6

• Consistent with previous studies
– 0.44 (Hurtado unpubl. 2008) – 0.49 (Maxey 2009) (p<.05) – 0.42 from Junquillal, CR (Gallegos et al. 2009)
Example of one sensor at Akumal

Global warming prediction
• We used the R values to extrapolate temperature change
y = change in sand temp m = slope or R x = increase in air temp (1.8 C) b=0

• 2100 predicted sand temperatures will increase by:
–1.22 C at Akumal –1.15 C at San Cristobal

Results: Predicted Global Warming Effects on Sand Temps
Akumal 2010
Location Mean Temperature (includes 1.7 C for metabolic heat) 30.5 31.4 30.4 CI (alpha = .05) 2100 Temperatures (=1.22 C increase ) 31.7 32.6 31.6

AB Sand Temp Max HMB Sand Temp Max PT Sand Temp Max

(+/-) 0.19 (+/-)0.22 (+/-)0.22

Results: Predicted Global Warming Effects on Sand Temps
Location 2010 Temperature (includes 1.7 C for metabolic heat)
28.6 28.8 29.8 30.7 30.5 30.9 29.8 30.9

San Cristobal Beach 2010

CI 2100 temperatures (alpha = . (=1.15 C increase ) 05)

Temp 1 Temp 2 Temp 3 Temp 4 Temp 5 Temp 6 Temp corral Hobo

(+/-)0.51 (+/-)0.34 (+/-)0.38 (+/-)0.33 (+/-)0.41 (+/-)0.28 (+/-)0.37 (+/-)0.38

29.7 29.9 31.0 31.9 31.7 32.1 30.9 32.0

Previous Studies in Baja California Sur, Mexico
Location 2008 2100 Temperature temperatures
(includes 1.7 C for metabolic heat) (.89 C increase )

San Cristobal 2008 (Hurtado unpubl.) del Cabo 2008 (Maxey et al. 20 San Jose
Location 2008 Temperature 2100 temperatures
(.81 C increase)
(includes 1.7 C for metabolic heat)

Sensor 1

32.4 32.4 32.6 33.1

33.3 33.3

Presidente Hatchery estuary side Presidente Hatchery

33.5 33.1 31.9 34.0 34.3 34.2 33.3 34.6

34.3 33.9 32.7 34.8 35.1 35.0 34.1 35.4

Sensor 3

Playa Tortuga zone B Sensor 4

33.5 34.0

Playa Tortuga zone C Playa El Cardoncito zone B Playa El Cardoncito zone C Playa La Fortuna zone B La Fortuna Hatchery

Sensor 5

1. Several zones in San Jose del Cabo in 2008 reached lethal limits, our studies in 2010 stayed around 31 C 2. Regional weather stations did not serve as surrogates for local weather data in our study

Akumal, Baxter 2010

Conclusions (cont.)
3. Minimum air (night) temperatures were consistently and significantly correlated with the maximum sand temperatures, although only explaining about half the variation. 4. Prediction: 2100 sand temperatures will likely reach lethal levels on the in Baja California.

Akumal, Baxter 2010

Conservation Recommendations
• If night-time temperatures stay high for a period of time – check your nest temperatures! • If sand temperatures get high, use shade to cool nests

Courtesy of ICV, Ostional , CR 2011

• Longer study period, more study locations • Standardize equipment, Nest cages to protect hobos • Study sand moisture, color, grain size, compaction • Predict effect of global warming on sex ratios • Quantify time lag to heat/cool sand

Research Recommendations

Courtesy of Sea Turtle Municipal Program Cabo San Lucas 2007

More questions…if sand temperatures rise
• Will sea turtles respond with a shift in seasons? • Shift in latitude? • Shift in pivotal temperature? • Shorter incubation times? • Will these responses help/harm turtle populations? • Will responses happen quickly enough?

Puerto Vallarta, Katherine Santos

Armando Lorences Camargo Carla Cristina Sanchez Salazar Graciela Tiburcio Pintos Elizabeth Gonzalez Payan Katherine Comer Santos Sarah Maxey Chris Hurtado


Turismo en Akumal y la Tortuga Marina por Monica Rosquillas

• Akumal es un pueblo playero turistico en la Riviera Maya. A 100km de Cancun, esta localizando entre Playa del Carmen y Tulum. Cuenta con bellas playas donde anidan tortugas blancas y caguamas.

Tortuga Blanca (Chelonia Mydas)
En Peligro de extincion 100-250 kg 1.2 meters Anidan de Junio a Septiembre • Hembras anidan de 3-7 veces al año • Alimentan de pastos marinos • • • •

Caguama (Caretta Caretta)
• En Peligro de Extincion • 100-200 kg • 1.15 metros • Hembras anidad de Abril a Julio • Alimentan de crustaceos

Rutas migratorias de Tortuga Carey (Eretmochelys imbricata)

Punta Banco
• 5 weeks – $1230 • 6 weeks – $1450 • $280 ground transport

San Miguel Corazolito • bicycles


• Only tents

Mexico Facts
• 2 million square kilometres (over 760,000 sq mi), . estimated • 14thlargestindependentnationintheworld population of 111 million • Capital DF – 31 States • President Felipe Calderon • 11th most populous country and the most populous Hispanophone country on earth. • World bank $14,570 GDP

Costa Rica
• Per capita income: (2009) $6,900; (2010 est., PPP) $10,569. • Unemployment (2010 est.): 6.7%. • Currency: Costa Rica Colon (CRC). • Natural resources: Hydroelectric power, forest products, fisheries products. • Commerce, tourism, and services (68% of GDP): Hotels, restaurants, tourist services, banks, and insurance.