What We Do
Each morning from May through October, volunteers in Sea Turtle
Patrol walk the Gulf of Mexico beaches looking for evidence of sea
turtle activity. Volunteers walk a mile-long segment of beach, often in
pairs, anywhere from 2 mornings to 7 mornings per week.
Early in the nesting season (May through September) they're looking for the tracks left by female sea turtles as they haul out of the water, and lumber up the sandy beach to dig in the sand and deposit a clutch of eggs. Turtles do this at night, so by dawn patrollers are looking for the tracks they left.
The sea turtle patroller's job is two-fold. One is to protect the
nest. The other is to collect data. Nests are protected from humans
inadvertently walking over them by staking an area around each nest
with yellow posts and brightly colored tape. Sometimes they're
protected from predation by raccoons, armadillos and even coyotes by
placing cages or screens over the nests. These keep predators out
but allow baby turtles to pass through unharmed.
For each nest, the patrollers fill out a page full of data, including where and when the nest was laid, what species of turtle laid the nest, if any protection was provided, if the turtle encountered any obstructions, etc.
About 2 months after each nest is laid, the patrollers watch carefully for signs of hatching and the tracks left by the babies as they head to sea. This gets noted on the data page. A few days later, they dig up the nest and count how many eggs hatched and how many went unhatched. If any babies are found stuck in the nest, they're released into the sea after dark. All this information gets recorded on the data sheet for this nest.