What We Do
Each morning from April 15th 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 (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 hopefully keep predators out but allow
baby turtles to pass through unharmed.
For each nest, the patrollers collect 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
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, too, 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 in the nest, they're released into the sea.
Depending upon several factors, this release might be immediate or well
after dark. All this information gets recorded on the data sheet for
With the season ending, the work continues as the volunteers remove all
the materials from the beach, paint and store the wooden stakes in
preparation for the next season.