Friends of St. Croix East End Marine Park Sea ‘Turtle Squad!’

Part 4 in an East End Marine Park Series
by Hillary Lohmann, Friends of the East End Marine Park.
During summer 2016, the East End Marine Park (EEMP) started participating in Sandwatch, an International Beach Monitoring Program which measures changes in beach width and slope over time. Another beach monitoring program we’ve introduced this year is for sea turtle nests!
The Friends of STXEEMP took on three beaches (Prune Bay, Coakley Bay, and Turner Hole) to monitor for nesting green (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) turtle activity. Our volunteers patrol the beach weekly–sometimes daily!–and record nesting activities. We note the location, species, and whether or not we think the female laid eggs, in which case we can expect hatchlings 50-60 days later!
We are very fortunate to work closely with some seasoned experts at St Croix Environmental, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and National Parks Service. We have more in common than it might appear–same turtles, same island resources, same local-to-global scale threats to nesting habitats. The wildlife biologists of St. Croix have really made the Friends of STXEEMP turtle monitor volunteers a knowledgeable, experienced, and informed group!
Together with the Sandwatch beach profile data, the sea turtle nesting activity data will provide a clearer picture about beach habitat use, and threats. For example, hawksbill turtles are critically endangered. We can use these two datasets to identify top areas of vulnerable hawksbill nesting habitats. That is, areas of high use density (lots of turtles come!) with small beach profiles (not much beach space). From there, resources for protective measures can be most efficiently focused and delivered.
Many thanks to our volunteers and our expert partners for a great turtle season! Until next year…
St. Croix East End Marine Park
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