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How many kinds of sea turtles are out there? What ties turtles to the beach? Nesting and Life History Hey, where did that turtle go? Research Projects Walk this way! Volunteer Programs and Education

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south atlantic bight researching the coastal and offshore waters of the carolinas and georgia

How many kinds of sea turtles are out there?

What ties turtles to the beach?

Nesting and Life History

Hey, where did that turtle go?

Research Projects

Walk this way!

Volunteer Programs and Education

South Atlantic BightResearching the coastal and offshore waters of the Carolinas and Georgia

Sea Turtles

Click the turtle to download the presentation!

Photo credit GA DNR

Written by: Jaclyn Daly, Marine Science Consultant Designed by: Carrie Dixon

how many species of turtles swim through the south atlantic bight sab

General Characteristics of SAB Sea Turtles

Loggerhead Sea Turtles

Cool Links to Sea Turtle Websites!

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How many species of turtles swim through the South Atlantic Bight (SAB)?

Sea turtles roam the world's oceans, nesting mostly in tropical to subtropical beaches. All sea turtles have declining populations and are protected in the United States. So which kinds of turtles can you find while beach walking the coast of the SAB?

Click on the turtles!

general characteristics of south atlantic bight sea turtles

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General Characteristics of South Atlantic Bight Sea Turtles
  • The waters of the South Atlantic Bight (SAB) are home to five out of the eight of sea turtles species.

Click the turtles to learn more about each species!

Green Sea Turtles Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles

Hawksbill Sea Turtles Leatherback Sea Turtles

Loggerhead Sea Turtles

  • These large, air breathing reptiles range in size from the rarest and smallest Kemp’s Ridley, weighing in around 100 pounds, to the enormous leatherback which can grow up to 2,000 pounds!
kemp s ridley sea turtle

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Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle
  • Visit the NOAA Fisheries website to learn more about these threatened turtles
  • Teach me more about these endangered turtles!

Photo courtesy of the NOAA Fisheries website

green sea turtles

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Green Sea Turtles
  • Visit the NOAA Fisheries website to learn more about these threatened turtles
  • Teach me more about green sea turtles!

Photos By: Ursula Keuper-Bennett/Peter Bennett

From the NOAA Fisheries website

leatherback sea turtle

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Leatherback Sea Turtle
  • Visit the NOAA Fisheries website to learn more about these threatened turtles
  • Teach me more about these endangered turtles on the web!

Click here to learn more about protecting leatherback sea turtles

Photo courtesy of the NOAA Fisheries website

hawksbill sea turtle

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Hawksbill Sea Turtle
  • Visit the NOAA Fisheries website to learn more about these threatened turtles
  • Teach me more about these endangered turtles!

Photo courtesy of the NOAA Fisheries website

loggerhead sea turtles

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Loggerhead Sea Turtles
  • Loggerhead turtles are the most common turtle found nesting along the beaches of the SAB. Their brown to reddish carapace color helps distinguish them from other turtles in the region.
  • The loggerheads that nest from North Carolina to Cape Canaveral, Florida have been identified as a genetically distinct cohort, which only reinforces the need for conservation and proper management programs of this particular population.
  • The loggerhead population, based on aerial and nesting surveys, has declined in southeast waters. More information on loggerhead turtles can be found at www.carettaresearchproject.org.

Photo courtesy of the NOAA Fisheries website

Click the loggerhead to learn more turtle facts!

protecting leatherback sea turtles in the south atlantic bight

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Protecting Leatherback Sea Turtles in the South Atlantic Bight

Leatherback turtles (http://www.turtles.org/leatherd.htm) are a species of concern in the SAB. In 1995, the Leatherback Contingency Plan was implemented by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the United Fish and Wildlife Service (UFWS). This plan designated the waters from the North Carolina/Virginia border to Cape Canaveral, Florida as the leatherback conservation zone. As part of a management plan to reduce turtle by catch in shrimp trawlers, weekly aerial survey for leatherback sightings are flown in South Carolina annually from April to June. If more than 10 turtles are sighted per 50 nautical miles of tracklines over a numerous surveys, NMFS will close the waters around that trackline to shrimp trawlers, unless those shrimp trawlers have modified turtle exclusion devices (TEDs) that are big enough to allow leatherbacks to escape through a special vent in the funnel-shaped net.

Click here to see a picture of a TED!

cool sea turtle links

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Cool Sea Turtle Links!

Click on the link to find out more about sea turtles in your state:

North Carolina: http://www.ncaquariums.com/newsite/seaturtlerehab.htm

South Carolina DNR: www.dnr.state.sc.us/marine/turtles

Georgia: www.gofishgeorgia.com/content/displaycontent.asp?txtDocument=81

Florida Conservation: www.floridaconservation.org/psm/turtles/turtle.htm

Many of the turtles found in the SAB will migrate to warmer Caribbean waters. The Caribbean Conservation Corporation (www.cccturtle.org) and the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST) (http://www.widecast.org/) have copious amounts of information on sea turtles on their websites.

what ties turtles to the beach nesting and life history

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What Ties Turtles to the Beach?Nesting and Life History

Even though sea turtles live in the water their whole life, they are born on land! Turtle eggs, the size of ping-pong ball, are laid in a sandy nest which the mother digs 2-3 feet on the upper parts of a beach. That’s why thebeaches on our coast are important for the survival of sea turtles.

Click the bucket to learn more about sea turtle nesting!

Photos from Follyturtles.com the Folly Beach Turtle Watch Program

sea turtle nesting

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Sea Turtle Nesting
  • The beaches of the southeast are critical nesting grounds for sea turtles. After reaching sexual maturity, females return to land only to lay their eggs, while males rarely emerge from the ocean once they hatch. Age of sexual maturity is species dependant, ranging from fifteen to fifty years.
  • Nesting season in the SAB occurs from April to October. Females will return several times to lay eggs during a nesting season. The number of nests a female will lay is also species dependent. For example, loggerheads lay an average of four clutches/season while leatherbacks nest an average of six times/season.
  • The temperature in the nest determines if the newborn turtle, called a hatchling, will be a male or female. Warmer temperature in the nest usually means more hatchlings will be female. If the nest is cooler, more males will be born.
  • Remarkably, a female will return to the region where she was hatched (natal region) to lay her eggs. This is done after traveling hundreds to thousands of miles in ocean currents

Photos from Follyturtles.com the Folly Beach Turtle Watch Program

where did that turtle go research projects

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Where did that turtle go?Research Projects

If there were “frequent swimming miles,” sea turtles would have lots of free trips. Turtles can travel thousands and thousands of miles in ocean currents and gyres during their lifetime. So with such a big ocean, how do we know where they go?

Click the turtle to find out!

Photo from Caribbean Conservation Corporation and Sea Turtle Survival league Website

sea turtle research

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Sea Turtle Research

Where sea turtles go after they hatch and venture into the ocean has long been a mystery for scientists and sea turtle enthusiasts. Once, biologists relied solely upon metal or plastic tags attached to the carapace or flipper of a turtle. When recovered or reported, the tags traced some sea turtle movement. More recent collaborative research has allowed biologists to obtain a better understanding of sea turtle life cycles, dive behavior, and movement patterns. With radio, sonic, and satellite technology researchers can track sea turtles across the world’s ocean basins.

You can track sea turtles too! Check out these Sea Turtle Tracking links!

Seaturtle.org www.seaturtle.org/tracking

Grays Reef Turtle Tag Project www.graysreef.nos.noaa.gov/turtletag.html

South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources: www.dnr.state.sc.us/marine/turtles/sonic.htmwww.dnr.state.sc.us/marine/turtles/sat.htm

North Carolina Aquarium Turtle Trails: www.ncaquariums.com/turtletrails

walk this way volunteer programs and education

Human Threats to Sea Turtles

Volunteer!

Turtle Rehabilitation

Education Resources

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Walk this way!Volunteer Programs and Education

Sea turtles have been around for millions of years! But now their survival is threatened. Human activity and increasing development near beaches pose major issues. So how can you help? Just one person can make a difference!

Click the turtle topics to learn more!

human threats to sea turtles

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Human Threats to Sea Turtles

Sea turtles first emerged 150 million years ago in geologic history, but now their survival is threatened by human activity. The seven species of sea turtles found in US waters are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. However, sea turtles are still being exploited for their meat, shells, and eggs in many parts of the world. In the US, threats to sea turtles include beach erosion, coastal development, diseases, commercial fishing, and boat activity. Maintaining slower speeds while boating will increase your chance of seeing a sea turtle and also give the turtle time to dive when startled. In the fishing industry, the development and implementation of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) have allowed thousands of turtles to escape drowning in commercial trawl nets. Other threats to sea turtles include beach driving, pollution, and marine debris.

Photo of a turtle excluder device (TED) from the NOAA fisheries website.

Check out more information on TEDs at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/prot_res/PR3/Turtles/TEDS.html

Photo from NOAA Fisheries website

turtle rehabilitation

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Turtle Rehabilitation

Unfortunately there are many incidents where sea turtles get hurt or stranded on beaches. There are several places where a sea turtle can receive aid if hurt when in SAB waters. The Topsail Island Rehab Center: www.seaturtlehospital.org in North Carolina is dedicated to help hurt or sick sea turtles recover. After recovery, many turtles are released back into the wild.

The South Carolina Aquarium has a turtle rescue and rehabilitation program in partnership with SC DNR and the University of Charleston.

In Georgia, sea turtles can be aided to recovery at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island.

volunteer

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Volunteer!

As a volunteer, you can assist with sea turtle conservation. Many beach communities offer turtle walks, which safely observe turtle nesting behavior. You can help researchers by volunteering your time.

These are just a few of the volunteer programs throughout the SAB:

  • North Carolina
  • Folly Beach, South Carolina
  • Jekyll Island, Georgia

You can help online by visiting

Wildcoast International Conservation Team

turtle education resources

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Turtle Education Resources
  • Journey of the Loggerhead
  • The Bridge: General marine education resources
  • The Ocean Conservancy: A super coloring workbook in English and Spanish!
  • Education World: A sea turtle tracking lesson
  • DLESE: Digital library for earth systems education
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South Atlantic BightResearching the coastal and offshore waters of the Carolinas and GeorgiaSea Turtles

Photo credit J&P Johnson

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