The 2014 sea turtle season on Jekyll Island has been far from a bust. While this season has seen fewer turtle nests than recent years, our activity on the beach has been steady. While the state of Georgia has experienced reduced numbers of nesting turtles, there is no cause for concern. Female sea turtles do not nest every single year, taking several years off between nesting season to rebuild the physical resources needed to lay over 500 eggs in a single reproductive season. These pulses in nesting activity result in a natural fluctuation in overall nesting numbers among years. The Jekyll Island Sea Turtle Project is operated by the Jekyll Island Authority’s Research Department at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Our researchers represent a diversity of backgrounds and affiliations. Most of our patrol team is supported through the AmeriCorps program but we also have researchers that are interning from College of Coastal Georgia, Juniata College, and Ball State. During May-July, we work at night, tagging sea turtles as part of our population study and collecting information on sea turtle health and size. We also gather data that can be used for habitat management such as how hatch success is influenced by nest temperatures, rises in the water table, and the vegetation around the nest.
In addition to learning about our sea turtles and beach habitats, we also educate the general public about the importance of using red lights on the beach or walking by moonlight during full moons. Sea turtles are disoriented by white light and Jekyll Island has its own lighting ordinance to restrict the use of white lights on our beaches. Not only can you see more stars when you moderate your use of light on the beach, you also greatly increase your chance of seeing a sea turtle mother or baby. Please support sea turtle conservation on Jekyll Island by using red lights and closing the drapes in your hotel room. Also, baby sea turtles are small and can get trapped in our holes and sand castles on the beach. Please exercise the kid in you and knock that castle down when you are done!
As nesting season comes to a halt in August, nests begin to hatch after incubating for 60 days. With this new season come new opportunities at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. We are offering two morning programs that are available for reservation on the GSTC website.
Sunrise Walks: Early morning risers will explore one of Jekyll’s beautiful beaches and discover barrier island ecology. Your trained guides will explain the importance of this habitat, identify a variety of beach-dwelling flora and fauna, and explain how this environment supports sea turtle nesting. Depending on the hatching season, some walk guests may witness a nest excavation on a hatched loggerhead sea turtle nest! Group size is limited to 25 people per walk. Sunrise Walks are conducted on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.
Egg-sperience Dawn Patrol: Participants in the GSTC’s Egg-sperience Dawn Patrol program get the unique opportunity to assist sea turtle biologists with nest monitoring efforts on Jekyll Island. Guests meet our Dawn Patrol team at Great Dunes Park at sunrise where they will accompany patrollers in one of the GSTC’s all-terrain vehicles. On the beach participants provide assistance and gain hands-on experience while covering and locating nests, checking for signs of depredation, and conducting nest excavations. The opportunity to work alongside a seasoned sea turtle biologist and your efforts to protect the sea turtle population of Jekyll Island make this a worthwhile experience you will never forget! Group size is limited to 4 people. Dawn Patrols occur every day of the week.