As a species, sea turtles have survived for millions of years. They saw the dinosaurs come and go. But now they’re facing a threat like none before: humans.
The green sea turtle and the hawksbill sea turtle are in trouble. Their populations are declining rapidly, and researchers are searching for a way to reverse the trend. The Bahamian government has already made it illegal to catch the turtles in the country’s waters; however, it is not enough to save the species from further decline. To ensure their habitats are protected from other human threats, like coastal development and climate change, scientists need to find out exactly where these habitats are. Help scientists by snorkeling (or boating, if you prefer) in clear coastal waters alongside hawksbill and green sea turtles. You’ll actually get the opportunity to jump into the water and catch these fascinating creatures, which you would not be allowed to do if you weren’t part of this critical research project.
Immerse yourself in the tidal mangrove creeks, sea grass beds, and coral reefs where these turtles forage during their juvenile years, before they reach full adulthood. Although scientists know that these habitats are critical for young turtles, they don’t know exactly how turtles choose them and move between them. By determining where turtles are most abundant and measuring physical characteristics of the water like depth and temperature, you’ll help uncover the qualities that make for preferred foraging grounds.
Discovering which habitats are most important to these turtles will help researchers and the government create plans that protect the right habitats from development. By taking this rare opportunity to share the water with these ancient creatures, you’ll help protect their futures.
HOW YOU WILL HELP
When you arrive, you will be trained in all research activities. Depending on your team’s location, field work includes the following tasks:
CATCH AND TAG SEA TURTLES
From a boat or in tidal creeks, assist researchers in tracking turtles and when spotted, snorkel to catch the turtle or set up a seine net. The team will work to take a tissue sample and tag, measure, and weigh the turtle. If you’re not up for swimming, don’t worry: there is plenty to do on the boat.
SNORKEL THROUGH TURTLE HABITATS
Explore places turtles feed in order to collect environmental data, such as water depth and temperature. You’ll also collect plant tissue samples and record GPS locations.