Turtle Watch at Archie Carr Wildlife Refuge
PHOTO COURTESY JOHN YOUNG AMITW Director Suzi Fox
spent several days and nights last week helping tag green
turtles nesting at the Archie Carr National Wildlife
Refuge on the Florida’s east coast. Here, she’s seen
with the eggs from a nest that were counted by scientists
and then reburied.
Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox helped monitor the 62 green turtles that came ashore at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge one night last week.
"It was amazing," Fox said when she returned to the Island. "They have so many nests each night there."
Fox was helping interns and scientists from the University of Florida tag some of the green turtles that came ashore to nest as a way of increasing the knowledge we have of these threatened marine reptiles.
"Everyone’s so dedicated there," Fox said. "It’s exhilarating to be around so many scientists dedicated to studying sea turtles. I just learned so much!"
The Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, a 248-acre reserve, was designated in 1989 to protect habitat for what is the most significant area for loggerhead sea turtle nesting in the Western Hemisphere and the most significant area for green turtle nesting in North America. It also serves as a minor nesting area for leatherback turtles.
It was named for the late Dr. Archie Carr, a University of Florida professor who is widely acknowledged as the father of the modern sea turtle conservation effort.
The refuge runs along a 20.5-mile length of beach between Melbourne and Wabasso Beach on Florida’s east coast. It’s a patchwork of protected lands scattered among properties that have been developed, according to the Refuge Web site.
"To help preserve this globally important nesting ground, the National Park Service has established a partnership with state and county governments and private conservation groups to acquire and manage this dune habitat," the message on the Web site states.
"It’s an amazing stretch of beach," Fox said. "There’s plenty of development, but it’s totally dark. We didn’t see any single light that might have been a problem for nesting turtles or their hatchlings, and the staff there told us there have been no human safety problems."
Fox said that even given the improvements made in keeping Anna Maria Island’s beaches dark during nesting season, it was amazing to her to see just how different a beach that was dedicated to protecting sea turtles would look when everyone took the nesting activity seriously.
"They are all really protective of their beaches and the turtles," she said. "Everyone over there buys into the necessity for keeping lighting dim and well placed. There wasn’t even any sky glow, so we could really see the stars there."
A public-private partnership affiliated with the Refuge is dedicated to providing long term protection to this habitat for sea turtles and other species listed on the threatened and endangered list as well as providing compatible public use.
The Archie Carr Working Group has protected over 900 acres and continues to educate thousands of residents and visitors about the unique characteristics of the barrier island ecosystem.
Fox noted that the resulting conditions on the beach draw thousands of nesting turtles.
"Not only does it draw the turtles, but people come from all over the world to see the nesting activities," she said. "They all get educated as they check into their condos or motels, and they all end up realizing that as people, we can live and visit the same habitat that we need to preserve for sea turtles."
Fox said that anyone with an interest in sea turtles should plan to go at least once to visit the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge.
You can book beach tours and tours of the Refuge online at http://www.fws.gov/archiecarr/2