Today was another early morning and our last full day in Culebra. We left the house at 7 am to revisit Brava Beach and Resaca Beach in the hopes of locating freshly laid leatherback nests. We split into two groups, once again, and the group that hiked to Resaca was lucky enough to see the traces of a leatherback that had nested one of the two previous nights before. Once we concluded the hikes, everyone was exhausted from last night’s patrol of Zoni Beach so we all headed back to the house to relax until lunchtime. After lunch, we prepared to venture back to Tamarindo Beach in a last ditch effort to watch green sea turtles feed on sea grass.
Once there, we snorkeled for a few hours and were lucky enough to see different marine life than the previous time we visited. We saw parrotfish, stingrays, feather duster worms, and an area that was being used for farming Staghorn corals. Swimming towards the sea grass on our way back to the beach, we were quite fortunate to stumble upon at least four green turtles feeding on the grasses below and coming up for air. We all floated above them; everyone gathered around to catch their last glimpse of green sea turtles before leaving Culebra. Everyone was happy that we were able to see turtles given that our last visit to Tamarindo resulted in only a few students witnessing a sea turtle in its natural habitat.
After we finished snorkeling at Tarmarindo, we returned to the house to clean up in preparation for Kelly’s lecture on genetic sampling and leatherback hatchlings. It was interesting to find that Kelly has been able to work up close and personal with hatchlings and even take DNA samples from their small flippers. We learned that from a small tissue sample, she was able to determine the number of fathers that were connected to the hatchlings from a single nest. Also with this research, she is able to create an identity for each documented turtle so that if a female hatchling were to return to its home beach to reproduce, Kelly could directly calculate age of maturity.
Kelly concluded her lecture and we were off to Mamacita’s once again for a delicious dinner right on the water. Dinner was fairly quick since this was our second time at the restaurant and everyone was exhausted and wanted to get home, clean, and go to bed early in preparation for the long travel day tomorrow. It was a communal effort after dinner to leave the house cleaner than we found it. We all were able to get to sleep relatively early so that we will be functional starting before sunrise at a wonderful 5:30am tomorrow morning.
Watch our video of the green turtles! >> SeaTurtles-April19