Sea Turtle Ecology

Day 2: Our first data point
by -- March 23rd, 2010

lectures, a wonderful hike to a waterfall, and we finally see a turtle lay her eggs

Today started out with a wonderful breakfast at the guest house. The fresh fruit and home-made bread wafted down the stairs bringing everyone out of their beds and into the kitchen.  When we were all successfully full, we moved upstairs to the nature seekers office for lectures from our professor, Dr. Scott Eckert, on leatherback turtles and how best to curb the bycatch problem in Trinidad.  Dr. Eckert and his team have been working with the fishermen and other stake holders for five years trying to reduce the bycatch of leatherback turtles during nesting season.  Their efforts have been successful so far, but much more must be done.

After lecture, we ate lunch and got ready for our hike through the jungle.   Slathered in sunscreen and bug spray, we all piled into the open truck for the ride to the trail head.  Our guides, Michael, Andy, and Gerard, walked us through a jungle of three hundred year old trees and ancient rivers and waterfalls carving their way creating a new environment. Thirty minutes later we came across an clear spring pool with a pristine waterfall dropping in at the far end.  It took everyone about thirty seconds to drop our stuff and rush into the water to cool off.  We swam around and splashed each other.  SO MUCH FUN!!!

On our way back we stopped at what is known as the best ice cream shop ever, by Wendy and Dr. Scott, that turned out to be a local woman who made home-made ice cream and sold it out of the front door of her home. She had coconut, passion fruit, and sour sop (a local fruit flavor).  They were all AMAZING, and the perfect end to our excursion for the day.

We rushed back to quickly eat and change for the beach because we were going to have a long night turtle watching.   Just when we got there, Dr. Scott’s team found a turtle in zone 3, and were able to successfully tag and collect all nature seekers data, as well as collect her egg clutch for relocation and project research for one of the groups.  It was the first time we got to see a turtle complete the nesting process from start to finish.  The turtle was about 700 kilos, and they truly are one of the most majestic animals found in the world.  Seeing how they survived some 90 million years is breath taking.

We continued to walk the beach until 2am seeing 2 more full nesting periods.  On the last one we were able to complete a full set of our data collection for our project.  Claire “blasted the heck” out of our turtle with red light, while Nick and I continued data collection.  Nick and I each put on a one of the flipper tags, mine was in a better spot but Dr. Scott had to help me push the pliers down enough to go all the way through the flipper, and Nick was able to do his all by himself. Haha:)

Finally exhausted, we walked back along the beach.  But the beach is very uneven and dark and there all lots large holes.  One of which consumed Claire on our walk back, as she landed head first, feet in the air.  Laughing she climbed out and we proceeded to laugh all the way home.  It just wasn’t her night. We came back to the guest house, and showered.  But, our excitement over our first complete set of data and turtle sitings had not subsided and we laid awake talking, until our bodies could no longer fight the sleep and we drifted off dreaming of turtles.

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