Counting Sea Turtles -
Comparing Two Survey Methods
By Cody Mott
Inwater Research Group, 4160 NE Hyline Drive
Jensen Beach, FL 34957
The National Save the Sea Turtle Foundation is supporting Inwater Research Group's (IRG) effort to better understand the number of sea turtles on Florida's nearshore reefs. Mr. Frank Wojcik, Executive Director of the Foundation, presented a check for $8,300 to the IRG team at their headquarters in Jensen Beach (see picture, below).
The funds will be used by IRG in partnership with Florida Atlantic University students to compare two different techniques used to survey nearshore reefs for numbers of sea turtles. One method involves observations by swimmers pulled slowly over the reef by a boat; the swimmers count the turtles they see below them. The other method is done by an observer on the boat's tower who counts the turtles as they surface to breathe, and when they are seen below the surface. Both methods are commonly used by biologists but nobody knows whether the results are comparable. This study is designed to compare both methods when they are done simultaneously, and determine under what conditions each method works best.
Sea turtles, especially juvenile green turtles, commonly inhabit shallow nearshore reefs near to Florida's coast. The reefs can be impacted by coastal construction projects such as beach renourishment and the placement of break waters. Environmental laws require that the impact of these projects be determined both on the turtles, as well as the reef itself and the other organisms that reside on the reef. This project will help scientists gauge the impact future coastal construction projects on the sea turtles that in many ways, act as barometers that can be used to judge the health of reef habitats.
The Inwater Research Group is a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit organization with a mission to provide the scientific community and general public with information used to promote the conservation of coastal and marine species, as well as their habitats. Visit
www.inwater.org to learn more or request a copy of IRG's new Nearshore Reef Poster for your group, classroom, or nature center.
Front row: Steve Weege, Dave Clark, Ryan Welch (Inwater Research).
Standing behind: Frank Wojcik (NSTSTF), Jonathan Gorham, Cody Mott, Mike Bressette (Inwater Research), and Mike Salmon (FAU Biology)