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Research Program from page 2

assist CCC researchers in Tortuguero. For minimal cost, these “Program Participants” live, eat and work at CCC’s field station during a one or two week program.

Participants work in two four-hour shifts between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. Each shift is covered by two teams, with each team covering one of the two sections of the beach, each section of beach about 2½ to 3 miles long. CCC researchers do the actual applying of the identification tags, while participants assist with track counts, measuring turtles, egg counts, nest marking, and recording data.

THE EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME

You come across a fresh turtle track. Your team leade , Richard, slowly walks up the track to determine where the turtle is in its nesting cycle. Sea turtles are very skittish on the beach before they begin to lay their eggs and an entire group approaching a female before she begins to lay may frighten her back into the sea. Richard returns and tells the group that the turtle is just finishing the egg chamber and is getting ready to lay her eggs; it's the perfect opportunity to conduct an egg count.

You move up the track and see a large oval lump shifting back and forth in the sand. Scoops of sand are occationally thrown into the air as she finishes digging the egg chamber with her rear flippers. You move into position behind the turtle so you will be ready when the first eggs begin to drop. The turtle pauses in her efforts and you know it is time. You slowly pull some of the sand away from the back side of the egg chamber and reach a gloved hand into the cavity under her tail. With the counter ready, you wait for the eggs to drop.

At first a few single white, ping-pong-ball-sized eggs roll over your hand and into the nest. You click the counter accordingly. The eggs begin to fall more quickly — in groups of two or three at a time. The turtle's labored breathing can be heard as she takes a deep breath before pushing out more eggs.

The turtle finishes laying her last eggs and you move quickly to get your hand out of the egg chamber. The counter reveals that 107 were deposited, and you record this figure in the data book. As the turtle covers the nest, you examine all her flippers for tags. If the turtle does not bear any tags, Richard will attach a tag to both front flippers. There is a tag in her front left flipper; she has

A participant checks the number on the metal ID tag in a green turtle's front flipper.

been seen before. Green turtles are typically tagged in each front flippe , so she may have lost the tag from her right flipper. A new tag is attached and the number is recorded. You help measure the length of the turtle’s shell and enter the information into the data book. The turtle finishes covering the nest and drags herself down the beach towards the ocean. Following her to the wate , you and your new friends watch in awe as the waves crash over her shell.

In the morning, you will head back to the beach with another CCC researcher to check the nests marked that night and earlier in the season to record how each nest is doing. You remind yourself to look up the tag number of the turtle whose eggs you just counted to see when she was first encountered in Tortuguero. Was she first seen just two to three years ago, or over ten years ago? You pause a moment, looking into the star-filled sky — your memories and experiences during CCC’s Turtles of Tortuguero Program will forever change your life.

JOIN CCC'S TEAM IN TORTUGUERO

You too can become a part of the longest running sea turtle research and conservation project in the world by becoming a research participant. You will get the chance to work hands-on with sea turtles alongside CCC researchers and other participants in Tortuguero, Costa Rica. CCC participants truly make a difference, and you can too! To learn more about CCC’s Turtles of Tortuguero Program, visit the CCC web site at http://www.cccturtle.org or call 1- 800-678-7853.

License Plate Update

More than 20,100 sea turtle license plates sold to Florida drivers!

During fiscal year 1998/1999, Florida sea turtle license plate sales (including plate renewals) generated nearly $500,000 for the Florida Marine Turtle Protection program. The 10 counties generating the most revenue were Palm Beach, Pinellas, Orange, Hillsborough, Dade, Broward, Brevard, Sarasota, Seminole, and Lee counties. CCC would like to thank everybody who has supported sea turtles by purchasing a sea turtle license plate for your vehicle!

4

Winter 2000

Laurie M. Penland

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