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By Conservancy Research Manager Dr. Jeff Schmid

Early in my career, Larry Ogren would tell me our investigations of free-ranging marine turtles in the waters of western Florida were long-term endeavors. These "ancient mariners" live as long, if not longer, than the humans studying them and information can be gathered for some time after a research project has ended or a researcher has retired. Marine turtle tagging studies have the potential for the collection of data over extended periods of time. …


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By Conservancy Research Manager Dr. Jeff Schmid

Kemp’s ridley sea turtles inhabiting the waters of Southwest Florida were hit especially hard in October 2019. According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission stranding data, a total of 56 marine turtles were recovered in Collier County during October through the beginning of November and, of this total, 49 (88%) were Kemp’s ridleys. There were no Kemp’s ridley strandings reported in the region during September or the latter weeks of November. …


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By Conservancy Research Manager Dr. Jeff Schmid

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida was recently awarded a research grant from the Sea Turtle Grants Program. Conservancy Research Manager Dr. Jeff Schmid, Mr. Greg Curry of Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and Dr. Jeff Seminoff with NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center will continue their collaborative studies on the role of Kemp’s ridley turtles in the estuarine food web of the Ten Thousand Islands.

The Kemp’s ridley is considered one of the most endangered marine turtle species in the world and understanding dietary habits is essential for effective conservation of important feeding grounds, such as the bays and estuaries of Southwest Florida. …


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Radar image of Hurricane Irma making landfall in southwest Florida.

By Conservancy Research Manager Dr. Jeff Schmid

On September 10, 2017, Irma made landfall on the southwest coast of Florida as a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds measured at 115 mph (185 kph) and gusts to 130–140 mph (209–225 kph). The eye of the hurricane passed over Marco Island and continued northward to Naples, keeping the most destructive right-front quadrant to the east of these metropolitan areas. Four months later there are still signs of Irma’s fury in the urban landscape: many homes without pool cages, many more roofs with blue tarps, and huge stumps from fallen trees. …


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By Conservancy Research Manager Dr. Jeff Schmid

It appears the 2017 loggerhead turtle nesting season in Southwest Florida is starting off with a bang. A number of large loggerheads were observed during a late-April trip to the Ten Thousand Islands to collect data on Kemp’s ridley turtle sex ratios. In fact, more loggerheads than ridleys were sighted during the week-long excursion in the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. On one particular day, an adult male loggerhead was “accidentally” captured when setting the net on a much smaller ridley. Unlike the photo below, we did not attempt to haul the big boy aboard, choosing instead to release him boat-side and focus our efforts on the captured ridley. The day before our 2-man crew had wrestled an 82 cm (32 in.) …


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Lucy Helen prepared for release

By Conservancy Research Manager Dr. Jeff Schmid

Estuarine waters in Southwest Florida provide important feeding habitat for young Kemp’s ridleys, considered the world’s most endangered marine turtle. There have been tagging studies in the Ten Thousand Islands region that demonstrated Kemp’s ridleys remain faithful to certain feeding areas for a number of years. Each turtle is given a metallic tag on the trailing edge of the right flipper and a microchip implanted in the left flipper, each with a unique code to identify individuals. Kemp’s ridleys have been recaptured in the same area multiple times within a year and over multiple years, hence the faithfulness or “fidelity”. …


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Photo by Leif Johnson

By Conservancy Research Manager Dr. Jeff Schmid

Marine turtles spend most of their lives underwater, briefly surfacing every so often to catch a breath before returning to their cryptic habits. The estuarine waters in Southwest Florida are usually turbid (murky) which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to observe turtle behaviors underwater. For these reasons, we must perform “in-water” studies to capture marine turtles inhabiting our coastal waters and collect information that is vital to their conservation. …


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By Conservancy Research Manager Dr. Jeff Schmid

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida was recently awarded a research grant from the Sea Turtle Grants Program. Conservancy Research Manager Dr. Jeff Schmid, Greg Curry of Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Drs. Camryn Allen and Jeff Seminoff with the National Marine Fisheries Service, and Jeff Schwenter of South Carolina Department of Natural Resources will apply some new techniques to determine the sex of the immature Kemp’s ridley turtles inhabiting the Ten Thousand Islands. The Kemp’s ridley is considered the most endangered sea turtle but also happens to be the most common species residing in the coastal waters of southwest Florida. …

Dr. Jeff Schmid

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