I've written a public interest story I think your readers would like. I've enjoyed your publication for years. Here it is: (I do have a call into Mike Anderson, the Director of Sea Turtle Nesting at the CMA to get an up to date number of nests and number of hatchlings)
It's been a good year for turtles on Pinellas County beaches and for the global community of conservation-minded people who attended "Nesting Sea Turtles & Their Survival," a terrific turtle talk and walk by Joe Malo, marine educator from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) Wednesday night at the Sandpearl Resort.
So far 122 nests have been found and more than two hundred turtles have already hatched. Each nest holds between 88 and 112 eggs, said Kevin Burke, a seven year volunteer at the CMA.
Presented by the Friends of Pinellas Master Naturalists (FPMN) as community outreach, it was the third year this event was held. The organization works with area hotels, said Pat Edmond, who heads the group. "Most are very conscientious about their responsibility to the environment. By educating their guests and residents about lights and the nesting habits and their impact on the beach," Edmond said.
A crowd gathered on the beach to learn more about loggerhead turtles. Malo explained that these 200 to 400 pound turtles have ranged the seas for hundreds of millions of years. They are instinct driven to lay their eggs here and that they are thought to see a magnetic grid of the earth.
Malo said that when concerns arouse that the metal cages placed on the staked off nests could disorient the hatchlings - the small cages were changed to all plastic. These small cages are designed to keep the hatchlings in, Malo explained, not keep other animals out, because many of our hatchlings go in the wrong direction. Any light brighter than the water will send them off in the wrong direction - away from the sea.
Malo said the CMA and more than 200 nesting volunteers help patrol the local beaches and stake out the nests to let people know that they are there. "You won't want someone just wanting some shade to put up an umbrella in the middle of nest," he said.
Ten days prior to their expected due dates, the plastic enclosure is placed over the nests. CMA volunteers then attend the nests from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. until they hatch. "Sometimes you'll see a small indentation in the center, a clue that it will soon hatch," Malo said.
If you're looking for a memorable family activity that is free, watch a turtle nest hatch. Pick a nest on a familiar stretch of beach and look for a date written on one of the stakes. That's the day it was found - then add about 60 days. When you see the enclosure, bring lawn chairs and some patience cause you have a one in five chance to see it hatch.
"It imprints you," said Emma Mason, member of FPMN. "No matter how many times you see a nest hatch, it's like the first time. Like when you see a dolphin."
To find out about a nest near you, or if you see a nesting turtle or an unattended hatching nest - call the CMA at 441-1790 ext. 224 or go to www.SeeWinter.com. To learn more about the Friends of the Pinellas Master Naturalists see www.pinellasmasternaturalists.org.
I have a BA in journalism from Temple University. I've been a registered nurse for the last 15 years.
- Diane C. Hodill
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