Turtles, gators, and frogs…oh my!

Tomorrow is the fourth of July which means a “free day” on the busy Envirovet schedule. We’ll be arriving tonight at our third location on this 8-week journey: Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) in Ft. Pierce, FL. We’ll choose our roomies and get comfortable in a hotel which will become home for the next two weeks. We left St. Catherine’s Island this afternoon and with it we left behind the lemurs, gopher tortoises, and alligators. It was an adventure-filled 3 days and it went all too fast. On day 2 we checked the traps we set out the day before. Our traps must have been well placed because we collected 3 juvenile alligators, several newts, and a leopard frog. We learned about the species and passed them around for pictures – what a way to learn!

Later that day we performed health assessments on gopher tortoises. These guys are so cute and friendly. We did physical exams, measurements, identification tagging, and blood draws for PCV and total protein. I got to learn two different locations for blood collection: brachial vein and subcarapacial vein. Both were difficult because it requires a “blind stick” which means you can’t visualize the vessel prior to penetration. You basically just have to know the anatomy and practice, practice, practice! Sukuman and I got enough blood to run the necessary tests but we definitely need to perfect our technique.

A few of us went to the ocean for a few hours before dinner – the water was warm but the wind was strong. We played in the water, splashing and laughing until the dinner bell was rung. Our last day on the island was spent on the beach relocating eggs from a female loggerhead sea turtle. These turtles are considered threatened on the Atlantic coast primarily because of predation and habitat disruption. The new hatchlings, once they climb their way from underneath their sand-covered nest, scurry to the ocean’s shore to hopefully get picked up by a current and start their journey into the deep blue. Unfortunately, many of the babies will not make it to the water. They are predated on by large sea birds and carnivorous mammals. If that wasn’t enough, their journey’s can also be disrupted by artificial light. Sea turtle hatchlings use the light of the moon to guide their quest to the ocean’s edge. Artificial light from nearby housing, flashlights, and street lamps can confuse the young turtles, leaving them lost and without the security of the ocean. The staff on St. Catherine’s Island is working diligently to secure the nests of sea turtles so they are safe from predators, light, and erosion of the shore. Sometimes this means locating new nests and moving them to safer ground.

 

The island was another great adventure and it was sad to say goodbye. But the journey must continue because the best is yet to come. For now, Harbor Branch here I come!

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