Gulf Islands National Seashore Acting Superintendent, Nina Kelson, welcomed the media, representatives of Florida Fish & Wildlife and the Gulf Islands National Seashore, plus volunteers such as myself who were present today for the first excavation of our GINS sea turtle nests. As Ms. Kelson stated, "The excavation and relocation o f a sea turtle nest to another site to be hatched and released is unprecedented for the National Park Service."
Camera crews and reporters were out in force for the event. Making the occasion even more special, the nest was that of a Kemp's ridley, the smallest and most endangered of the world's seven sea turtle species.
Sean Dugas of the Pensacola News Journal interviews Rick Clark, Chief of Science and Resource Management, Gulf Islands National Seashore.
A tent is erected and carefully lifted over the nest site. A photo of this nest taken during my turtle patrol on June 6, two days after it was laid -- and in a more solitary setting -- may be seen by clicking HERE.
Mark Nicholas, Biologist; Monica Cain Hardin, Bio-tech; and Andrew Diller, University of Florida Marine Extension Agent, began extracting eggs which would be transported to a NASA incubation facility near Cape Canaveral within 24 hours. Also participating in the extraction (but not visable in this photo) is Lorna Patrick, biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
LT. Colonel Louie Roberson, a Regional Director for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is collaborating with Gulf Islands National Seashore in the excavation and transport of the nest/eggs, is on hand to answer questions after the event.
The eggs are carefully removed from the nest and placed in special coolers. They are also placed into the container in the precise orientation as they were in the nest.
Melanie Waite, left, and Gigi Naggatz, watch the relocation process. Melanie and Gigi have been sea turtle patrolers for approximately 18 years and each have received Presidential Volunteer Service Awards for over 1,000 volunteer hours they have contributed to the Gulf Islands National Seashore during that time.
It becomes evident a storm is fast approaching and the process of allowing each media representative an opportunity to get close enough for photos of the nest speeds up!
The biologists and bio-techs try to complete their task as quickly as possible without endangering the eggs.
Getting darker and the wind kicks up.
The beach is not a safe place to be during a storm. The cloud formations can be spectacular; the lightning deadly.
Everyone escaped to the safety of their vehicles just in time and the precious cargo begins its journey to Cape Canaveral.
Although we do not know the exact location where the tiny turtles will be released once they have hatched, we do have the comfort of knowing they will be released somewhere along the coast near Melbourne Beach, Florida in the (oil-free) Atlantic Ocean.