It’s officially Turtle Season again on the South Carolina beaches, which means I’m back on Turtle Patrol! Several of you have noticed my recent Instagram posts about my “turtle patrols”, so I wanted to do a quick recap of what I do with the Island Turtle Team:
During sea-turtle nesting season (May-September), members of the South Carolina Turtle Teams patrol the beachfront every morning, checking for turtle tracks and—hopefully—turtle nests. The Department of Natural Resources documents the number of false crawls (when a turtle crawls onto the shore but doesn’t lay her eggs), number of nests, and number of eggs in each nest. My job as part of the Sullivan’s Island/Isle of Palms Turtle Team is to walk a specific stretch the beach every Monday morning (3 miles total) at SUNRISE.
I didn’t find any tracks or nests last year, which was disappointing, but what was more disappointing was how few nests were laid on the two islands all season long. We’re hoping for a better nesting season this year, though.
DNR takes one egg from each nest that is found and studies the DNA inside the egg. Through their tests and studies, DNR has discovered that sea turtles born on the local beaches often return to the same beaches to lay their own nests. In some cases, DNR has found where three generations of female sea turtles are laying their nests on our local beaches. I think that’s amazing! It’s like they “return home” to lay their nests, even though I know that’s romanticizing it a little bit.
Working with the Island Turtle team is my way of giving back to the community. Whenever I walk along the beach, I bring a garbage bag and pick up trash. It is shocking what people will leave behind on the beach: shoes, clothes, beach toys, glass bottles, plastic wrappers, diapers, feminine hygiene products… it’s gross. It’s disgusting. I don’t consider myself to be an “environmental nut”, but I do think that the amount of litter people leave behind on the beach is shameful. I don’t understand how people can visit such a beautiful, serene place and treat it with so much disrespect. As my mama would say, I just want to “jerk a knot” in them!
Wondering how I first got interested in working with the sea turtles? Actually, it all started with a book: The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe. Monroe is a New York Times Bestselling author who lives in the Charleston area and is passionate about protecting the Lowcountry and the marine life in the ocean. I’m a huge fan of hers (my husband and coworkers say I stalk her), and I first learned about turtle teams and the work they do from The Beach House when I read it in high school,so I credit her with inspiring me to do my part.
What questions do you have about turtle patrol? What small ways do you try to “help” the environment? Let me know in the comments!