Amazing Work, Amazing Animals

As part of #7Days4SeaTurtles, we’ve followed DNR sea turtle technicians Sarah Martin, Kyle Coleman and Jack Brzoza as they worked the beach – Sarah on Little St. Simons and Kyle and Jack on Ossabaw Island. As we close out the week, here are their thoughts today. We’ll start with Sarah.

I cannot believe how fast this turtle season has passed by! It feels like just yesterday I was desperately trying to find the first nest among the ghost crab sand piles. Now, we are finding nest emergences left and right!

It has been a busy season so far on Little St. Simons, granted not as crazy as last year (223 nests) but it is looking to be a record compared to previous years. I am thrilled our shore is witnessing such a jump in numbers since years before. On Little St. Simons, there were years in the 50-nest mark and it was looking bleak.

Now, I’m trying to beat our pre-2016 record of 124 nests in 2015. And at 103 today, I’m hopeful!

I have also really enjoyed the nest numbers this year. It’s been a pretty steady flow of two to three nests a day. If it is a nest-free day, typically we have at least a false crawl or emergence. I love that we have such active population of turtles on our beach. Also, it’s pretty nice how manageable monitoring, even when you have to haul all your gear with you. Before this job, I enjoyed biking but now I get excited to bike my many miles. It clears my mind. I will take my new-found love for biking back to Pittsburgh.

This position has made me appreciate field work and the beach even more than I did before. Surprisingly, working on the beach and getting sand everywhere has not ruined the beach experience for me. However, I do believe I will still be finding sand in my possessions well into the cold winter months to come. I have also found a passion for
turtle work among my love for herpetology. The life histories and mannerisms of turtles fascinate and entertain me greatly.

It has been a blast learning about sea turtles and the work that goes along with their conservation. Seeing the effectiveness of protecting the nests directly is extremely rewarding to me. I am eager to see how the population does in the coming years!

Living on a private island has been simply amazing. I wouldn’t trade my experience here for anywhere. The people, food and housing have been outstanding and I will miss them terribly once I leave.

I love the message Little St. Simons sends conservation-wise. Their priority is to keep the island at its natural ecological state. It is hard to find that kind of commitment this day and age. The only thing I will say is it’s going to be hard to get used to sharing a beach with more than 32 guests.

As a final note, I would like to encourage you to please pass on what you learn about sea turtle conservation. Also, using less plastic and filling in holes left on the beach can greatly help our flippered friends.

Ossabaw_HatchlingHeadingtoSurf_KyleColeman_DNR_bl
Hatchling with a future (Kyle Coleman/DNR)

Ossabaw … Extraordinary

Kyle, here. Today is the first day I’ve actually gotten to watch a loggerhead sea turtle hatchling slowly leave the beach we share and make its way into the surf through the crashing waves to begin what will hopefully be a long life. So it seems fitting to sit back and reflect on the summer as we wrap up our #7Days4SeaTurtles blog posts.

Living in this hidden jungle on Georgia’s breathtaking coast has been nothing short of extraordinary. Ossabaw Island is the quintessential picture of a Low Country wilderness. I see more animals and plants of unending variety than people every day and I genuinely feel like I’m living on a Jurassic Park movie set. Thankfully, the reptilian dinosaurs here aren’t as aggressive. Usually.

At any time while I’m sitting at home, I can walk outside and listen to a constant chorus of songbirds, woodpeckers, cicadas and frogs. Or in the evenings, be lulled by the quiet rush of wind through a dusk-lit drapery of Spanish moss. It’s like a dream, to say the least.

And yet somehow I’m still surprised at how beautiful an Ossabaw sunrise can be. This morning we had the most vibrant sunrise of perhaps the entire summer which was a great way to start the morning thinking about how I could sum up my time here.

I have been able to work around some amazing animals but I believe sea turtles have to be some of the most persevering creatures. To view the long trail from the ocean that the mother takes just to reach a place in which she can lay eggs, and the huge struggle a tiny hatchling undertakes just to get down to the water and not be inspired must be impossible.

I couldn’t be more thankful to see it all summer and I can’t wait to cheer on an army of hatchlings as they leave the beach I’m lucky enough to share with them.

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Standout sunrise, even for Ossabaw (Kyle Coleman/DNR)

Jack: ‘An Incredible Experience’

My time so far on Ossabaw has been an incredible experience. The array of sights and sounds among multiple natural communities provides a beautiful backdrop to my sea turtle work for the DNR.

Oftentimes, as is absolutely the case with Ossabaw, turtles can lead you to incredible locations, generate new friends and put you better in touch with the rhythm of the natural world.

Here on Ossabaw, I am constantly reminded of the amazing and intense journey of the turtles and the importance of their conservation and the work of Kyle, Sarah and myself in small moments. When I follow the crawlway of a female driven to lay eggs, snaking meters up the beach, persevering through two failed nesting locations to finally dig a
successful egg chamber at the third. When I watch a nesting female finish laying and return to the ocean, likely to make the same trip in a couple weeks. When I talk to a local beachgoer, who after expressing his amazement at the amounts of nests we have, goes on to add what an amazing job I have.

All of these instances serve to reiterate that I am in an amazing position, helping to conserve an amazing animal. Currently at close to 300 nests on Ossabaw, I look forward the continuation of the loggerhead season here in Georgia, and I am excited at all the future turtles I’ll be sure to see.

Check out other #7Days4SeaTurtles blog posts: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Also find other #7Days4SeaTurtles insights, including photos and videos, on the Wildlife Resources Division’s FacebookTwitterInstagram and Flickr pages.

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2 thoughts on “Amazing Work, Amazing Animals

  1. Ricky Bennett

    Sarah, Kyle and Jack,
    Thank you for the #7Days4SeaTurtles blogs. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading each one and have learned many things about sea turtles. Good luck with your future work.
    Ga WRD is doing a first class job in the wild and with the new web site. Please continue with the blogs when possible.
    Ricky Bennett
    Acworth GA

    Like

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