Project Title: Discovering new migratory pathways and the relationship between feeding ecology and reproductive output in loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta, L.) nesting at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge
Project Manager: Dr. L.M. Ehrhart
Organization: University of Central Florida (Research and Educational Institute)
Grant Amount: $29,895.00
Summary: Loggerhead nest numbers in Florida have been declining since 1998, raising concern among the scientific community and the general public because approximately 90% of all loggerhead nesting in the Southeastern U.S. occurs in Florida. The reasons for such decline are unclear. As population estimates are based on nesting activity, the decline in nest numbers may reflect a decline in the adult nesting population. However, reduction in nest numbers might reflect a change in the relationship between feeding ecology and reproductive output. Here, we will continue and expand the research we started in 2009. This project intends to investigate reproductive parameters, life history trade offs, movements and feeding habits of loggerheads nesting at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge (ACNWR) using satellite tags in cooperation with the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, stable isotope analysis and more traditional techniques. The information gained from this study will improve estimates of adult nesting population size, identify movement patterns and expand the knowledge on feeding ecology. Moreover, the combination of satellite tracking and stable isotope analysis has the potential to elucidate the relationship between foraging activities and reproductive output, addressing one of the hypotheses for the apparent decline in loggerhead nest activities. Thus, this study will ultimately facilitate the ability of managers to make important conservation and management decisions for this threatened species that has incurred a 43% decline since 1998.