Grant: 19-041R
Project Title: Integration and Analysis of 37 Years of Nesting and Tagging Data
Project Manager: Kristen Mazzarella
Organization: Mote Marine Laboratory (Non-Profit Organization)
Grant Amount: $32,658.00
Completion Date: 2020-05-11

Summary: The Mote Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program began monitoring 6.0 7.6 km of the Casey Key, Sarasota County, nesting beach in 1983 and has been consistently collecting nighttime tagging and morning nest monitoring data via all-terrain vehicle for the past 36 years. A recent database upgrade has made it possible to integrate the tagging and nesting data which has been collected by separate morning and night patrol teams. To date, there are over 7,260 tagging records to be connected with associated crawl data. Although some database-assisted matching will be employed, in order to connect important archived data accurately and efficiently, it has been determined that matched records will need to be confirmed manually. Annually, a tagging supervisor is hired to coordinate the night time tagging work, train interns, collect samples and compile data for collaborators, QA/QC the tagging data and write annual reports. In addition to these responsibilities, during the 2019 season the tagging supervisor would work with interns and volunteers to connect the archived nesting and tagging datasets. We will support the continuation of this long term tagging program as well as review and integration of the tagging records with associated crawl data. The resulting improved dataset will allow for more accurate estimations of sea turtle life history parameters and population size, and will be an asset to all collaborators.

Results: In the 2019 nesting season, the nighttime tagging team consisting of 2 staff and 3 interns conducted saturation tagging from May 18 to August 1. Taggers patrolled nightly on 1-2 ATVs to cover ~8km of nesting beach. All tagging data was entered, QA/QCed and merged to corresponding crawl records. A total of 728 encounters consisted of 645 loggerhead (Caretta caretta), 80 green (Chelonia mydas) and three leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) observations. Of the 436 loggerhead individuals, there were 278 neophytes (turtles first tagged on a nesting beach in current year) and 158 remigrants (turtles first tagged on a nesting beach in previous years). Skin biopsies (211), scute biopsies (5) and fresh eggs (4) were collected from loggerheads. Of the 37 green sea turtles, there were 21 neophytes and 16 remigrants from which we collected 29 skin samples, 7 scute biopsies and 9 fresh eggs. During the 2019 tagging season, 268 PIT tags and 769 flipper tags were used, which is on average fewer PIT tags per season, but more flipper tags per season compared to the last three years. Historial Import: Comments were queried for 22 comparison words (e.g., sample, biopsy, collected) to determine potential records with samples from historical data identified in comments. The query yielded 4,396 records which were individually reviewed and, if they truly indicated a sample was taken, the sample type, sample counts and associated comments were coded to that nest in a spreadsheet. This process took 30 hours to code 2,265 records (from 1,381 nests) which were imported into the database. Eleven new sample types were added to the database to standardize the archival samples. We also created a historical document identifying the sample types collected and collaborators involved with the program for each year. This will be a living document that will be appended in future years.