Grant: 20-015R
Project Title: Identification of inundation and erosion 'hot spots' for sea turtles nesting in the northern Gulf of Mexico which may benefit from conservation interventions
Project Manager: Dr. Mariana Fuentes
Organization: Florida State University (Research and Educational Institute)
Grant Amount: $19,861.00
Completion Date: 2021-06-21

Summary: Inundation and erosion from wave exposure, storm surge, and rises in sea level are major threats to sea turtle nests, causing localized mortality of eggs which ultimately affects the productivity at the nesting beach and population level. To manage for these losses through nest relocation, conservation easements, or some other management action, it is necessary to identify areas at most risk. Thus, the goal of the project is to determine the risk of wave inundation and erosion to critical sea turtle nesting beaches in the Florida portion of the northern Gulf of Mexico loggerhead recovery unit and identify which nesting beaches will benefit from conservation interventions.

Results: A transferable framework was developed to evaluate the risk of inundation using: 1) hourly wave data from three NOAA National Data Buoy Center buoys during the 2016 to 2019 nesting seasons: Orange Beach #42012, Pensacola #42039, and West Tampa #42036.; 2) hourly tide height data from four NOAA tide stations during the same time period: Pensacola #8729840, Panama City Beach #8729210, Panama City #8729108, and Apalachicola #8728690; and 3) a beach digital elevation model using 23 LiDAR surveys made available from the NASA, NOAA, USGS, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Northwest Florida Water Management District, and Florida Department of Emergency Management within the NOAA Digital Access Viewer. Comparable resources are available at most sea turtle nesting beaches in the U.S.

Forty nesting beaches are monitored in the Florida Panhandle by citizen science and professional crews during the nesting season (1 May to 31 October). Nesting data for this project were available from 35 of these beaches. During the 2016 to 2019 nesting seasons, wave exposure impacted a significant portion of the available nesting area at each beach (50.4%, 7.5% SD, range: 36.4% - 65.9%, Figure 2). Analysis indicates that when ranked by both nesting frequency and proportion of wave-exposed nesting, the St. Joseph Peninsula State Park scored highest followed by the St. Joseph Peninsula, St. George Island, Cape San Blas, and Cape St. George Island.

Publication can be found online at