Below is a list of example projects and topics for possible funding from the Sea Turtle License Plate Grants Program. Please note that submitted applications based on this list are not guanteed to be funded. The list is only to give potential applicants an idea of the range of projects considered by the Grants Committee.
Sea Turtle Public Awareness Education Program – Increase local community and visitor awareness of marine turtle issues, with the intended primary outcome of decreasing the negative effects on marine turtles by humans.
Sea Turtle Exhibit – Develop and produce educational sea turtle exhibit to provide information on marine turtle biology, life history, habitat needs and everyday conservation activities for visitors to practice in their daily lives. Focus could be on the marine turtles that utilize local beaches for nesting and offshore reefs for foraging. Enhance the visitor experience and raise awareness about the role the local environments play in sea turtle life history and why it is important to understand the impacts that human activity have on the sea turtles that share the local beaches and offshore waters.
Sea Turtle Signs for Public Beach Access – Develop and produce signs to educate beachgoers on proper behavior, while on the beach, regarding sea turtles and their conservation. Help to decrease disturbances of nesting sea turtles and hatchlings by the general public visiting the beach. Includes basic sea turlte biology and local regulations.
Youth Marine Biologist Programs – Provide a Youth Marine Biologist Program to include children in hands-on learning activities about sea turtle conservation, biology, ecology and rehabilitation. Includes development/improvement of age appropriate curriculum and materials.
Virtual Educational Programs – Develop interactive virtual programs for teachers to use in classrooms to engage students in marine turtle conservation. Program curriculum/activities should be aligned to state standards.
Conservation & Rehabilitation
Dune Restoration – Place sand or plant dune vegetation to enhance or restore dunes. Dunes at the landward edge of the beach that reduce light visible from upland development or create a dark visual or physical cue may promote correct seaward orientation.
Partnership for Lighting Improvement – Localized effort to address the safety concerns of private coastal interests, while furthering the goals of sea turtle conservation through a public-private partnership for lighting improvement. Use of funds to retrofit publicly-owned/leased pole mounted, open-bottom, high-pressure sodium fixtures with those more suitable for use near sea turtle nesting habitat (i.e., full cutoff fixtures or alternative light sources such as low-pressure sodium or red LED light) and to educate local governments about human and sea turtle safety risks from replacement with full spectrum LED.
Veterinary Equipment for Sea Turtle Rehabilitation – Purchase veterinary equipment to increase the number of turtles through a facility each year and/or to improve the level of care for the turtles. Establishing onsite access to equipment can reduce stress to sea turtle patients and provide the best diagnosis and treatment possible.
Capacity Building of the Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Facilities – Ordering and installed additional fiberglass tanks to a rehabilitation facility.
Understanding the needs of long-term resident sea turtles – Facilities housing non-releasable turtles can be an important component of influencing attitudes towards conservation; however, we still have limited understanding of what is needed (e.g., space, enrichment, nutrition, lighting, habitat, exercise) to ensure a high quality of life for these turtles over multiple decades. How are the needs of long-term resident sea turtles different than those being held for shorter periods for education or rehabilitation?
Research ideas were compiled by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s marine turtle recovery program. These identify some of the current gaps in the knowledge of sea turtles or of how environmental modifications may affect sea turtles.
Methods to Reduce Stress for Captive Turtles during Rehabilitation – Examine health indicators for captive turtles exposed to different tank structures for observation (viewing windows, removed viewing – above, overhead mirrors, close/direct viewing, tours vs. constant public presence) to determine if certain display methods correlate with reduced physiological stress.
Window Tinting to Reduce Impacts of Interior Lights – Test efficacy of different glass tint levels (15% through 45%) to reduce interior to exterior light transmission; assess hatching orientation response when exposed to light through each tint level.
Impact of Large Sargassum Accumulations and Removal Efforts – Investigate if Sargassum accumulations on the beach alter nesting female and hatchling behavior. How do alterations in beach morphology due to beach cleaning and large-scale removal efforts affect nesting female and hatchling behavior (e.g., nest cavity excavation, orientation)?
Effects of ADA beach access mats on nesting marine turtles – In an effort to ensure ADA compliance many communities are requesting to place beach access mats at public access points that would allow persons who use mobility devices (wheelchairs, walkers, etc.) to access the beach and water. What impact do these mats have on nesting marine turtles and their hatchlings? Is there a threshold (i.e. ratio of nesting beach width) of coverage by the mats in nesting habitat to ensure beach access to all citizens while still protecting nesting turtles and their hatchlings?
The extent and effect of nighttime disturbances of nesting females and hatchlings due to human presence and activity, vehicles on the beach at night.
Spatial and temporal distributions, and frequencies and trends in the entanglement in and the ingestion of monofilament fishing line.
Spatial and temporal distributions, and frequencies and trends in the entanglement in trap/pot fishery buoy lines (by fishery).
Value of pocket beaches – What is the value of pocket beaches (relatively small beaches with armored beachfront on each side)? How much nesting occurs on pocket beaches?
Effects of sand-fencing on sea turtle nesting behavior – Research is needed to establish the effects of sand-fencing on sea turtles and to evaluate DEP’s current guidelines for placement.
Effects of vehicular and foot traffic on the beach ecosystem in Florida – Research is needed to examine the effects of vehicular and foot traffic on the beach ecosystem in Florida, with particular attention to the impacts on sea turtles, shorebirds and vegetation. Are there measurable effects on sea turtle hatching success? Do access points influence nest locations or beach characteristics? Are various dune crossovers (simple paths, boardwalks, ramps) equivalent in their effects?
Beach cleaning – How does beach cleaning alter the beach profile, stability, and compaction and how does or how may this affect nesting sea turtles, incubating eggs, or emerging hatchlings?
Survivorship of disoriented hatchlings – To what extent does disorientation by artificial lighting change the survival rate of hatchling sea turtles? How many disoriented turtles reach the water, and of these, what is their rate of mortality from predation and other factors? What rate of mortality should be used to extrapolate from rates of disorientation to rates of mortality?
Reproductive cost of non-nesting emergences – What effect do repeated non-nesting emergences have on reproduction in sea turtles? These non-nesting emergences may range from turning back after only reaching the swash zone to abandoning a nest cavity and body pit. Do females that are prevented from nesting skip a nesting event (e.g., drop eggs at sea)? For eggs that are laid after multiple unsuccessful attempts, what is their hatching success? How does repeated nest-site abandonment affect future nest-site choice?
Description of Florida-based fisheries from the perspective of sea turtle interactions – What fisheries are using what gear in what way and how might the activities of these fisheries affect sea turtle mortality, reproduction, and trophic relationships? This study might include analysis of catch statistics, observer programs, lost-gear assessments, or interviews of fishers and gear merchants.
Maturity status of Florida sea turtles – There is little or no data from Florida on the range of sizes of the various species of sea turtles (of both genders) during pubescence and after maturity. Several hundred Florida sea turtles of various species and life stages are necropsied by FWC each year and their gonads could be evaluated (grossly and via histological pathology) to determine maturity status.
Fibropapilloma tumor re-growth during rehabilitation – If a turtle experiences re-growth of fibropapilloma tumors following removal, when is it most likely to occur (6 months after removal, 12 months after removal)? Is there a seasonality associated with FP tumor re-growth?
Identification of non-point source light causing hatchling disorientation – Many hatchling disorientation events are due to readily identifiable point sources of light. But disorientation also occurs where collective and other non-point sources of light, such as skyglow, are the only visible cause. What is the contribution of non-point source light to hatchling disorientation in Florida? Are there examples of persistent disorientation where all point sources have been managed? How do dune silhouette, beach width, and spectral properties of contributing sources affect disorientation from non-point sources? What are some specific management recommendations for minimizing disorientation from non-point sources?
Evaluation of indirect, long wavelength (>560 nm) on hatchling orientation – Many beachfront communities have modified exterior lights to full cut-off, shielded, long wavelength light sources. Even with these efforts, reflected light is often still be visible from the beach. Does a small amount of indirect light impact hatchling orientation? Under what conditions?
Evaluation of non-traditional mammalian predator deterrent techniques – Cages and screens (metal or non-metal) or predator removal are currently the only approved techniques for managing predator impacts to incubating nests and hatchlings. There is increasing interest in implementing other predator deterring techniques that: will not alter magnetic field of incubating nest; are not as cumbersome as cages and screens; are safe for eggs, hatchlings and other beach-based species; are safe for people utilizing the beach and implementing the technique; do not impact hatchling emigration from the nest and sea-finding capabilities; do not increase human impacts to the beach and beach-reliant species; and are effective in deterring mammalian predators. Anecdotal reports regarding a variety of treatments (e.g., habanero pepper powder, urine, ammonia, ultrasonic noise devices, flags) provide insufficient information to evaluate these techniques for suitability and effectiveness. Research evaluating these and other non-traditional mammalian predator deterrent techniques would be valuable.
Development of non-metal screens and cages to protect sea turtle nests from mammalian predators – It is not known whether metal cages represent a real problem for sea turtle hatchling orientation but it would be very useful to develop an alternative material to use. Currently available plastic materials do not seem sufficiently strong and some do not have appropriately-sized opening for hatchlings to escape.
Research on the effects of metal screens on hatchling beach orientation – Metal cages have been found to alter magnetic field and it has been hypothesized that metal cages may affect orientation behavior of hatchlings. Research quantifying the effect of metal cages on hatchling behavior would be valuable.
Filling the knowledge gap regarding late-season nests – To date, few data are available on viability, incubation duration, and hatching success of late season nests and, in particular, for nests laid in October or November that may over-winter.