Sea Turtle License Plates Fund Critical Leatherback Research in Juno Beach
Loggerhead Marinelife Center Receives Much Needed Funding from the Marine Turtle Grants Program
April 25, 2013 – Juno Beach, FL- Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) was awarded $14,218 in grant funding from the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s Marine Turtle Grants Program which distributes funds collected through the sale of Florida’s Helping Sea Turtles Survive specialty license plate. The plate is the second highest selling plate in the state of Florida, second only to the University of Florida plate. Currently, there are more than 66,000 active sea turtle license plates in the state of Florida. To show support and dedication to this important program, 75 percent of LMC’s staff has a sea turtle license plate decorating their vehicles, as do a high percentage of the center’s devoted volunteers. LMC also promotes this license plate via their website and in their on-campus gift store. The LMC research team is excited to utilize these funds to purchase needed supplies for the leatherback research program, including new technology that will greatly improve their ability to document sea turtle encounters.
“We are grateful for the funding provided by this grant that will enable us to acquire exciting new technology to expand the research opportunities on the leatherback sea turtle population in Palm Beach County,” said Kelly Martin, LMC research biologist. “Leatherback sea turtle populations in the Pacific Ocean are in significant decline and many colleagues believe they will be extinct in the very near future. However, some Atlantic populations have been on the rise over the last several years. This trend has been evident here in Palm Beach County where we have seen an exponential increase in the number of nests along our study area over the 13-year history our ongoing research project,” said Kelly Martin, LMC research biologist,” she added.
The funds from the grant will be used to purchase new survey equipment and introduce technology into how each sea turtle is documented. Using GPS, smartphones and Bluetooth tag scanners, LMC biologists will be able to increase the efficiency of each leatherback sea turtle encounter. Large amounts of high quality data can be collected and immediately transmitted to the field supervisor in the office, with field biologists having real-time access to past records of each individual they encounter. These technologies will streamline surveying efforts on this extremely important leatherback nesting beach.
About LMC’s Leatherback Research Project:
The leatherback research project was initiated in 2001 to understand the growing population of leatherback sea turtles utilizing Palm Beach County’s beaches. The goal of the project is to tag and identify nesting females in the northern portion of Palm Beach County between the Jupiter and Lake Worth Inlets. Females are tagged, measured, and biopsied for genetic analysis. Since its initiation, an astonishing 545 females have been identified. Goals include determining how often leatherbacks nest, how long it takes for them to return to nest again, how many individuals make up the population, where they go after leaving the nesting beach and where the population originated. Through tag data and the use of satellite tracking technology, Loggerhead Marinelife Center biologists have been able to answer many of these questions and develop new goals for future projects.
Loggerhead Marinelife Center is very thankful to have such wonderful partnerships with organizations such as the Sea Turtle Conservancy and the Marine Turtle Grants Program. “We are extremely grateful to the Marine Turtle Grants Program for continuing to support this long-term project,” said Martin. Together, these partnerships will help further the ever growing database on leatherback sea turtle nesting patterns and habits, providing a hopeful outcome for future sea turtle generations. For more information about the Marine Turtle Grants Program, please visit www.helpingseaturtles.org
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About Loggerhead Marinelife Center:
Loggerhead Marinelife Center, a non-profit organization, is committed to the conservation of Florida’s coastal ecosystems through public education, research and rehabilitation with a focus on threatened and endangered sea turtles. The center features an on-site campus hospital, learning exhibits and aquariums. Situated on the world’s most important sea turtle nesting beach, Loggerhead Marinelife Center is open daily and hosts over 215,000 visitors each year. For more information, visit www.marinelife.org or call 561-627-8280.
About Florida’s Sea Turtle License Plate:
In 1995, a statewide effort was initiated by the non-profit Sea Turtle Conservancy, formerly Caribbean Conservation Corporation, to establish a Florida Sea Turtle Specialty License Plate to provide a permanent funding source for the state’s Marine Turtle Protection Program. Thanks to the efforts of STC and other Florida sea turtle groups, in 1997, the Florida Legislature (Statute 320.08058 (19)) authorized the creation of a Sea Turtle Specialty License Plate to promote the conservation and protection of Florida’s sea turtles.
The Sea Turtle License Plate was first offered for sale in February 1998 and quickly became one of the most popular specialty plates in Florida, collecting over $1 million annually.