Archive for the ‘Sea Turtle Camp News’ Category

Coral Bleaching

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

HealthyCoraCoral organisms are some of the most fascinating and unique creatures in the world. Coral polyps are small, translucent invertebrates that excrete a limestone exoskeleton called a calicle. Each polyp clones itself and joins with other polyps to form a colony. The polyps join their calicles together, acting as one organism to form an intricate, limestone structure. As the colony grows over hundreds to thousands of years, it will eventually encounter and join other colonies, forming reefs.

Although some corals do prey upon small fish and plankton by stinging them with their tentacles, most corals require an alternative method for obtaining nutrients. Corals form a symbiotic relationship with photosynthetic algae called zooxanthellae (ZOH-oh-ZAN-thell-ee.) This colorful algae not only provides energy produced from photosynthesis but also gives coral its vibrant hues, since polyps have no pigment on their own. In return, coral offer algae a safe structure to live in as well as carbon dioxide, ammonium and nitrogenous waste to aid photosynthesis.

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Obviously, this symbiosis is dependent on both species benefiting. If the corals can no longer supply the zooxanthellae with nutrients for photosynthesis or cannot provide livable conditions, the algae are expelled. In other words, once the host can no longer provide sufficient room and board, the tenants are booted! Without the colorful algae, the coral is left completely white (coral bleaching.)

Coral bleaching is a stress response that can be caused for a number of reasons, both anthropogenic and natural. If the stressor is not too severe, the coral will re-host the algae within a few weeks.  If the stressor is prolonged, the algae populations will not recover and the coral host dies. The most common cause of coral bleaching is extreme changes in sea temperature often due to climate change, since coral have a very limited temperature range in which they can live. Other factors, such as increased solar radiation, ocean acidification and disease can also cause a coral to expel its endosymbionts.

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Coral health is so important for humans to protect. Coral provides shelter to 25% of marine species, supports fishing and tourist industries and protects our shorelines by buffering large waves. Coral has also been studied for medicinal purposes since the 14th century; more and more scientists agree that researching coral could provide the cure to some of humans most common diseases.

Garbage Patch

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

images (3)One of the biggest problems our world faces is that we do not know how to take care of our own garbage. We may have made the world a much more convenient place to live in through time, but there is still a cost if we do not learn how to work along with our environment. I would like to discuss pollution in our world ocean while using the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as a tool.

With the ocean pulling trash together in a few concentrated spots through its currents, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has accumulated so much garbage that it can practically be considered a country in size! The UN has estimated that around six million tons of plastic are dumped into the world ocean every year. All of this plastic comes from a variety of sources, but a big contributor is pollution through waterways leading to the ocean. Around eighty percent of the marine debris comes from land based resources. Since the materials holding the plastic polymers together break down with time, plastic has also been sinking and doing more harm in the deeper ocean.

mycto1 (1)A large problem is how all of this garbage is affecting our environment. Plankton communities are being overwhelmed with plastic and currently stand a plastic to plankton ratio at 46 to 1. Plankton are not only harmed through the area of ocean the garbage takes up, but they are also harmed when they ingest plastic pieces which look like potential food sources. There are so many problems with these organisms ingesting the pollutants but one of the biggest problems is that it has potential to lead to humans ingesting plastic. Since plastics have so many toxins to make them durable and long lasting, they can actually harm us through biomagnification. Biomagnification is when the toxins increase when going up trophic levels. With fish consuming more plankton with plastic in their bodies then they too will get the plastic and potential chemicals connected. This opens up the possibility of people ingesting some of the garbage they originally pitched out when they eat these fish.

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With the world acting like a giant puzzle, we need to get away from the “throw away” society that we used to be and start connecting the pieces to understand how we can utilize our resources more efficiently. To preserve many species and ourselves, we need to constantly work towards adapting recycling more and living a more conserving lifestyle. The small steps to help our environment are still great steps.

 

Alan Austin

Sea Turtle Camp 2014 Assistant Director

Into the Abyss

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

images (1)Did you know that about 95% of the ocean has yet to be explored? Seems hard to believe, doesn’t it? Not when you consider just how expansive and deep the ocean really is. The total surface area of the ocean is 335,258,000 sq km and the deepest part of the ocean reaches 36,200 ft, or about 6.8 miles, deep. The average depth of the ocean is about 14,000 ft. That is quite a lot of water! Most of what is waiting to be discovered resides in the deep sea.

Light begins to diminish rapidly around 650 ft and becomes nonexistent around 13,000 ft. There is no photosynthesis occurring this far down. Species in the deep sea consist of detrivores (animals that scavenge on dead organic matter, exoskeletons, and fecal matter floating down from above) and resident carnivores.

images (2)Because of the lack of light, deep sea animals tend to be black or red. Some are even transparent as a form of camouflage. Many of the animals this far down look very alien, and are often called deep sea “monsters.” Some have very large eyes for catching what little light there is. Gigantism is common in the deep sea, even though food sources are low. The massive sizes are actually due to fluid bloating, not weight. Almost all of the animals this far down do not move very much, because most bio-productivity is at shallower depths, too far for the animals to travel. Since there is very little movement, animals lack swim bladders and do not have much muscle mass. In order to find food, many animals use bioluminescence to lure in their prey.

One of the most surprising discoveries of the deep sea was that of the hydrothermal vents located on the abyssal sea floor. Hydrothermal vents are also called black smokers, emitting large amounts of hydrogen sulfide. Bacteria around the opening of the vents are chemoautotrophic, meaning they are able to convert the hydrogen sulfide into a food source. These bacteria are very important as they make up the base of the food chain on the sea floor, supporting giant tube worms, crustaceans, and other organisms.

1346331562163The deep sea consists of freezing temperatures and crushing pressure. It is very surprising that such a harsh environment is able to support many different types of organisms. The majority of the species in the deep sea have yet to be discovered. As technology progresses, manned and unmanned underwater vehicles will be able to reach further depths and explore more of the deep sea. Who knows what might be waiting for us down there!

“You thought I would find nothing but ooze, and I have discovered a new world.” – H.G. Wells, “Into the Abyss”

Jennifer  Drenth

Sea Turtle Camp 2014 Director

 

Meet the 2014 North Carolina Staff Members: Team Loggerhead

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Daniel Baker: Director

Wilmington, Delaware

pictureuyseDan Baker was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, where he spent his childhood exploring the Delaware River and Brandywine Creek. He developed a strong love for the ocean during summers spent immersed in nature at the Jersey Shore.  He graduated from Coastal Carolina University in 2014 with a B.S. in Marine Science and a focus in Marine Geology. Dan worked as an ocean lifeguard in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and working on the sand everyday lead to his strong understanding of southeastern coastal ecosystems. It was through his experiences as a lifeguard that Dan saw first hand how neglected our oceans have become. As a result, Dan developed a strong passion for marine conservation and education. Dan loves every aspect about the beach and enjoys spending his time surfing, fishing, and diving. Dan’s motto and favorite quote is, ‘A day without learning something is a day wasted.”  He is planning to pursue a Master’s Degree in Marine Geology.

 Sarah Miller: Assistant Director

Portland, OR

IMG_0933Sarah’s first encounter with a sea turtle was a memorable one. Years ago, she attempted to conquer her fear of heights by cliff jumping in Hawaii. As she plunged into the waters, Sarah noticed a green sea turtle swimming just inches below her. She remained completely still in the water and for the first time, she was truly awe-struck. From then on, she has held a reputation of being quite enamored with sea turtles. Growing up in Portland, Oregon provided Sarah with ample experience to become passionate about the outdoors and wildlife. With quick access to rivers, lakes and the Pacific Ocean, Portland fostered a passion in her for marine and riparian ecosystems and a need to educate the public on how to preserve them. She recently graduated from Oregon State University with a B.S. in Earth Science, a focus in Earth Science Education and has taught at academic summer camps all the way from Seattle University to Stanford University, this will be her first time venturing away from the west coast and she cannot wait to see the beautiful barrier islands of North Carolina!

Taylor Evans: Marine Educator

Westfield, IN

TEvans1Taylor grew up in a suburb of Indianapolis, IN, where her passion for the sea began with a trip to the zoo and a dream of becoming a dolphin trainer. As time went on she discovered the possibilities, which lead to her pursuit of biology, particularly marine Megafauna. In the summer of 2013, Taylor had the opportunity to travel to Mossel Bay, South Africa to study great white sharks. Wanting to experience all that the ocean has to offer, she decided to focus on sea turtles,as well as sharing her immense passion for the ocean!Taylor is finishing up her senior year at Butler University in Indianapolis, and hopes to put her degree to use by getting actively involved in marine rescue, rehabilitation, conservation, and outreach…and begin a Masters in marine biology at UNC Wilmington!

Coastal Development

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Beach-NourishmentFor decades, sea turtles have been facing many life threatening obstacles which have caused devastating decreases in populations around the world. While many of the difficulties they face occur in the water, nesting adult females and hatchlings have even more threats to face on the beach, since the females must come up on land to lay their eggs in the sand. Nesting habitat loss is a major concern for sea turtles, and coastal development, beach armoring, and beach renourishment all impact habitat loss.

Beach development has seen an exponential rise in recent decades has more people migrate toward the coasts. Early development wiped out dunes and vegetation. Vegetation, such as beach grass and sea oats, not only help to accumulate sand and prevent erosion, they are prime nesting locations for sea turtles. As these areas are lost and beach erosion occurs, sea turtles are forced to lay their nests closer to shore line where nests are more susceptible to drowning from high waves and washing out to sea. Unnatural lighting along the shore cause hatchlings to crawl away from the ocean, and crawl towards pools, parking lots, and roads.

img_2661As development increases, so does beach armoring. Beach armor consists of any man made structure, such as sea walls and rock revetments, put in place to protect buildings and prevent sand loss. However, beach armor does not allow beaches to naturally recover after erosion from a storm, and as a result, these structures decrease the amount of beach over time. These structures also cause an unnaturally high amount of false crawls, as females run into them while looking for a nesting site and return to the water. If a nest is laid in front of a structure, the eggs have a much higher chance of being inundated with water and drowning or washing out to sea due to sand erosion.

Beach renourishment protects against erosion by resupplying beaches with more sand. While this is seen as the lesser evil, it still negatively impacts nesting turtles. If the sand that is pumped onto the beach does not match the original type of sand on the beach or is too hard packed, sea turtles may have a difficult time nesting or chose not to nest on that beach at all.

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While these threats continue to occur, strict regulations and laws prevent most construction from occurring during the official nesting season. If construction is still ongoing during nesting season, the beach must be patrolled to find and relocate eggs away from the construction. Renourished beaches must be monitored after construction to determine if the renourishment has impacted the turtles nesting behaviors. Dunes and beach vegetation are now protected and lighting ordinances are put in place along the beach to help reduce their negative impacts on hatchlings.

Jennifer Drenth

Sea Turtle Camp 2014 Director