Since the end of April, Matt Ware has been working with the US Fish and Wildlife staff of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and the volunteers of Share the Beach investigating the implications of sea turtle nest relocation. This research is part of his PhD dissertation at FSU. This year has been a record year for the state of Alabama with 177 nests so far. Fort Morgan accounts for 69 of these, of which 16 have been relocated due to their proximity to the high tide line. Relocation may decrease the risk of loss due to tidal inundation or erosion but may increase exposure to predation, desiccation, and lethal temperatures, and alter hatchling sex ratios. To assess the implication of relocations, 85 stations have been deployed with temperature sensors and groundwater inundation devices accounting for 58 nests in Fort Morgan. These include nests left in situ, original nest locations, and relocated nest sites. The first nest of the season (a Kemp’s ridley) hatched on 13 July to a fanfare of several dozen people, yielding 71 live hatchlings with a sex of ratio of 62% male. This nest stayed dry even during Tropical Storm Colin. Not all the nests were not so lucky. Updates will follow as the rest of the data comes in. This project is funded by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, and Florida State University.
New paper: Spatial and Temporal Variation in the Effects of Climatic Variables on Dugong Calf Production
Knowledge of the relationships between environmental forcing and demographic parameters is important for predicting responses from climatic changes and to manage populations effectively. We explore the relationships between the proportion of sea cows (Dugong dugon) classified as calves and four climatic drivers (rainfall anomaly, Southern Oscillation El Niño Index [SOI], NINO 3.4 sea surface temperature index, and number of tropical cyclones) at a range of spatially distinct locations in Queensland, Australia, a region with relatively high dugong density. Dugong and calf data were obtained from standardized aerial surveys conducted along the study region. A range of lagged versions of each of the focal climatic drivers (1 to 4 years) were included in a global model containing the proportion of calves in each population crossed with each of the lagged versions of the climatic drivers to explore relationships. The relative influence of each predictor was estimated via Gibbs variable selection. The relationships between the proportion of dependent calves and the climatic drivers varied spatially and temporally, with climatic drivers influencing calf counts at sub-regional scales. Thus we recommend that the assessment of and management response to indirect climatic threats on dugongs should also occur at sub-regional scales.