Once sea turtle hatchlings emerge from their nest, they must find their way to the ocean by using cues such as a bright horizon and the slope of the beach. While moving toward the water, hatchlings often must navigate past predators and through vegetation, sticks, footprints in the sand, and other dangers such as ghost crab holes. Sometimes hatchlings become confused (or disoriented) and turn in circles to find the right route to the water. Sea turtle hatchlings also may become disoriented as a result of human impacts such as town lights or trash. The purpose of our experiment was to evaluate the path hatchlings took from the nest to the water and to record if they became disoriented because of human impacts. We took 10 leatherback hatchlings each from 11 nests that naturally emerged at Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge (St. Croix, USVI) and released them from their nest location between 14 July and 27 July 2014. We recorded the time it took for each of them to reach the high tide line, compass direction of their travel, distance from the nest to the water, distance and compass direction of the most direct route to the water, time of the experiment, and weather conditions. Our results show that the majority of hatchlings were not drawn toward town lights or disoriented by trash. In conclusion, town lights and trash are not a major concern at Sandy Point except on nights when there is a lot of sky glow from town.


Applied Statistics | Behavior and Ethology | Marine Biology


Kelly Stewart

Lab site

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Southwest Fisheries Science Center (NOAA SWFSC)

Funding Acknowledgement

This material is based upon work supported by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0952013 and Grant No. 0833353. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation or the National Science Foundation. This project has also been made possible with support of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. The STAR program is administered by the Cal Poly Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education (CESaME) on behalf of the California State University (CSU).



URL: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/star/282


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