The National Park Service (NPS) on St. Croix is collaborating with Dr. Kristen Hart of the U.S. Geological Survey on a project that investigates sea turtle movements within Buck Island Reef National Monument to determine movement patterns, habitat use and other behaviors.
Acoustic receivers have been deployed at underwater stations throughout the monument that detect the presence of tagged turtles when they swim within range of the hydrophones. Once captured and transferred to a boat, these turtles are then equipped with small transmitters and released back, unharmed, where they were originally found. The transmitter detections stored on each hydrophone are downloaded every few months and analyzed.
This project is expected to last a few more years, and results will be shared through numerous scientific publications and public presentations. This research will provide managers with information about what locations are critical for sea turtles and help to minimize potential harmful human-turtle interactions to enhance conservation efforts for these threatened and endangered species (Endangered Species Act 1973).
Field work is conducted twice a year for approximately four weeks total. In 2015, field work is scheduled for March 3-14, and Sept. 13– 26. The field team hand-captures mostly juvenile and sub-adult green hawksbill sea turtles by snorkeling and freediving, mainly in the waters closest to Buck Island. Boaters should use extra caution to avoid researchers swimming near the island. They will be close to their dive float and tended by a 25’ NPS research vessel. (www.nps.gov/BUIS)
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