New Keewaydin turtle station dedicated to Conservancy biologist
Few people are better known in sea turtle circles than Dave Addison, a 43-year veteran of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and lead biologist in charge of the Conservancy’s sea turtle monitoring and protection program.
Now entering its 35th year, the program has a new research station on Keewaydin Island. Otherwise known as the Turtle House, the station was recently dedicated as the David S. Addison Sea Turtle Field Research Station.
The $300,000, 784-square foot facility houses research equipment such as ATVs, flipper tags and protective nest cages. It also serves as a temporary shelter for staff and interns during summer rain showers. It was designed by architect
James Boughton and built by The Rock Custom Homes Inc. The research station is not open to the public.
“Watching a loggerhead turtle nest on a dark, otherwise deserted beach is a rare treat,” Mr. Addison says. “Those brief encounters become all the more fascinating when I stop to think that these moments when a marine turtle ascends a beach to nest represent only a tiny fraction of her 80- to 100-year lifespan.
“Because sea turtles live such a long time, studying them over many years is the only real way for us to learn what they have to tell and understand how to protect them for future generations,” he adds. “The sea turtle project takes time and persistence. Like the nesting loggerheads we encounter, we are in this for the long haul.”
The Conservancy has been monitoring sea turtle nesting and hatchlings on Keewaydin Island continuously since 1982, making it one of the longest-running sea turtle monitoring and research projects in the nation. Conservancy researchers have documented more than 284,000 hatchlings of primarily loggerhead sea turtles.
Loggerheads are a protected species and only nest in two main areas of the world: off the coast of Oman in the Middle East and on the beaches of Florida, specifically in the Southwest region. A female lays 100-120 eggs in each nest and can lay multiple nests in a season.
“Our first priority is to protect the turtles’ nests from predation by caging them. Otherwise, raccoons would destroy 85-90 percent of the nests and few if any hatchlings would ever reach the Gulf of Mexico,” Mr. Addison says. Station workers also measure and identify each turtle with a numbered tag. “Since sea turtles typically return to the same beach to nest every two to four years, we now have reproductive life histories of some Keewaydin turtles that go back over 20 years.”
Funding for the Conservancy’s sea turtle program comes primarily from individual donors. Mr. Addison credits the program’s success to the generosity of those who support it.
To help support the Conservancy’s sea turtle program and to learn more about the organization’s work with sea turtles, visit www.conservancy.org/ seaturtles. ¦