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Sea Turtles 911

Climate Change

The Issue: Climate change has a serious impact on sea turtles and has become a global issue that needs to be dealt with before its too late. There are two impacts of climate change that negatively affect the sea turtle population. Firstly, rising temperatures can have an influence on the sex of turtles that are born. This is because the sex of the turtle is determined by temperature experienced by the egg prior to hatching. The pivotal temperature that influences the sex of sea turtles is around 30°c, below that mothers tend to produce male offspring and above that temperature there is a female bias. If temperatures continue to rise then this could affect the gender ratio of the turtle population and mean that there are too many females. This is contrary to the natural gender balance where there tends to be more males than females and the female turtle has her pick.

The second issue caused by climate change is the rising of sea levels. This could have an impact on the habitats of turtles meaning that their nesting spots will slowly disappear. Turtles exhibit natal homing behavior, meaning they return to the site of their birth to lay their own eggs, and the loss of nesting sites due to sea level rising may have a huge impact on this instinct.

What We Do: Currently we are carrying out research into how climate change is affecting the gender ratio of turtles due to rising temperatures. This involves monitoring the gender balance in turtles and determining whether there is in fact an imbalance growing more prevalent. This is done using scientific process called laparoscopy, or keyhole surgery. We scope the turtles’ internal organs to identify gender and then compare this to blood samples, in order to evaluate how the hormone levels in turtles relates to gender. Our hope is that once we have established a guide to the hormone levels associated with each gender, we will be able to identify the sex of the turtle using purely blood samples. We plan to establish shady areas on beaches in order to provide turtles a place to hatch their eggs in a cooler environment, which ought to offset the affects of rising temperature.Our work on the impact of rising sea levels involves monitoring the nesting sites of turtles and how they adapt should the site be lost. We do this using GPS satellites. We hope to discover how adaptable the turtles are, and learn more about their migration patterns in order to maximize the continuation of nesting.