Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Tybee Island, GA, United States

Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Tybee Island, GA, United States
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Tuberville T.D.,Savannah River Ecology Laboratory | Norton T.M.,St Catherines Island Wildlife Survival Center | Norton T.M.,Georgia Sea Turtle Center | Waffa B.J.,Sewanee: The University of the South | And 4 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2011

Population manipulations such as translocation are becoming increasingly important tools in the management of rare and declining species. Evaluating the effectiveness of such manipulations requires comprehensive monitoring of population processes, including dispersal, survivorship, and reproduction. We investigated the mating system of a translocated population of gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) established through multiple releases, which occurred primarily during 1987-1994. During 2006-2007, we sampled and genotyped 27 candidate males (candidate sires), 34 candidate females (candidate dams), and 121 offspring from 19 clutches at five polymorphic microsatellite loci to determine the relative frequency of multiple paternity and to estimate individual reproductive success. Multiple paternity was detected in 57% of clutches genotyped, and females of single-sire clutches and females of multiple-sire clutches were of similar size. Reproductive success varied among male tortoises, and successful sires were significantly larger than males to which no offspring were attributed. Among successful sires, previously established males sired a disproportionate number of the offspring sampled, despite being significantly smaller than subsequently released males. The high variance in individual reproductive success and the apparent reproductive advantage associated with prior residence observed in this gopher tortoise population has important implications for the design of future translocation projects. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.


Sim R.R.,Maryland Zoo in Baltimore | Norton T.M.,Georgia Sea Turtle Center | Bronson E.,Maryland Zoo in Baltimore | Allender M.C.,University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign | And 3 more authors.
Veterinary Microbiology | Year: 2015

Herpesvirus infection was identified in two populations of captive Eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) using histopathology and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with DNA sequencing. Necrotizing lesions with eosinophilic to amphophilic intranuclear inclusion bodies were identified in the tissues of one hatch-year individual in January 2013, which was herpesvirus positive by PCR. A separate captive group of adults had an observed herpesvirus prevalence of 58% using PCR in July 2011. In these cases, a novel herpesvirus, Terrapene herpesvirus 1 (TerHV1), was identified and serves as the first herpesvirus sequenced in the genus Terrapene. Similar to the other herpesviruses of the Order Testudines, TerHV1 clusters with the genus Scutavirus of the subfamily Alphaherpesvirinae. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.


McGuire J.L.,University of Georgia | McGuire J.L.,Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center | Miller E.A.,University of Georgia | Norton T.M.,Georgia Sea Turtle Center | And 4 more authors.
Parasitology Research | Year: 2013

The gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus), one of five tortoise species endemic in the USA, was recently classified as a candidate for federal listing as a threatened species. Fecal samples collected from 117 tortoises from eight sites in Georgia were examined for endoparasites using a combination of sedimentation and flotation. Samples from an island population were examined for parasitic oocysts and ova only by flotation, protozoan cysts by trichrome-stained direct smear, and Cryptosporidium by direct immunofluorescence assay and ProSpecT rapid assay. A total of 99 tortoises (85, range 0-100 %) was infected with pinworms (Alaeuris spp.), 47 (40, 0-86 %) with cestodes (Oochorstica sp.), 34 (41, 0-74 %) with Chapiniella spp., 2 (3, 0-33 %) with Eimeria paynei, and a single tortoise each with a capillarid and ascarid (1 %). On the island, Entamoeba was detected in one tortoise (2 %) while Cryptosporidium oocysts were detected in eight (17 %). In conclusion, at least eight species of parasites were detected including Cryptosporidium, a possible pathogen of tortoises. Interestingly, we detected spatial variation in the distribution of several parasites among populations suggesting additional work should be conducted across a gradient of tortoise densities, land use, and habitat characteristics. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


Flower J.E.,Urbana University | Norton T.M.,Georgia Sea Turtle Center | Andrews K.M.,Georgia Sea Turtle Center | Nelson S.E.,Georgia Sea Turtle Center | And 3 more authors.
Conservation Physiology | Year: 2015

The evaluation of hormonal responses to stress in reptiles relies on acquisition of baseline corticosterone concentrations; however, the stress associated with the restraint needed to collect the blood samples can affect the results. The purpose of this study was to determine a time limit for the collection of blood samples to evaluate baseline corticosterone, haematological and biochemical results in nesting (n = 11) and rehabilitating (n = 16) loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta). Blood samples were collected from the dorsal cervical sinus of each turtle immediately after touching the animal (t0; 0-3 min) and 3 (t3; 3-6 min), 6 (t6; 6-9 min; nesting turtles only), 10 (t10; 10-13 min) and 30 min (t30; rehabilitating turtles only) after the initial hands-on time. Consistent between the rehabilitating and nesting turtles, there was a subtle yet significant increase in white blood cell counts over time. Despite the fact that white blood cell counts increased during the sampling period, there was no direct correlation between white blood cell count and corticosterone in the sampled turtles. In the nesting turtles, significant elevations in corticosterone were noted between t0 and t3 (P = 0.014) and between t0 and t6 (P = 0.022). Values at t10 were not significantly different from those at t0 (P = 0.102); however, there was a trend for the corticosterone values to continue to increase. These results suggest that sampling of nesting loggerhead sea turtles within 3 min of handling will provide baseline corticosterone concentrations in their natural environment. Significant elevations in corticosterone were also noted in the rehabilitating loggerhead sea turtles between t0 and t10 (P = 0.02) and between t0 and t30 of sampling (P = 0.0001). These results suggest that sampling of loggerhead sea turtles within 6 min of handling should provide baseline corticosterone concentrations in a rehabilitation setting. The delay in the corticosterone response noted in the rehabilitating turtles may be associated with the daily contact (visual or direct) they have with their human caretakers. © The Author 2015.


PubMed | Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Urbana University and Tufts University
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Conservation physiology | Year: 2016

The evaluation of hormonal responses to stress in reptiles relies on acquisition of baseline corticosterone concentrations; however, the stress associated with the restraint needed to collect the blood samples can affect the results. The purpose of this study was to determine a time limit for the collection of blood samples to evaluate baseline corticosterone, haematological and biochemical results in nesting (n=11) and rehabilitating (n=16) loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta). Blood samples were collected from the dorsal cervical sinus of each turtle immediately after touching the animal (t 0; 0-3min) and 3 (t 3; 3-6min), 6 (t 6; 6-9min; nesting turtles only), 10 (t 10; 10-13min) and 30min (t 30; rehabilitating turtles only) after the initial hands-on time. Consistent between the rehabilitating and nesting turtles, there was a subtle yet significant increase in white blood cell counts over time. Despite the fact that white blood cell counts increased during the sampling period, there was no direct correlation between white blood cell count and corticosterone in the sampled turtles. In the nesting turtles, significant elevations in corticosterone were noted between t 0 and t 3 (P=0.014) and between t 0 and t 6 (P=0.022). Values at t 10 were not significantly different from those at t 0 (P=0.102); however, there was a trend for the corticosterone values to continue to increase. These results suggest that sampling of nesting loggerhead sea turtles within 3min of handling will provide baseline corticosterone concentrations in their natural environment. Significant elevations in corticosterone were also noted in the rehabilitating loggerhead sea turtles between t 0 and t 10 (P=0.02) and between t 0 and t 30 of sampling (P=0.0001). These results suggest that sampling of loggerhead sea turtles within 6min of handling should provide baseline corticosterone concentrations in a rehabilitation setting. The delay in the corticosterone response noted in the rehabilitating turtles may be associated with the daily contact (visual or direct) they have with their human caretakers.


Crawford B.A.,University of Georgia | Maerz J.C.,University of Georgia | Nibbelink N.P.,University of Georgia | Buhlmann K.A.,Savannah River Ecology Laboratory | Norton T.M.,Georgia Sea Turtle Center
Journal of Applied Ecology | Year: 2014

Summary: Roads are pervasive fixtures on most landscapes but are typically among many factors contributing to wildlife population declines. Addressing road mortality as part of larger conservation efforts is challenging because it can be difficult to measure per capita mortality from roads and other concurrent threats. We used 4 years of mark-recapture-recovery data for diamondback terrapins Malaclemys terrapin on a causeway in Georgia, USA, to directly estimate threats of adult road mortality and nest predation, contrast the consequences to population growth using stage-based matrix models and make management recommendations to stabilize the population. Mean estimated annual adult road mortality was 11·1% (range = 4·4-16·4%). Estimated annual nest predation was 61·9%. We estimated that the population was declining (λ < 0·98) in all scenarios where both threats were included. Variation in adult survival was the most influential (highest elasticity) contributor to population growth relative to other demographic rates; however, λ would remain below 1 with any nest predation rate exceeding our estimate even if actions to mitigate road mortality were 100% effective. Synthesis and applications. Our study provides some of the first direct estimates of vehicle mortality rates and shows that mortality can remain sufficiently high among years to cause population declines. We also demonstrate that management actions focused on singular threats are inadequate for recovering populations. We conclude that integrated road and predator management is necessary to conserve turtle populations, and we suggest alternative strategies to compensate for some vehicle mortality and nest depredation. Our study provides some of the first direct estimates of vehicle mortality rates and shows that mortality can remain sufficiently high among years to cause population declines. We also demonstrate that management actions focused on singular threats are inadequate for recovering populations. We conclude that integrated road and predator management is necessary to conserve turtle populations, and we suggest alternative strategies to compensate for some vehicle mortality and nest depredation. © 2013 British Ecological Society.


Crawford B.A.,University of Georgia | Maerz J.C.,University of Georgia | Nibbelink N.P.,University of Georgia | Buhlmann K.A.,Savannah River Ecology Laboratory | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Applied Ecology | Year: 2014

Summary: Road mortality is a major component of human impacts on wildlife populations, and the pervasiveness of roads on the landscape presents a substantial challenge for managing those impacts. The feasibility of methods to reduce road mortality depends on the degree to which this threat is spatially or temporally concentrated, which can be based on habitat, human activities or species' ecology. Diamondback terrapins Malaclemys terrapin are a species of conservation concern across their range, and road mortality is a major threat contributing to local population declines. We used intensive road surveys of the 8·7-km Downing-Musgrove Causeway to Jekyll Island, Georgia, USA, over 2 years to determine whether road activity and mortality was diffused or concentrated spatially (hot spots) or temporally (hot moments) in order to guide efficient management. In 2009 and 2010, we documented 636 terrapin crossings that were temporally and spatially condensed. Temporally, there was a 70-80% chance of a terrapin occurring on the road within a 3-h period around the diurnal high tide and within the first 30 days of the ̃75 day nesting season. Over the two nesting seasons, 52% of terrapin occurrences on the road occurred within the 3-h period around high tide. Spatially, 30% of terrapins were observed crossing in three hot spots that composed less than 10% of the length of the entire causeway, and the percentage of unvegetated high marsh was negatively associated with the number of terrapins that occurred on a section of road. Synthesis and applications. Our results demonstrate that hot spots and hot moments can be identified for species at finer scales than those found by other studies and are related, strongly or weakly, to specific temporal processes or habitat features. We found patterns of road mortality, like most threats, can be diffused or concentrated; therefore, complementary management tools that focus on hot spots or moments and also address the more diffused component of road mortality will be required to reduce this threat for at-risk wildlife. Our results demonstrate that hot spots and hot moments can be identified for species at finer scales than those found by other studies and are related, strongly or weakly, to specific temporal processes or habitat features. We found patterns of road mortality, like most threats, can be diffused or concentrated; therefore, complementary management tools that focus on hot spots or moments and also address the more diffused component of road mortality will be required to reduce this threat for at-risk wildlife. © 2013 British Ecological Society.


Diffie S.,University of Georgia | Miller J.,Georgia Sea Turtle Center | Murray K.,University of Georgia
Journal of Herpetology | Year: 2010

Red Imported Fire Ant colonies were allowed access in the laboratory to eggs of eight reptilian and one avian species. The ants were allowed to forage on the eggs for approximately one week each after which the eggs were removed from the foraging arenas. Evaluations of the impact of fire ant foraging on the eggs were made daily, and final evaluations were made upon removal from the arenas. Red Imported Fire Ants were not able to penetrate healthy Bobwhite Quail eggs, the only avian species used in this trial. The foraging ants were able to penetrate the eggs of Diamondback Terrapins, Yellowbelly Sliders, Eastern Painted Turtles, and Loggerhead Sea Turtles but were not able to penetrate the eggs of Florida Softshell Turtles or Musk Turtles. The ants were able to enter the eggs of Burmese Pythons and Yellow Rat Snakes. Results from this study suggest Red Imported Fire Ants may have a more prominent role in the decline of native reptilian species than was previously thought. Further studies, especially in the field, are necessary to determine the true impact. © 2010 Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles.


Martin J.M.,Georgia Sea Turtle Center
Marine Pollution Bulletin | Year: 2013

Once in the marine environment, debris poses a significant threat to marine life that can be prevented through the help of citizen science. Marine debris is any manufactured item that enters the ocean regardless of source, commonly plastics, metal, wood, glass, foam, cloth, or rubber. Citizen science is an effective way to engage volunteers in conservation initiatives and provide education and skill development. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center Marine Debris Initiative (GSTC-MDI) is a grant funded program developed to engage citizens in the removal of marine debris from the beaches of Jekyll Island, GA, USA and the surrounding areas. During the first year of effort, more than 200 volunteers donated over 460. h of service to the removal of marine debris. Of the debris removed, approximately 89% were plastics, with a significant portion being cigarette materials. Given the successful first year, the GSTC-MDI was funded again for a second year. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.


PubMed | Georgia Sea Turtle Center
Type: Letter | Journal: Marine pollution bulletin | Year: 2015

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center has a mission of conservation based rehabilitation, research, and education. Marine debris is a serious threat to marine species. In an effort to educate local students, the GSTC obtained a grant to provide educational opportunities to local third graders. Third and fourth grade classes in Glynn County, Georgia were offered a Garbage in the Water program and 964 students were reached. After programming, students showed a statistically significant (p<.0001) increase in test scores between the pre and posttests. This success led to repeat funding for additional programming for first grades as well as a formalized relationship with the Glynn County School District. As part of this relationship the Georgia Sea Turtle Center is now the official field trip location for all third grades in the district.

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