40 years of sea turtle research

March 10, 2022

As we approach the 40th Year of the Conservancy’s sea turtle program, it is fitting to look back and reflect on its humble beginnings.

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s Sea Turtle Monitoring Project has been operating on Keewaydin Island continuously since 1983. The project was originally established in an effort to protect nests on this remote stretch of beach from predation, a goal that still stands today. 

Why we do this work

In the early years of the research project, sea turtle egg clutches were relocated to a hatchery on the north end of the island where they were protected from predators like raccoons, ghost crabs, armadillos, and opossums.  As the years went on, however, the project moved more towards caging nests where they are laid to prevent predation, instead of relocating to a hatchery. 

While the main focus of the project remains to protect sea turtle nests from depredation and learn about the life history of these animals, we’ve also found that the experiences of field staff and interns that work on the project stick with them as they move on in their careers, influencing many to be sea turtle biologists or work in the field of science. 

One Conservancy science intern, Devin Reese, was present in Naples during the summer 1986-1987 and was introduced to the sea turtle interns and the project by Dave Addison, who ran the Conservancy’s sea turtle project for over 30 years. Devin evolved into a successful science writer and recently published this article in Voices for Biodiversity about one of our most famous Loggerhead Sea Turtles “Emily” that still returns to Keewaydin Island to nest there today. 

Learn more about our sea turtle research from Senior Biologist Dave Addison – as well as former staff and interns who worked on the project – in this video that touches on the history of our sea turtle research and why it’s so important.