Why we do it

August 24, 2021

By Rob Moher | Conservancy President & CEO

When I tell people how our Environmental Science Department works with endangered sea turtles, their eyes light up. I tell them about sea turtles crawling up onto the beach under the moonlight to lay eggs before dipping back into the darkness of the Gulf. I tell them how the research team cruises up and down the beach on ATVs through the night so they have the best chance of spotting these turtles as they lay the next generation into the sand. But any researcher who has worked on the program will tell you, the sense of wonder that envelopes you while working next to a 300-pound sea turtle comes with a hefty price tag.   

Kathy Worley, Conservancy Science Director, explained it in a recent video. She said, “Whenever you go out to the island at night, you have to be prepared because it’s not this idyllic island where you go running around on an ATV and have a great time all night. You get out there, and you step off the boat, and you’re immediately attacked by hordes of mosquitoes, no-see-ums, and black flies. You name it, they’re out there and they get you!”

Click the video box below to see Kathy’s quote.

Yet, our team pushes through this discomfort every single night during sea turtle nesting season. They willingly work in the stifling heat with sweat-soaked clothes that are covered in gritty sand; they voluntarily surround themselves with swarms of insects because they refuse to believe in a world without these iconic animals. And that fortitude is paying off.   

Over the last 39 years, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s sea turtle program has become one of the longest continuously run sea turtle monitoring research projects in the world. We have documented over 320,000 hatchlings reaching the Gulf of Mexico for their chance at becoming an adult.  

This grueling yet rewarding work could not be done without your support.

You are vital to helping this research continue and you play an important role in making sure we protect as many nests and hatchlings as possible. If you believe, as our team of scientists believes, that we all need to do our part to protect sea turtles, then please donate to our 2021 Science Research Fund today!  

On July 6th and 7th, Tropical Storm Elsa came through Southwest Florida and although it may not have seemed too bad for us on the mainland, Keewaydin Island was a different story. Our biologists look after 485 sea turtle nests on the island and out of the 485 nests, 72 completely washed out, 133 washed over or partially washed out and only 280 are potentially viable. Despite the storm, the turtles are still nesting and proving their resilience.  

Sea turtle nesting cage atop beach erosion

Sea turtles lay 3-4 clutches during nesting season; they hedge their bets for hatchling survival by laying as many eggs as they can in each nest. This style of reproducing counteracts the numerous obstacles and threats sea turtles face on their journey from eggs to adults, where only 1 out of 1,000 eggs might make it to adulthood. We can never predict what our Florida storm season will look like, but our turtle team hopes that no more major storms occur, which would cause a further impact on the rest of our nesting and hatchling season.  

Additionally, temperature studies indicate Keewaydin nests on Keewaydin are producing males at a higher rate than those on the east coast of the state. What that in mind, supporting our Keewaydin nests and hatchlings is extremely important for the population of turtles  

Please donate today and help us continue the many research projects that help us make sound decisions for our Southwest Florida environment. 

I hope my passion for our critical sea turtle monitoring and protection work helps inspire your support today!  

Rob Moher
President and CEO
Conservancy of Southwest Florida