Friday, July 27, 2018

Harbor Sea Turtle Tagging and Health Check July 20th

After my early morning survey on Avithos Beach we drove straight to Argostoli Harbor to take part in a tagging and health check of turtles that are currently residing there.  After meeting the team near the harbor we were asked to go to our assigned sector to help spot turtles.  My job was to spot a turtle and once I did, to raise one arm straight up in the air, and the other arm straight at the turtle.  This way Harry, the diver and turtle capturer, would know where the turtle is.  The first turtle we spotted, Harry was standing next to me on the bulkhead and then he dove straight into the harbor and grabbed the turtle from the sides of its carapace, and then he steered it toward the tagging area by using his own flippers and arms.

Harry guiding the turtle in to the tagging area.

Once the turtles were brought to the tagging area, Chanel and Josh heaved them up out of the water and carried them about six feet to the tarp were they were checked.  We were there for about 4 hours and in that time the team checked about seven turtles.  There were many measurements and other checks taken in the time each turtle was out of the water.

Chanel and Josh heaving a turtle out of the water.
 Some of the measurements that were taken were of the length and width of the carapace.  This was done with both a flexible tape measure and metal calipers.  This was done because the shell bends and the tape measure can reach around the bend to also measure the curve in the shell.  Other measurements we recorded were the tail and plastron length and width.  The plastron is the hole where the eggs come out above the tail.  Chanel had me put my finger inside the plastron of one of the turtles so I would know what it felt like.  There was a lot of pressure on my finger and it felt like it was getting pulled.

Besides the measurements, the team recorded the tag numbers of the turtles that had already been tagged, and they stapled tags on the flippers of the turtles that had not been previously tagged.  I was also asked to scan the microchips of the turtles.  The tags and microchips help keep track of the turtles and to help understand which ones are residents, and which ones are from other places.

The team also monitors the health of the turtles and performs checks.  All of the turtles captured had barnacles on them which can make it harder for them to swim.  The volunteers used special scrapers to get under the barnacles and pry them off.  There was one turtle who had a piece broken off of it's carapace and my dad recorded this by illustrating a diagram to show where the missing piece was.

Prying off barnacles from a turtle.

One turtle named Jane had a large wound on her head where several scutes were missing.  This was caused by a boat propeller.  The team placed a gauze pad on the area and I poured water on it several times to keep it cool and wet while the volunteers took measurements.  Chanel was worried about Jane so she decided to take her to a holding area and get her x-rayed.  It turned out she had a fractured skull.  The team to decided to put her back in the water because confining her in a holding tank could cause more harm to her skull because she was banging into the side.  They are going to continue to monitor her and may possible fly her to Athens if she seems to get worse.

Jane with a bandage on her head.  I poured water on it to keep it cool.

This was a great experience and I learned a lot about how Wildlife Sense uses science to better understand sea turtles in Kefalonia. 

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