SCCF volunteer Nancy Riley conducts a sea turtle nest inventory while Sanibel Sea School campers observe. 

SCCF volunteer Nancy Riley conducts a sea turtle nest inventory while Sanibel Sea School campers observe. 

Sea turtles are beloved creatures on Sanibel and Captiva. They nest on our beaches during the early summer months, and come July and August tiny hatchlings emerge by the thousands. Island residents eagerly wait to find out how successful this year’s turtles have been at producing young, and it takes a lot of people to answer that question.

Niko Palanzi is amazed by the depth of the sea turtle nest.

Niko Palanzi is amazed by the depth of the sea turtle nest.

About three days after a turtle nest hatches, trained Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation volunteers trek out to the beach to conduct a nest inventory. They gently dig the sand out of the hatched nest, count the number of hatched and unhatched eggs, and check to see if there are any live hatchlings that need a bit of help climbing out.  These observations are recorded and shared with scientists at SCCF and around the state and country who track the data from year to year.

One of two tiny loggerhead hatchlings that were rescued for later release into the ocean. 

One of two tiny loggerhead hatchlings that were rescued for later release into the ocean. 

Last week, a few lucky Sanibel Sea School campers were invited by SCCF turtle biologist Kelly Sloan and volunteer Nancy Riley to observe a nest inventory, and all agreed that it was an incredible experience. Students learned about the sea turtle life cycle and helped count over 70 hatched eggs. Two tiny loggerhead hatchlings were rescued from the nest for later release into the ocean. “We always see sea turtle nests marked on the beach, but we never get to see what’s inside,” said camper Jaime Gustafson, 12, “seeing the eggs and the baby turtles was so cool!”

A big thank you to SCCF, Kelly Sloan, and Nancy Riley for making this experience possible for our students, and to Amy Speckman at Casa Ybel for providing parking passes. We are so thankful for our community partners. 

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