Alumni CLASnotes Spring 2006
In This Issue:

Surviving the Sea

Research Initiatives Give Turtles a Fighting Chance

The Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research at the University of Florida is striving to secure the survival of these magnificent creatures through innovative research and education.
There is something about the sea turtle that captures the awe and imagination of humans. The Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research at the University of Florida is striving to secure the survival of these magnificent creatures through innovative research and education.

The CLAS center, which is housed in the Department of Zoology, was established in 1986 in memory of world-renowned UF sea turtle expert Archie Carr and brings together sea turtle biologists from across campus to conduct research, train students and further conservation efforts. The center is led by zoologists Karen Bjorndal and Alan Bolten.

“What makes the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research special is the high quality of work, the results they get and the positive impact they have on sea turtle conservation,” said Anne Savage, conservation biologist at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. “And the thing that is wonderful about Karen and Alan is that they have been great about sharing their knowledge and helping train the next generation.”

Through their research and experience, Bjorndal and Bolten have helped governments designate protected areas for sea turtles and set up guidelines for the fishing industry to better handle turtles caught as by-catch on swordfish and shark longlines. The center recently helped The Bahamas develop a conservation strategy, as the islands serve as a very important foraging ground for turtles in the Atlantic. The center has also worked with Disney’s Animal Kingdom to study the movements of rehabilitated sea turtles released from The Living Seas aquarium at EPCOT back into the wild.

In addition to public outreach and education, the center’s research initiatives are among the most diverse in the world. “We have a very broad program,” said Bjorndal, director of the center and chair of the Department of Zoology. “We are fortunate to have the greatest diversity and concentration of researchers studying sea turtle biology of any place in the world.”

Center researchers study the genetic structure of sea turtle populations, population dynamics, and the nutritional ecology of the species. Bjorndal and Bolten are currently working on the “lost year” phenomenon, hoping to find answers to one of the great mysteries involving sea turtles—where they spend their first years of life. The team is also looking at the role sea turtles play in ecosystems and the effect on the oceans if their numbers continue to decline.

But the center is not focused merely on furthering its own research agenda. It offers a number of resources to the entire sea turtle conservation community to combat the problem on a global scale.

“We provide all of these resources as a service to the sea turtle research and conservation community because of our strong commitment to sea turtle conservation and the importance of international outreach, ” said Bjorndal. Resources include:

  • CTURTLE
    A listserv discussion network aimed at improving communication among individuals around the world who are interested in sea turtle biology and conservation. The group currently has more than 1,200 subscribers in 60 countries.
  • Sea Turtle Online Bibliography
    An online bibliography with more than 16,000 references on all aspects of sea turtle biology, conservation and management.
  • Turtle Tagging and Tracking
    The center has developed the Cooperative Marine Turtle Tagging Program to centralize the process of distributing sea turtle tags, managing tagging data and exchanging tag information. The program is run in cooperation with the National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Fisheries Science Center.
  • Marine Turtle DNA Sequence Patterns
    To facilitate marine turtle population genetic studies, the center has established a website to coordinate the naming and cataloging of DNA sequence patterns.
  • Hematocrit and Plasma Biochemical Data
    To monitor the physiological status of wild populations of sea turtles and ensure recovery of these threatened and endangered species, baseline hematocrit and blood biochemical reference intervals need to be established. The center collaborates on this project with the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, the St. Lucie Power Plant, the Marinelife Center of Juno Beach and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Data is presented on the web and updated regularly.

For more information on the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research, visit http://accstr.ufl.edu/.

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