Marine Stranding Field School Encounters Sea Turtle Tsunami

November 20th, 2014

Juvenile Green Sea Turtle Rescued on Saturday Night

The MAS (Mass Audubon) Marine Stranding Field School encountered a sea turtle stranding wave of record proportions this past weekend with nearly 50 cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley and green sea turtles.  One day alone saw 28 strandings, the largest number since 1999.  One hundred fifty cold-stunned sea turtles washed ashore on Wednesday smashing all previous one day records, exceeding the number of animals rescued in most full years!

Pre-Dawn Sea Turtle Patrol on Sunday

Rescuers recovered sea turtles from Cape Cod Bay beaches from Brewster to Truro, processed & stabilized them at MAS Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, and then transported them to the New England Aquarium facility in Quincy. An extraordinary experience for field school participants with a truly life saving and live altering outcome.

MAS Staff Rescues Juvenile Green Sea Turtle from Ryder Beach in Truro

Juvenile Green Sea Turtle Receives Helping Hand

Measuring Juvenile Green Sea Turtle’s Length with Calipers

Field Schoolers Examine Rescued Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

Close Up of Cold-Stunned Juvenile Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

Measuring Curved Length of Cold-Stunned Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

Weighing Cold-Stunned Juvenile Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

Rescued Cold-Stunned Sea Turtles Boxed for Transport to Quincy

Juvenile Green Sea Turtle (Bottom); Juvenile Kemp’s Ridley (Above)

Cold-Stunned Sea Turtles Ready for Ride to New England Aquarium


June 16th, 2014


During the active field research season, it’s nearly impossible for us to update the Turtle Journal web site in conjunction with round-the-clock adventures and discoveries.  We do, however, constantly update our Facebook page from the field, so that we can share our discoveries as they occur.  Please friend us on Facebook by clicking here.  Best regards from the Turtle Journal Team:  Don Lewis, Sue Wieber Nourse and Rufus the Turtle Dog.


June 16th, 2014

Forbes Beach Neighbors Save Terrapin Nest

Neighbors near Forbes Beach in Wareham, Massachusetts came together to save a threatened diamondback terrapin nest and 14 babies-in-waiting.  On June 11th, Momma Terrapin crawled ashore from the Crooked River off Forbes Beach and meandered down a nearby dirt road.

Makeshift Barrier Protects Terrapin Nest

The terrapin dug a little here, then she dug a little there, and finally she forced her nest through a compacted gravel driveway.  “What to do?” wondered the neighbors.  They decided to erect a makeshift triangle barrier around the nest to ensure that no one would drive over the eggs.

Carefully Excavating Nest to Harvest Fragile Eggs

They called Turtle Journal and today, with the whole community on hand, we excavated the nest, scratching our way for nearly an hour, fingertip by fingertip, through hard sharp gravel.

Terrapin Nest Forced Through Compacted Gravel Driveway

Accompanied by a chorus of oo’s and ah’s, we harvested 14 perfect eggs for relocation to a safe turtle garden to incubate for the next 60 to 90 days.

Fourteen Perfect Terrapin Eggs Harvested

Once they emerge this summer, the hatchlings will be returned to the Forbes Beach community for release into the nursery salt marsh rimming the Crooked River.  Well done, Forbes Beach, as another community joins the crusade to save the world one turtle at a time.

Terrapin Crashes Tabor Academy Graduation

May 27th, 2014

Diamondback Terrapin Crashes Tabor Academy Graduation

A curious diamondback terrapin crashed the Tabor Academy graduation this morning. Although uninvited, she snagged the best seat in the harbor, a rock exposed by the receding tide.  Her rock came with a clear unobstructed view of the festive graduation tent, as well as the Marine Science Center that she helped to build.

 Female Diamondback Terrapin in Sippican Harbor

Turtles rock literally and figuratively, as illustrated by this mature female perched in the middle of Sippican Harbor.  If anything brought together the leadership of town (Marion) and gown (Tabor Academy), it was the unshakeable belief, stentorianly expressed in a voice akin to that of legendary Foghorn J. Leghorn, “There are NO, I say NO, turtles in Sippican Harbor” … any evidence to the contrary not withstanding. That evidence to the contrary was discovered by Jaeger Chair scholar Sue Wieber Nourse and her advanced marine science students at Tabor Academy beginning in the spring of 2003.

Boston Globe Coverage of Tabor Academy Terrapin Research

(Click Each Page to Enlarge)

As reported in the Boston Globe in December 2003, Sue Wieber Nourse’s breakthrough results led to a prestigious National Fish & Wildlife grant to export her hands-on research methodologies nationally.  Her work also formed an illustrative practicum for the National Science Foundation’s COSEE (Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence) initiative.  This signature marine science research program at Tabor Academy enlisted a consortium of SouthCoast and Cape Cod partners that included the NMFS Science Aquarium in Woods Hole, the National Marine Life Center, the Massachusetts Audubon Society, the Buttonwood Park Zoo and the Lloyd Center for the Environment.

Wieber Nourse’s Tabor Students Locate Endangered Turtle Nesting Site

(Click Article to Enlarge)

Under Sue Wieber Nourse’s guidance, advanced marine science students at Tabor Academy’s Schaefer Oceanology Lab scoured local barrier beaches and salt marsh systems to locate nesting sites and nursery habitat for elusive diamondback terrapins.  None had ever been discovered on the SouthCoast of Massachusetts.  Her students soon identified a major nesting site off Buzzards Bay, and documented its presence and importance with Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP). Going through this formal research and documentation process ensures that vulnerable habitat is preserved, while at the same time, teaching students through personal hands-on actions what is required to effectively save endangered species and fragile habitat.

Tabor Students Involved in University-Level Research

(Click Article to Enlarge)

While Sue Wieber Nourse held the Jaeger Chair, Tabor Academy remained the only secondary school in the nation engaged in such high level field research, analogous to ongoing studies at Hofstra University, University of Georgia, Davidson College, University of Texas, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and several other colleges and universities on the Atlantic Coast. This celebrated marine science research breathed life into Tabor Academy’s slogan as the School by the Sea.

New Bedford Standard Times Front and Back Page Coverage

(Click on Each Page to Enlarge)

By the Fall Semester 2004, the terrapin research program began to reap conservation dividends.  Nests that students discovered in the Spring Semester were covered with predator excluders, and the turtle eggs had incubated in warm sand through the long, hot summer days.  In September, Sue Wieber Nourse’s new marine science students savored the unique experience of watching baby terrapins hatch, putting an exclamation point on the success of this powerful and innovative research program.  An exciting educational discovery transforms into a significant conservation event through the magic of hands-on learning.

Marine Science Center Opened in Fall 2005

Entering its third research season with a now well established national reputation, the diamondback terrapin research program transitioned from the old Schaefer Oceanology Lab to the newly opened marine science center, dubbed by Tabor Academy as the Center for Marine and Nautical Sciences. Spotlighting the critical importance of hands-on research as a highly effective tool in sparking a lifelong scientific curiosity within students, Sue Wieber Nourse keynoted the dedication of the center.  At the same ceremony, she received the Jaeger Chair for Marine Studies in recognition of her outstanding accomplishments on behalf of Tabor Academy and for her national leadership in science education.

The diamondback terrapin research program ended at Tabor Academy in June 2008 when Sue Wieber Nourse received a year-long sabbatical, during which she co-founded Turtle Journal and subsequently assumed executive leadership of Cape Cod Consultants where she continues her breakthrough work in marine science research, environmental assessments, wildlife rescues, sensitive habitat restoration, endangered species conservation, and hands-on educational experiences in both formal and informal settings.

Herons Reinforcing Nest for Babies

May 27th, 2014

Male Great Blue Heron Brings Twig to Mom and Babies 

With chicks the size of Baby Huey stumbling around a flimsy treetop aerie, great blue heron parents spent the weekend reinforcing the nest.  Each time dad returned to the nest with a new twig to add to the nest, mom greeted him lovingly, and the kids were simply amused by all the action.  The chicks hatched on May 14; for details, see We Have Great Blue Heron Babies!

Male Great Blue Heron Departs for More Twigs

As though by magic, once the twig was passed to mom, dad lifted his wings and rose into the air.

Male Great Blue Heron Scavenges Material from Deserted Nest

He glided silently to a nearby tree with an abandoned nest that he scavenged for building material.

Male Great Blue Hero Returns to Nest

On a breeze and a thermal, dad floated back to his nest with another twig.

Great Blue Heron Nest Getting a Bit Crowded

As mom and dad worked away, the kids settled down in the comfort of the swaying bough.

Momma Great Blue Heron and the Twins

The parents continued all weekend, twig after twig, until the nest became sturdy enough to support their growing family.