Archive for the ‘Marine Science’ Category

Cape Cod Sea Turtle Rescues Smash All Time Record

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Sue Wieber Nourse Rescues 5 Lively Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles from Frigid Cape Cod Bay

Friday morning, the 21st, the 500th cold-stunned sea turtle of November 2014 was rescued from a windy, freezing Cape Cod Bay.

Sue Wieber Nourse Adds Another Rescued Turtle for Triage at Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

This extraordinary moment was marked only briefly as more and more turtles continued to arrive at MAS Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.  The in-take room at the sanctuary held dozens of endangered Kemp’s ridleys, several green sea turtles and a large, lonely loggerhead in the top right corner.

Live Cold-Stunned Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle at Fisher Beach, Truro

Sue and I patrolled the high tide flooded Truro-Wellfleet bayside from Fisher Beach in the north through Ryder Landing and Bound Brook Island to Duck Harbor in the south.

Live Kemp’s Ridley Rescued from Ryder Beach in Truro

A ferocious west-northwest wind churned powerful breakers and tossed cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley and green sea turtles onto the wrack line.

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Stranded on Cape Cod Bay Beach

Two Green Sea Turtles, One Pecked by Seagulls But Quite Lively 

I recovered seven Kemp’s ridleys and two green sea turtles from the north section.

Cold-Stunned Kemp’s Ridley at Bound Brook Island, Wellfleet

Stranded Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle at Duck Harbor, Wellfleet

Sue rescued nine Kemp’s ridleys from the pounding surf to the south.

Cold-Stunned, But Alive Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

Obviously stunned by the cold, nearly all responded with signs of life and most began “swimming in the air” as we gently cradled them off the beach.

Cold-Stunned Kemp’s Ridley Tossed Ashore by Cape Cod Bay Breakers

Kemp’s Ridley Deposited on High Tide Wrack Line by Wind and Surf

Cold-Stunned Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle at Bound Brook Island, Wellfleet

While we can’t share the marrow-deep chill, our icy soaked feet, the deafening surround-sound roar and the acrid briny smell, we offer these documentary snapshots of this memorable day. Enjoy!

Turtle Journal Vehicle Filled with 10 Endangered Cold-Stunned Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles

Marine Stranding Field School Encounters Sea Turtle Tsunami

Thursday, 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

Never Too Young to Learn About Cape Cod Sea Turtle Rescues

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Newly Born Diamondback Terrapin Hatchlings Make Friends

The Turtle Journal team presented the amazing rescue story about sea turtle strandings and entanglements in Cape Cod Bay and Buzzards Bay to an enthusiastic audience of Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester students in an afternoon program at the Marion Natural History Museum on November 14th. As if on cue, immediately following this presentation cold-stunned sea turtles began stranding on Cape Cod Bay beaches, breaking all records with more than a thousand mostly Kemp’s ridleys, some green sea turtles and a few loggerheads rescued within the next ten days. Three of our local “sea turtle” hatchlings (diamondback terrapins), born the previous weekend, made an appearance to the delight of all.


Brief Summary of Cape Cod Sea Turtle Stranding Phenomenon

NPR Cape and the Islands science reporter Tracy Hampton interviews Turtle Journal’s Don Lewis in 2003 about the annual stranding of cold-stunned sea turtles in Cape Cod Bay.  An extract of the audio interview is mixed with imagery to help illustrate the event.  For the full interview, click here.

Never Too Young to Learn About Turtles

Sue Wieber Nourse Talks About Her Caribbean Research on Hawksbills

Don Lewis Inspires Rapt Attention

Sue Wieber Nourse Showcases Terrapin Hatchling

Sue Wieber Nourse Contrasts Snapping Turtle with Sea Turtles

Diamondbacks of New England

Monday, November 10th, 2014

By Tom Richardson, New England Boating

Female Diamondback Terrapin #815 in Blackfish Creek

(Click here for full article by Tom Richardson in New England Boating)

In the fall of 1998, Sue Wieber Nourse was lecturing in her marine science lab at Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts, when a small, olive turtle scrambled across the threshold of the open door and into the room. Unsure of what species it was, she checked it against her reference sources and identified it as a juvenile diamondback terrapin, the only estuarine turtle in North America. What made the discovery especially intriguing was that diamondback terrapins were thought to be extinct in the Marion area, where shoreline development has eliminated much of their habitat.

Sue Wieber Nourse Examines Diamondback Terrapin in Sippican Harbor

It wasn’t until a few years later that Wieber Nourse attended a talk given by turtle researcher Don Lewis. When she told Lewis of her discovery, he immediately volunteered to scout the Marion waterfront for likely diamondback habitat. By the time their investigations were over, Wieber Nourse and Lewis had found several spots where the turtles might still be able to live, breed and nest. And 2 years later they were married, brought together by a most unlikely matchmaker.

Don Lewis Eye-to-Eye with Newborn Terrapin Hatchling

Don Lewis meets a lot of people through turtles, including this writer, who read about the Marion discovery in a local newspaper. While that alone was enough to pique my interest, the same article also mentioned that nesting diamondbacks had been found in Aucoot Cove, where I happen to live.

Diamondback Terrapin Nesting on Aucoot Cove Beach off Buzzards Bay

Terrapins among us? This was news indeed!

Diamondback Terrapin Hatchlings from Aucoot Cove off Buzzards Bay

Hunting for Terrapins

(Read full New England Boating article on line by clicking here.)

Female Diamondback Terrapin #829

Terrapin Crashes Tabor Academy Graduation

Tuesday, 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.