‘We take everything out:’ Volunteers taking inventory of Tybee Island sea turtle nests

Published: Aug. 30, 2022 at 4:25 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Sea turtle nesting season is winding down on Tybee Island.

But volunteers are still at work as the eggs inside the nests begin to hatch.

Students at Tybee Island Maritime Academy got out of the classroom and hit the beach for their science lesson.

The students watched as their teacher and volunteers took inventory of a recently hatched sea turtle nest.

Volunteers from the Sea Turtle Project say they keep a close eye on any nests that hatch on Tybee’s shore.

“So we come back 5 days later and we dig it up and we take everything out. We count how many hatched eggs there were, how many unhatched, whether we have live babies or dead babies,” Tybee Island Sea Turtle Project Volunteer Linda Stoller said.

The group works by hand removing the protective grate.

They then pull out what’s left inside the nest carefully counting and recording the number of hatched and unhatched eggs.

“We’re going to look for what we consider 50% of an eggshell.”

It’s an important tracking process say volunteers.

One that helps track turtle genealogy and monitor the overall health of Tybee’s ecosystem.

“We’ve been doing this for quite a long time. We know through DNA that we have a grandmother, a mother, and a daughter coming back to Tybee to lay their nest which is kind of cool,” Volunteer Cathy Lewis said.

For this nest the group found 71 hatched eggs and 6 unhatched.

No babies were left behind. A success say volunteers.

And for the students looking on a chance to inspire the next generation of turtle watchers.

“That’s amazing. They’re our future people that are going to be taking care of the turtles. It’s just terrific that they can see that. It’s a wonderful thing for them to be able to watch. It’s just an exciting time and it never gets old,” Stoller said.

Now once they count all the hatched and unhatched eggs volunteers put the remains back in the nest and cover it up again.

They say it’s healthy for the nearby dunes.

The inventory counts come at the end of a recording breaking nesting season on Tybee.

And volunteers say the still have a few more nests left to check.