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June 18, 2009

New sea turtle database management system upgrades nest monitoring

Nesting numbers are rising and residents and sea turtle enthusiasts alike are anxious to know which of South Carolina’s barrier islands will be in the lead this year. A new online database will now make this friendly competition simpler to follow.

Nearly 2,000 cooperators monitor 71 beaches in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia for sea turtle nests from May to September each year. "The Sea Turtle Nest Monitoring System represents a revolution in sea turtle conservation and management by coordinating sea turtle nesting data in real-time for four species of sea turtles, from thousands of cooperators, along 710 miles of coastline for approximately 4,800 nests each year," states Michael Coyne, founder of SeaTurtle.Org. Data can now be reported by each beach in real-time through an online nest monitoring system. The system, developed by SeaTurtle.Org in collaboration with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, is an effort to standardize sea turtle nest data collection and provide resource managers with real-time feedback from their sea turtle nesting beaches.

"The new database management system is exciting because it allows us to monitor sea turtle nesting in real-time and make more timely management decisions," said DuBose Griffin, Sea Turtle Coordinator with DNR. "Sea turtle conservation in South Carolina would not be possible without the extensive collaboration and efforts of volunteers, nongovernmental organizations and federal, state and local governments."

These data are crucial in monitoring populations, formulating protective regulations, making management decisions, and maximizing reproduction for recovery of threatened and endangered sea turtle populations.

"The new online system is a wonderful tool that allows all of the nest protection project leaders to see what is happening on other beaches in the state. It is very user-friendly and informative!" said Andrea Grabman of Edisto Beach State Park in South Carolina.

The Sea Turtle Nest Monitoring System allows for rapid reporting of sea turtle nesting data and generates summary statistics, reports, graphs and maps on demand. Such immediate feedback is beneficial to both individual project data managers as well as state coordinators. The new online reporting tool complements the Sea Turtle Rehabilitation and Necropsy Database (STRAND) that the states of South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina are also using to collect and manage sea turtle stranding data in real-time.

"I think the new online system is a great tool not only for those of us who collect this information but for anyone anywhere who is interested in seeing how the nesting season progresses. I've seen the sea turtle nesting record keeping in South Carolina go from mailing in paper reports in the 1990's with no computers involved at all to this instantaneous and accurate way of combining data from three different states," states Mary Pringle, Sea Turtle Project Leader for the Isle of Palms/Sullivan's Island in South Carolina.

Last year marked the 28th anniversary of sea turtle conservation in South Carolina, a milestone for the state. Coordinated by the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division of DNR, volunteers, researchers and biologists from various agencies monitor turtle nesting activities on South Carolina beaches. From 1980 - 2007, nest protection efforts along the coast of South Carolina have helped 4,682,102 loggerhead hatchlings have the best chance of survival.

Sea turtles are listed as either endangered or threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act and the state Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act.

South Carolina's natural resources are essential for economic development and contribute nearly $30 billion and 230,000 jobs to the state's economy. Find out why Life's Better Outdoors.


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