Sea turtle sex study underscores importance of Conservancy research

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has announced the name for a new baby loggerhead sea turtle, which now has a starring role in the Dalton Discovery Center.

The loggerhead, named NIN, weighed in at 456 grams (16.4 ounces) and measured 23 centimeters across and 22 centimeters in width at a ceremony on Thursday, June 14. NIN is an animal ambassador at the Conservancy’s Nature Center, where visitors will have a unique opportunity to observe the sea turtle in his habitat while learning about the species until he is large enough to be released into the wild.

“Our animal ambassadors serve an important role in helping educate visitors about both native and non-native species living in Southwest Florida,” said Rob Moher, president and CEO of the Conservancy. “Loggerhead sea turtles are a threatened species in Florida, and the Conservancy is committed to monitoring and protecting the turtles nesting on our local beaches.”

‘Hot Chicks, Cool Dudes’

NIN is part of a Sea Turtle Sex Determination Study by Florida Atlantic University. Nests were incubated at various temperatures. This specific turtle was incubated at low temperature and low humidity to test how these variables impact the sex of the turtles. Tests confirmed NIN is a male.

Since the sea turtle program’s inception in 1982, the Conservancy has documented more than 284,000 loggerhead hatchlings from Keewaydin Island reaching waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and another 78,000 from Naples City Beach.

“Interestingly, the vast majority of hatchlings on Keewaydin beaches are male in an otherwise female-dominated South Florida population,” said Dr. Jeff Schmid, Conservancy of Southwest Florida science research manager. “Our beaches are that much more important because the males that are produced help maintain the overall population.”

As the first known male sea turtle ambassador that the Conservancy has welcomed, NIN serves as a reminder of the importance of maintaining beaches and protecting nests to preserve gender balance.

A higher nest temperature results in more females while lower temperature causes a shift toward males, giving rise to the saying “hot chicks and cool dudes.”

NIN’s Name

NIN is a unique name for the Conservancy’s loggerhead and carries a special story. A guest at the Conservancy’s 2018 Magic Under the Mangroves gala and auction purchased the sea turtle’s naming rights. The winning bidder, Barbara Chur, came to Magic Under the Mangroves hoping to win the naming rights and support the Conservancy sea turtle research. Chur’s daughter and eight of her friends visited Naples this winter.

“While vacationing we got to talking about the sea turtles and the work the Conservancy is doing and how important it is,” Chur said. “When I won, I wanted a name that would represent the wonderful time the nine women had while visiting. We are selected the name NIN to represent Nine in Naples.”

About the Conservancy’s Loggerhead Sea Turtle Program

  • 2018 marks the start of the 36th season of the Conservancy’s Sea Turtle Monitoring and Protection Program, a program which was formed in 1982.
  • Conservancy researchers have documented more than 284,000 hatchlings of primarily loggerhead sea turtles.
  • Only 1 in 1,000 sea turtles survives to adulthood. Each one we can protect is significant to the survival of this threatened species.

How the Conservancy protects the nests

  • The Conservancy’s first priority is to protect the turtles’ nests from predation by caging them. Otherwise, raccoons would destroy 85-90 percent of their nests, and few, if any, hatchlings would ever reach the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The Conservancy also measures and documents each turtle with a numbered tag for identification and tracking of turtles and their nests.
  • Since sea turtles typically return to the same beach to nest every 2-4 years, the Conservancy now has reproductive life histories of some Keewaydin turtles that go back more than 30 years.
  • All of this – protection for the thousands of hatchlings that begin their lives in Southwest Florida – would not be possible without support from generous citizens. As a nonprofit, the Conservancy’s Sea Turtle program relies on funding by generous donors.

How you can help

  • When you see marked nests, do not approach them.
  • Do not touch the animals (they can find their way to the water).
  • Turn off the lights at beaches during nesting season – artificial light confuses the turtles, which use the light of the moon to guide them to the Gulf.
  • Slow-down in designated channel zones.
  • Clean up our beaches (turtles will eat and choke on litter).
  • Use reusable bags instead of plastic bags.
  • Support fisheries that use turtle safe devices on their nets.

NIN joins nine other animal ambassadors at the Conservancy: Olive (barred owl), Horatio (red-tailed hawk), Aquila (bald eagle), Jack (Florida box turtle), Bindi (eastern Indigo snake), Gus (ball python), Peaches (red rat snake), Sheldon (yellow rat snake) and Stitch (Burmese python).

The Conservancy Nature Center is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Admission is $14.95 for adults and $9.95 for youth ages 3 to 11; children 2 and under are free. Basic family memberships start at $65. Learn more at www.conservancy.org.

About the Conservancy of Southwest Florida:
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is a not-for-profit environmental protection organization with a 50-year history focused on the issues impacting the water, land wildlife and future of Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Conservancy accomplishes this mission through the combined efforts of its experts in the areas of environmental science, policy, education and wildlife rehabilitation. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, world-class Nature Center and von Arx Wildlife Hospital are headquartered in Naples, Florida, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, south of the Naples Zoo off Goodlette-Frank Road. Learn more about the Conservancy’s work and how to support the quality of life in Southwest Florida www.conservancy.org.