Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Meet Marshosaurus, Morrison's Mysterious Meat Muncher!

If I were to tell you to picture the environment of the Morrison Formation 150 million years ago (MYA) in the Late Jurassic Period, most of you would probably have no idea what I was talking about.  For some of you, the words “Morrison” and “Late Jurassic” would trigger images of enormous sauropods like Apatosaurus and Diplodocus, with the occasional plated Stegosaurus, and the carnivorous Allosaurus.  For still fewer, images of the ornithopods Camptosaurus and Dryosaurus might appear, the theropods Ceratosaurus and the smaller Ornitholestes, and perhaps another sauropod or two.  Fewer still might picture the theropod Torvosaurus, the ankylosaur Gargoyleosaurus, and the ornithopod Othnielia.  However, very few people indeed would think of the medium sized, 20-foot long theropod Marshosaurus.

Marshosaurus bicentesimus was first named in 1976, and received the second half of its scientific binomial name (bicentesimus) from the fact that it was described during the bicentennial of the United States!  The first part of the name (Marshosaurus) honors the famous paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh, one of two main participants in the extreme paleontological competition more than 100 years ago!  If you want to learn more about the Bone Wars, be sure to check out a song that I wrote about it below: to the tune of Carrie Underwood's "Two Black Cadillacs!"
Anyways, all silliness aside, I actually got to see what is widely considered to be the most complete Marshosaurus specimen ever discovered about a month back when my friend Sam Lippincott and I got to go on a behind the scenes tour of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science with paleontologist Dr. Ian Miller!  To be honest, even from a paleontologists perspective, the Marshosaurus specimen was definitely not the most exciting thing there, not by a long shot!  Overall, all of the known material attributed to Marshosaurus taken together, there sure isn't much: four fragmentary skeletons, composed of bits and pieces of the spine, skull, and pelvis.
One of two small trays of bones belonging to Marshosaurus that the Denver Museum has on display in the paleo lab for the time being.  Looks like we have some vertebrae and ribs!
One of two small trays of bones belonging to Marshosaurus that the Denver Museum has on display in the paleo lab for the time being.  This box contains the right maxilla of the specimen.  You actually have a right maxilla, too: just tap abut halfway between your nose and your mouth on the right side of your face: that's your right maxilla!
According to a brief article written by paleontologist Dr. Joe Sertich and published in the Denver Museum's magazine, the specimen of Marshosaurus held at the Denver Museum has "large portions of the skull....several vertebrae, bones from the back and neck, and ribs."  Although it doesn't give us a lot to work with, such fragmentary remains are often all that paleontologists have to work with!  It appears to have been enough for some scientists to come to the conclusion that Marshosaurus is a member of the megalosauroids, a distinct group of meat-eating theropod dinosaurs that includes the famous Megalosaurus, the very first dinosaur ever described!  (I would say discovered, but most people suspect that ancient races have been discovering dinosaur bones for hundreds of thousands of years: but more on that later!)  It is thought that Spinosaurus and its relatives are closely related to the megalosauroids as a group.

According to the article, the remains of the Denver Museum's Marshosaurus specimen were discovered at a site in Dinosaur National Monument that, due to a fluke of the law (I would say loophole, but I feel like that's too harsh of a word), allows the Denver Museum to collect fossils and take them back to their collections, as opposed to them going to the collections facility at the visitor's center.  At this particular site, the remains of "at least six other animals made their way back to Denver."  Amongst these remains  includes the small, plant-eating ornithopod Dryosaurus, and the very famous Stegosaurus, as well as a few bits and pieces of a crocodile!

So how likely is it that Marshosaurus will become as famous as Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops?  Not very likely at all!  But it's a cool animal, and I definitely hope we find the remains of more of these guys sometime in the future!

Monday, July 15, 2013

23-Fact Tuesday: Prairie Falcon, Red-Tailed Hawk, and Great-Horned Owl at the Dino Hotel in Denver!

As I mentioned in a post just a few days ago about the Harris hawk (which you can read by clicking HERE), the fantastic dinosaur-themed remodel at the Best Western Denver Southwest is well underway, and the folks over there are making the hotel even more fantastic by having weekly raptor (bird of prey) shows on Saturdays!  Each Saturday, Anne Price, one of the folks over at the Raptor Education Foundation, brings over four birds of prey to show to the audience!  Last week, they brought over a Harris hawk (which, like I already mentioned, I talked about in a previous post), a prairie falcon, a red-tailed hawk, and a great-horned owl!  I have so much information I wanted to share with you...but how!  How could I POSSIBLY share all of this information in a non-story like, brain-dumpy fashion?  AH-HAH!  Another 23-Fact Tuesday is upon us!  But before you enjoy, make sure you check out the website for the Raptor Education Foundation by clicking HERE, and checking out the Facebook page for the Best Western Denver Southwest by clicking HERE!
1.  This particular prairie falcon actually used to fly down at the Air Force Academy, where many of the cadets have the option of training a falcon!
One of the cadets with a falcon!  Photo Credit:
2.  The great-horned owl used to be the only member of the genus Bubo (what a fun name, right?), but around ten years ago, scientists reclassified the snowy owl to be the second member of the genus.
Quite possibly the most famous snowy owl of all time, Hedwig from the spectacular Harry Potter series!  Photo Credit:
3.  As for all raptors except for the New World vultures, the female red-tailed hawks are bigger than the males.
4. Falcons like the prairie falcon and the peregrine falcon will dive at their prey and actually punch them with their balled up feet!
A peregrine falcon diving to attack a brown pelican: holy COW!  Photo Credit:
5.  In response to this behavior on the part of the falcons, some prey species of bird have developed very tough feathers on their back and such to defend themselves against such attacks.
6. In nocturnal owls, like the great horned owl, the eyes are surrounded by a sort of sensory dish full of hyper-sensitive feathers that can actually detect sound, funneling it into the “dish.”
7.  Diurnal owls, such as the burrowing owls, do not have this dish, or at least it is not as pronounced as other owls that are more active at night. The burrowing owl is actually most active at dawn and dusk, although it can function perfectly well at night.  
A funny looking burrowing owl!  Photo Credit:
8.  Red-tailed hawks apparently love to nest in cottonwood trees.  I think I might have actually found a red-tailed hawk nest in a cottonwood tree: hopefully, there will be more information on that in a later post!
A red-tailed hawk nest in what might or might not be a cottonwood tree....Photo Credit:
9.  The great-horned owl that Anne brought in for the presentation is DEFINITELY a survivor: he has survived being shot, hit by a car, West Nile Virus, and being attacked by another owl!
10.  Here's the scoop: this particular great-horned owl first came to the sanctuary because it was hit by a car which, in the long run, probably saved its life. The reason why it hit the car in the first place was that it was flying drunkenly about due to the fact that it had West Nile Virus, which had caused its brain to go a little loopy. The owl received the medical treatment that it needed, and it wasn’t until a few years later, when it accidentally broke its leg, that a full X-Ray was ordered, and it was revealed that the owl had a few pellets lodged in its back. The skin had grown around it and completely healed, but yeah.  Still.  What a trooper!
11.  You might have noticed on some of these great-horned owl pictures that the pupil of the left eye is MUCH more dilated than the pupil on the right eye.  This is because this great-horned owl is blind is his left eye, due to the brush with West Nile Virus we were just talking about.
12.  Later on, there was an enclosure that contained three great horned owls: two males that could fly and an older, grumpier female that couldn’t really fly that well. The two males could EASILY avoid the female by remaining up in the top of the enclosure, where the female simply could not reach them. However, one time, the people walked into the enclosure to find this particular male great horned owl perched next to the grumpy female. The female didn’t seem to be displaying any hostility towards him, so they left them together.  After a few weeks, I believe, the female had decided that she had had enough, and attacked the male, and I believe broke his wing. He can fly today, but not terribly well, and not very far.
13.  Not all red-tailed hawks have a red tail. There is a wide variety of coloric differences across its vast range, and sometimes even melanistic forms are seen. This DEFINITELY messes with birders!
A melanistic red-tailed hawk!  Melanistic, FYI, would be just like a melanistic jaguar, where the coat of the animal is very, very dark, much darker than noraml, due to a pigment issue in its genes!  Photo Credit:
14.  As a matter of fact, none of them have red-tails their first year! At that point in their life, their tails are a darkish gray-brown: muddy and dull with darker brown stripes.
A juvenile red-tailed hawk!  Photo Credit:
15.  The juveniles don’t actually get their red tails until they molt, which, at the time this post is being written (early July) is happening now, in the spring and summer.  Here, we have a video featuring the red-tailed hawk, as well as a brief appearance by a pooping Harris hawk (which unfortunately happens off screen)!
16.  Besides the owls, only one other type of raptor is able to swivel one of it's toes to face backwards, so that it has two toes pointing forwards and two toes pointing backwards: the osprey!  The osprey does this to allow for a more secure grip when catching fish, and the owls undoubtedly do it for much the same purpose when it comes to holding on to their prey.
An osprey, where you have a clear shot of its feet!  Photo Credit:
17.  This particular prairie falcon has also survived a brush with West Nile Virus, just like the great horned owl!  Anne was telling us that no one really but her would know it, but he far right tail feather on this bird has grown in weirdly ever since the birds dangerous brush with the virus.  Here, we have a brief video where Anne talks a bit about this particular falcon's feather!
18.  Just like dogs, birds don't sweat.  Also just like dogs, birds will sometimes pant to help keep cool!  Below, we have a video of the great-horned owl thermoregulating via something we like to call "gular fluttering!"  
19.  As you can see in this video below, the prairie falcon is being assisted in its thermoregulation by the presenter Anne, who is misting him with some water!
20. The great-horned owl will eat (amongst other things, no doubt) worms, insects, fish, any amphibian, any reptile including rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas, porcupines, skunks, raccoons, and other raptors.
A great-horned owl with a snake!  Photo Credit:
21.  The two brown streaks under its eyes help keep some of the light from reflecting into its eyes, just like the black paint worn under the eyes by football and baseball players.  Another fascinating example of convergent evolution at its finest!
Convergent evolution at its finest!  Photo Credit:
22.  A lot of the time when people think a hawk has gotten in and killed their chickens, its actually an owl.
A fox in the henhouse!  I couldn't find a picture of a hawk in a henhouse, and besides, I really liked this picture.  Photo Credit:
23.  For reasons that Anne couldn’t fully explain, other than maybe panic or opportunity, often when an owl finds itself in a pigeon loft, the owl will only pull out and eat one or two of the pigeons, but it will pull off the heads of almost all of them, and leave them there.  An interesting and gruesome way to end yet another fun-filled and fascinating 23-Fact Tuesday!  
And that's why people often use fake owls to scare away pigeons!  Photo Credit:
Make sure you check out the website for the Raptor Education Foundation by clicking HERE, and checking out the Facebook page for the Best Western Denver Southwest by clicking HERE!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A New Hairdo for the Alpacas: An Article from the Wild Animal Sanctuary

Remember that post I did a few weeks back about the giant bears I saw at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado?  (If not, you can just click HERE to catch up).  Anyways, I thought it might be interesting to see if anyone at the sanctuary would be willing to do a guest post on the blog!  The person I corresponded with, however, said that all of the staff members are putting in 60-70 hours per week, and therefore are absolutely unavailable!  My correspondent did say that I could feel free to reprint some of the stories from the newsletters, and I thought that was a great idea!  In their last newsletter, they printed a story called "Summer's Here and It's Time for a New Hairdo," an article all about their fleet of shaved alpacas!  Since I thought these guys were totally awesome, I decided to reprint this story, as it is both interesting, educational, and really, really funny!  So please, enjoy, and make sure to check out the Wild Animal Sanctuary, and like their Facebook page by clicking HERE!  Also, be sure to check out their website by clicking HERE!  

It seems like everyone likes to observe the seasonal changes with some sort of personal change in their own life. It’s possible they are trying to mirror the change in landscape… or more likely, they’re trying to find a balance with nature. Sometimes this sort of thing can come in the form of a new wardrobe… and others might find balance by including more outdoor activities to get them in the groove.

Yet, whatever you like to do when the weather and daylight start to shift… there’s always one thing that pops up on an Alpaca’s springtime dance card – a trim and shave! Yep, that’s right, there’s nothing more refreshing than a late spring haircut to lift the spirits of an Alpaca - especially since wearing a winter coat in July or August can get a bit stuffy!

With this in mind, we started late last year trying to find a viable solution to our shearing needs for the 50+ Alpacas that live at the Sanctuary. Mind you, shearing one or two wouldn’t be so bad… but when you are looking at more than 200 fuzzy legs that happen to have big fuzzy bodies attached to them – one has to be realistic when it comes to planning how to get the shearing job done!

Luckily, through a myriad of connections talking with each other, we were able to find an Alpaca Ranch in Montana that routinely hires a professional shearer each spring to help lighten the load of their Alpacas. The Ranch owners offered to help the Sanctuary by paying for their shearer to come to the Sanctuary – along with the ranch’s own special team of Alpaca wranglers – in order to shear all of our Alpacas in the spring.

They were happy to share their expertise in the art of Alpaca wool management, and planned on taking the wool back to Montana to turn it into highdollar rugs. They then planned on sending some of the rugs down to us to sell in our gift shop… as well as retail the rest to clients that have been following their wool artistry for many years.

Well, April finally rolled around, and the out-of-state shearing party arrived as scheduled. However, the Sanctuary’s staff ended up having to jump in the middle of the Alpaca wrangling end of things when the ranch’s wranglers came up missing.

Actually, it turned out to be a good adaptation, since we were happy to participate in order to ensure our Alpaca’s visit with the barber turned out to be a positive one. Besides, they’re all so cute that it’s a pleasure to spend time amongst this curious flock!

We started early in the morning and worked with precision. We were able to have two areas where the Alpacas would be laid down to get shaved. As one would be getting his or her hair clipped… the other would be getting his or her hooves trimmed and teeth checked. 

The shearer spent the day swapping back and forth while the ranch owners and Sanctuary staff took care of all the oddities like wool collection and doing discretionary medical exams.

We ended up with some pretty slick-looking Alpacas… and they ended up feeling substantially lighter. Their final appearance was definitely charming, as most of them ended up looking more like “Pokey” – “Gumby’s” sidekick of a horse!

When it was all over, the ranchers were forced to spend some time trying to pack 50+ Alpaca’s worth of wool into a regular-sized Chevy van (which ended up being packed solid, floor to roof), while our dainty-looking heard of Alpacas trotted off into the sunset. It’s definitely a new season, and the Alpacas definitely have a new hairdo, so as far as we’re concerned… it feels like everything is in balance again! 

Did you like what you just read?  Well, make sure to check out the Wild Animal Sanctuary's newsletter page by clicking HERE!  Make sure to also like their Facebook page by clicking HERE, and to check out their website by clicking HERE!  

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Harris Hawk at the Dinosaur Hotel!

A few times now, I have mentioned the fantastic dinosaur-themed renovation that the folks over at the Best Western Denver Southwest.  Complete with life-sized models, museum quality casts lining the hallways, and a pool in the shape of the Western Interior Cretaceous Seaway, this is a hotel that paleo-fans of all ages won't want to miss!  Another awesome thing they do is a weekly raptor show on Saturday's at 5:00 PM.  I don't mean raptor like Velociraptor (which would be both amazing and terrifying at the same time), I mean bird of prey raptors.  But don't be too disappointed: they are still really super cool!  I went for the first time last Saturday, and was blown away by both the birds and the knowledge and passion of the presenter, Anne Price.  I plan on sharing many of these birds with you, and today I am going to share one of my favorites from last week, the Harris hawk!
In this picture, you can see the Harris hawk is not too happy about the great-horned owl being held by another volunteer about ten or fifteen feet in front of it!
There are three different subspecies of the Harris hawk, and this one was native to the Sonoran desert, in the American southwest.  Although sometimes the other sub-species will live in more forested areas, this particular type of Harris hawk prefers a desert life.  
Due to the fact that much of what lives in the desert is spiny, the Harris hawk learns from a very young age how to pick spikes and thorns out of its feet, especially the spines of the saguaro cactus.  This particular cactus is SO huge and so integral to the surrounding ecosystem that it is illegal in Arizona to either harm or destroy a saguaro cactus!
When abbreviated, the scientific name of the Harris hawk, Parabuteo unicintus, spells "P. u."
Unlike many raptors, the Harris hawk is a very social bird, hunting cooperatively in packs often numbering four or five individuals.  These packs, or family groups, will often have one or two of the birds fly down low to flush out prey, and once the prey is on the move, the rest of the pack will swoop in for the kill.

Since it is so darn hot in the Sonora Desert,  the adult Harris hawks are forced to shield their nests, with their offspring inside, with their outstretched wings to keep them from cooking alive.  If the "shield-bird" has to move, for whatever reason, an aunt or an uncle or just another member of the pack will instinctively swoop in to take up the shielding duties!  
I feel like since the Harris hawk lives in groups, it would be more tolerant of other birds.  Since they kept the Harris hawk out almost the entire time, even while the other three birds were out, this would make sense.
You can see in the picture above and the picture below that, while the Harris hawk wasn't too bent out of shape because of the presence of the great-horned owl, it wasn't necessarily super excited about it.  I mean, let's face it: if you or I were a hawk in the presence of this incredible owl, I might be a little nervous, too!
Like in most other birds, the Harris hawk is pretty much full-sized when it leaves the nest, since it has to be able to fly, feed, and take care of itself.  When their entire volume is taken into account, the young apparently are often bigger than the adults!  I don't remember exactly why that would be, but most likely due to the fact that the young have just been sittin' around on their heinies, and their parents have been working their heinies off to feed and care for them.
As you can sort of see in the picture below, the innermost toe claw of the Harris hawk, and most (if not all) hawks, is much larger than the other two forward-facing toe claws.  As you can probably see in the picture above, the hallux, or backwards-facing claw, is also much larger than those other two forward-facing claws.  I don't recall if this is a feature seen in other raptors, I'll make sure to ask this Saturday!
I also have a short video that I took there of the Harris hawk.  You can see how it looks, get a good size comparison, and listen to a little bit of the information that Anne has to say about it!
Here is a second video where the Harris hawk is featured, however briefly.  Although it features the red-tailed hawk, at one point the hawk poops on the floor, which unfortunately happens off camera!
Finally, here is another video in which the Harris hawk makes an appearance.  You can see when the camera pans over to the Harris hawk (the cinematography, by the way, is reminiscent of Star Wars or Planet Earth or something like that) that the Harris hawk, like we talked about before, is not terribly happy about the great-horned owls presence so close to it, but it is tolerating it nonetheless.  Despite the fact that it doesn't feature the Harris hawk all that much, it's still a really cool video, and will give you a hint for what's in store for later posts!

Make sure you check out the website for the Raptor Education Foundation by clicking HERE, and checking out the Facebook page for the Best Western Denver Southwest by clicking HERE!  

Monday, July 1, 2013

Sea Turtles on Tybee Island and the Tybee Sea Turtle Project by Amy Capello, Guest Blogger

Last summer, my family and I took an ecology tour with Dr. Joe Richardson on Tybee Island off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina.  These tours, called the Tybee Beach Ecology Trips, were a fantastic way to learn more about the local sea life of Tybee.  When we returned home, I became a fan of his tours on Facebook (you can too if you click HERE), where he shares lots of cool photos from the days catch.  Since then, Dr. Joe was generous enough to do a guest post here on the blog, which you can read by clicking HERE.  Over the last year, he has also shared numerous photos from another Facebook page for the Tybee Sea Turtle Project (which you can visit by clicking HERE).  I decided to contact the folks at the Tybee Sea Turtle Project as well to ask if they would be interested in doing a guest post, and I got back some fantastic material from Amy Capello, a volunteer involved in the Sea Turtle Project!  So without further ado, I'm going to let Ms. Capello tell you all about the project, and how to help out the sea turtles!  
Loggerhead sea turtles, Caretta caretta, are a common species of sea turtle found on Tybee Island and all along the Georgia coast. There are several species of sea turtle found throughout the world, all of which are threatened or endangered. Due to their status, there are many efforts being made to protect these amazing creatures. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is responsible for monitoring sea turtle populations throughout the state. This is a large project to undertake and depends on sea turtle volunteers on every island in Georgia. On Tybee Island, the Sea Turtle Project is headed by a wonderful, dedicated local named Tammy Smith. She is responsible for coordinating approximately 80 volunteers. These volunteers are willing to give up large portions of their time to ensure the welfare of sea turtles. Starting in May, volunteers take turns walking the beach at sunrise to look for evidence that a nesting female came out overnight to lay a nest. Usually, the best indication of a female coming out to nest is her tracks. You might think it’s easy to spot the tracks from a 300+lb. female turtle, but that’s not always the case! Sometimes it can be quite difficult to spot her tracks and the volunteers have to make sure they don’t get distracted by Tybee’s beautiful sunrises and instead focus on potential tracks in the sand.
This is a female that was laying a nest on Tybee. It is a rare occurrence that we get to see the nesting females on Tybee. Some tourists spotted her and called it in and the volunteers were able to go out and see her. She had identification tags and we're waiting to see what other nests she may have laid this season.
Once a nest is located, Tammy will come out to the location and determine if the female laid a nest or simply came out of the ocean and decided to return. Sometimes females will emerge from the water and then change their mind about laying a nest. This could be caused due to disturbances from people who get too close or scare her with their white-light flashlights. It could also be caused due to natural reasons, such as no dry sand to lay a nest during a very high tide. If you encounter a sea turtle while you’re out on the beach at night, keep your distance and make sure that your presence doesn’t change the natural behavior of the turtle. Any living sea turtle you may see on the beach is a female; males will never come out of the water, so make sure to give them their space to do what they came to do! Remember, they are endangered and need to lay every nest they can if we are going to see increases in their population.
This is a false crawl. This means that the female came out of the water to lay a nest and decided not to for some reason.
If a nest is found during a dawn patrol walk, Tammy will determine if the nest is in a suitable location. Sometimes females will lay their nests in a place that may get washed over by high tides and cause the hatchlings to drown. If this possibility is anticipated, we will move the nests to a better, safer location.
A bucket of eggs waiting to be moved. Sometimes the nests are relocated if they need to be moved to a safer place for incubation.
All nests, whether or not they are relocated, are marked with posts and monitored by the volunteers every day on their dawn patrol walks. We make sure that there are no disturbances to the nests, by people or natural predators like ghost crabs.
We mark all of the nests on Tybee Island with a special sea turtle caution tape. The nest is federally protected since the turtles are endangered and only trained and permitted volunteers are allowed to interact with the hatchlings if they require assistance.
The nests will incubate for approximately 50 days, give or take, and then the babies will hatch out. Our volunteers work hard to look for field signs that a nest is going to hatch. When the time comes, we try to be on hand to make sure that the hatchlings make their way to the water safely. I often wish that the nests came with little timers so we would know right when they are going to hatch, but unfortunately, they’re like human babies – they come when they’re good and ready!

A traditional hatching is often referred to as a “boil.” This is because all of the babies hatch out at the same time, appearing to boil out of the sand. It’s a unique experience to get to witness, but since it only takes minutes for the babies to come out, it’s often missed – even by our volunteers! Once the babies come out, they orient themselves with the brightest point on the horizon. A lot of people think they only hatch during a full moon, and this is completely false. However, any light reflecting off the water is going to be brighter than light reflecting off the sand, so the light leads the babies in the right direction. But think about developed islands, like Tybee. There is so much light pollution from inside and outside condos, restaurants, hotels, residences, etc. that often times our babies will head towards those lights, since they are much brighter than the light reflecting off the water. Unfortunately, this means they head in the exact opposite direction of where they are supposed to go. This is why it’s so critical for people to be aware of how much light pollution is out on our beaches. If you are on any island during sea turtle nesting season (May – October), it’s extremely important to turn OFF your lights!! The only “sea turtle friendly” lights are ones that are red-filtered. Even the red-filtered lights, if they are too bright, can disorient a sea turtle, but they are less distracting than a bright white light. If you want to walk the beach at night, consider going without a flashlight or light from your cell phone and your eyes will adjust to the dark. But, if you must have a light, you can purchase red-filtered flashlights in lots of stores like Wal-Mart and Bass Pro Shop. I can’t stress enough how important this is for our babies!
Hatchlings making their way to the sea. These turtles came out earlier in the daytime, allowing for a photo opportunity! All of the babies made it safely to the sea.
Once the little hatchlings hit the water, they are faced with a 24 hour long journey out into the Sargasso Sea where they will spend the first 10-15 years of their lives. They don’t start reproducing until they are about 35 years old. Considering that only 1 in 4,000 survive to adulthood, if we lose any sea turtles before that age, they haven’t even had a chance to replace themselves in the population! In the ocean, they face threats of boats (whose propellers hit them, often fatally), fishing line, and plastic. Plastic in particular looks very similar to one of their favorite foods – jellyfish! Sea turtles have never been to the store and don’t know how to tell the difference between a floating plastic bag and a floating jellyfish.

We love our sea turtles so much and we’ll do anything we can to protect them. We’re so happy that our efforts and the efforts of the public are starting to make a difference! Last year, we broke the record for the number of sea turtle nests on Tybee and overall in the state of Georgia. It was a big year for all of us! We hope to see an increase every year until their populations have fully recovered.

What are some ways you can help sea turtles? Here are some great starting points:

1.  Turn off all lights at night during nesting season (May – October) – this includes buildings, flashlights, and cell phones
2.  Use red-filtered lights if you must use a light
3.  Pick up trash on the beach, especially plastic of all kinds
4.  Do not disturb sea turtles you encounter on the beach
5.  Fill in any holes you dig on the beach and knock down sand castles – these are major obstacles, even to a large turtle
6.  If you are on a boat, keep an eye out for sea turtles and make sure you don’t hit them
7.  Educate others and spread the word! Often times people are willing to do the right thing, they just haven’t been told what the right thing is yet

This was fantastic: thank you very much Ms. Capello, as well as the Tybee Sea Turtle Project, for taking the time out of your busy schedules to teach us about these sea turtles, and what we can do to help!  To support the cause, make sure you check out the project's Facebook page by clicking HERE!  You can also check out the website for the Tybee Island Marine Science Center HERE!  Thanks again, and hope to hear from you guys again in the future!  - Zack Neher

Photo Credit for all of the pictures in the post goes to the Tybee Sea Turtle Project.  
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