By Dr. Tom Radzio, Research Ecologist
If you happen to visit Jekyll Island during summer, you will likely see the JIA Georgia Sea Turtle Center Research Team patrolling our 8 miles of beautiful beaches for nesting sea turtles. Off they go, day and night, looking to carefully locate all sea turtle nests on the island as part of long-term work to understand the status of our loggerhead sea turtle population. The vehicles on which they ride, two beach-hardened UTVs, are important tools to conduct this conservation work, enabling the team to patrol large spans of beach quickly and thoroughly. The UTVs also help provide guests memorable, close-up wildlife experiences in our Ride with Night and Ride with Dawn Patrol public programs.
Although the team takes special care of these important vehicles, the salt and sand cannot be avoided and one of the GTSC research UTVs is showing signs of wear. Recently, the Jekyll Island Foundation generously provided the team with a brand new UTV and, until the old one is retired, the research team is using the new vehicle for off-beach turtle research. The crew also conducts research on box turtles, using miniature radios for tracking in order to understand how these species navigate and use semi-developed golf course and residential environments. Additionally, in an expanded initiative this year, UTVs were put to good use for a freshwater turtle population study.
If you see one of our UTVs driving by, rest assured that the GSTC are grateful to have these vital research vehicles because of your generous support. We thank you and hope you may join us on one of our Ride with Patrol or other fun excursions to see the animals that we all work together to protect!