Unearthing Loggerhead Nesting Mysteries – Jekyll Island Foundation

Unearthing Loggerhead Nesting Mysteries

A loggerhead sea turtle, Rogue, being measured prior to collection of skin biopsy and an egg from her egg chamber.

A map showing a subset of Rogue’s activities (nests and false crawls) as determined by night patrols and eggs collected during dawn patrols.

By Davide Zailo, GSTC Research Program Manager

Studying the management and conservation needs of loggerhead sea turtles on Jekyll Island is the responsibility of the research department of the Jekyll Island Authority’s Georgia Sea Turtle Center (GSTC). Each spring the GSTC is proud to continue their work with these iconic species and continue one of the oldest loggerhead nesting beach projects in the world.

Thanks to generous support from Jekyll Island Foundation donors, utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) allow researchers on nighttime beach patrol to cover a large expanse of beach in order to maximize the chances of encountering as many adult, reproductive, loggerhead turtles on Jekyll.

Recently, the Foundation provided monetary support to assist with the University of Georgia’s (UGA) Loggerhead Genetics Project. This funding will enable researchers to continue collecting skin biopsies and one single egg from loggerheads nesting on Jekyll. The DNA contained in the skin biopsies and eggs provides crucial information that collaborators at UGA will use to identify these animals. In the case of the egg, researchers removing  one egg from each nest will help identify the animal even if it is not directly encountered. The skin biopsy allows GSTC research collaborators to test methods by double-checking that genetic material from a skin biopsy matches that of an egg from the same parent.

This multi-state genetics project led by UGA helps answer critical questions such as: how many nests these animals lay each year and where and how frequently they nest. Currently, the actual number of loggerhead sea turtles that nest along the Atlantic seaboard from Virginia to northern Florida (an area known as the Northern Recovery Unit for loggerhead turtles) is not known. By continuing this work, the GSTC research team are contributing to one of the most robust nesting loggerhead sea turtle datasets worldwide.

These efforts are made possible through funding received from the Jekyll Island Foundation. For more than 14 years, the Foundation has supported GSTC Research efforts through funding equipment and tools necessary to do their job.

Please join us in kicking off the start of Sea Turtle Season by taking part in the annual Turtle Crawl event on April 27,  2024, at the Jekyll Island Beach Village. Participants may choose between a 10K, 5K, 1K Fun Run or even a ‘Virtual” Ghost Crawler. This fundraiser serves as a way for dedicated patrons to support the Center and has raised over $163,000 since its inception.

Can’t come to the event but still wish to support sea turtles? Follow THIS LINK to give directly to the Center.

Thank you again for your continued support.

Contact Us

Jekyll Island Foundation

P.O. Box 13002, Jekyll Island, GA 31527
Phone: (912) 635-4100


Looking to contact the Jekyll Island Authority? Please click here.