By Nicole Thomas,
GSTC Education Program Manager
As we settle into winter, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center (GSTC) Education team is looking forward to summer Wildlife and Ecology tours. Our favorites: Evening Turtle Walks and Sunrise Walks. From June to July, there is nothing more exciting than the chance to take our patrons out on the beach, tingling with anticipation, to possibly see a nesting Loggerhead sea turtle. Thanks to the vast number of video-streaming services, learning about sea turtle lifecycles and conservation is readily accessible from the comfort of your home. But there is no replacement for seeing the nesting process in person. It is impossible to fully appreciate the size of these mamas or the magnitude each nest holds for the species’ survival and recovery. While it is never a guarantee to witness such a magical event, Evening Turtle Walks are always a memorable experience.
In August, Sunrise Walks replace evening tours as nighttime activity winds down. Jekyll Island’s loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings, the size of your palm, make their way from sand to sea. Sunrise Walk guests often have the opportunity to watch a nest inventory. As nests are emptied of their turtle treasures, nest inventories are performed to collect vital information used to track our progress towards state and federal recovery goals. What might have been hours of labor by a female sea turtle, is dug from the sand within a matter of minutes by a permitted sea turtle researcher. The contents of the nest are documented with care and usually consists of empty shells and/or unhatched eggs. Every so often a straggler hatchling is pulled up among the debris. Guests and GSTC Staff alike are captivated watching a hatchling’s second chance to scuttle down the sand and through the breaking waves. It is a moment like no other as we stand side-by-side, softly offering words of encouragement and waving goodbye as a young turtle slips from our view headed for the horizon.
Living in the moment and experiencing conservation first-hand is an unforgettable experience. The GSTC Education team eagerly looks forward to sharing their time and passion with all our visitors, but we especially love those special summer nights and mornings.
Check the GSTC Website for current and future Wildlife and Ecology Tours.
To support the ongoing work of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, visit jekyllislandfoundation.org/donate and add “GSTC” into the comments.