By McKinzie Wilgus
On our third night out on Matura Beach patrolling, my crew spotted our first sea turtle to experiment on. I’ve never seen something so exhilarating! Many Marine Biologists have never even seen a Leatherback sea turtle, and I had the opportunity of doing so. About 10 turtles to be exact!
My team’s experiment involved testing the thermo-regulation of the female during her nesting process. Leatherbacks swim in deeper, colder waters, compared to the other six genera of sea turtles, which prefer warm coastal waters. Then, they come onto a hot sandy beach. So how do they prevent from overheating?
I was charged with testing the internal temperature by putting a thermometer probe 25 cm up her cloaca (where the eggs come from). I also tested the internal temperature by putting the thermometer inside a yolkless egg (which has no embryo).The external temperature was tested using a infrared thermometer and putting it up to her neck.
As we begin to look at our data and draw conclusions, we will be looking for a correlation between the internal and external temperatures and at what rate they change. From this, we can determine how she prevents from overheating with such a severe temperature change in her environment.
I’ve wanted to work with sea turtles all of my life, and I have finally had the opportunity to work with my second species of sea turtles, the Leatherback. After long walks on the beach and waiting and waiting to see a leatherback emerge from the water, I can finally say that this has been the best thing that has ever happened to me.