Tag Archives: Gulf of Mexico

Sea turtles are Gulf travelers, scientists say

23 Dec
 Loggerhead “exchanges” between study sites. Tracks of satellite-tagged adult female loggerheads (Caretta caretta) 119941 and 119946 during the inter-nesting period in 2012 (A); tracks of satellite-tagged adult female loggerheads 108172 (2011) and 119940 (2012) during the inter-nesting period (B). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066921.g002

Loggerhead “exchanges” between study sites.
Tracks of satellite-tagged adult female loggerheads (Caretta caretta) 119941 and 119946 during the inter-nesting period in 2012 (A); tracks of satellite-tagged adult female loggerheads 108172 (2011) and 119940 (2012) during the inter-nesting period (B).
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066921.g002

Gulf Loggerheads were always thought to be homebodies.

After the females nested, they would make a home at their local beach. They would never travel too far from familiarity.

But, these  threatened female loggerheads are more curious than scientists once thought.

A new study suggests that the turtles nest in different places–laying eggs on the coast of Louisiana one week and traveling hundreds of miles to make another home in Florida weeks later.

The authors of the U.S. Geological Survey study say that the travel routes–which may be littered with leftover oil and increased predators–pose a greater risk to the sea turtle population. The conservation efforts may need to be modified to reflect the findings.

“The satellite data and our observations on the ground tell the same story: loggerheads in this subpopulation nest at multiple beaches, sometimes hundreds of miles apart,” lead author Kristen Hart, a USGS research ecologist, said.

Co-author and USGS biologist Meg Lamont said that simply protecting beaches that are known to be highly populated with sea turtle nests may not be enough.

“These data show it is not sufficient to just protect habitat around high density nesting beaches – such as the St. Joseph Peninsula – because many turtles that nest on the Peninsula use the entire region from the eastern Florida Panhandle to Louisiana,” said Lamont.

Hart said she and her team are continuing to map out the travel routes by tagging the turtles.

“We are working towards defining areas where sea turtles concentrate their activities at sea, effectively building a map of in-water turtle hotspots,” Hart said. “The more we know about their habitat use, the more questions are raised about their behavior and ability to adapt. We hope to build a better understanding of how frequently turtles return to these same locations, and whether or not they move to new habitats when those locations are impacted. This type of information would be extremely valuable for developing management strategies to help in population recovery.”

The study, “Movements and Habitat-Use of Loggerhead Sea Turtles in the Northern Gulf of Mexico during the Reproductive Period,” was published July 3 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Sea turtles are Gulf travelers, scientists say

16 Jul
 Loggerhead “exchanges” between study sites. Tracks of satellite-tagged adult female loggerheads (Caretta caretta) 119941 and 119946 during the inter-nesting period in 2012 (A); tracks of satellite-tagged adult female loggerheads 108172 (2011) and 119940 (2012) during the inter-nesting period (B). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066921.g002

Loggerhead “exchanges” between study sites.
Tracks of satellite-tagged adult female loggerheads (Caretta caretta) 119941 and 119946 during the inter-nesting period in 2012 (A); tracks of satellite-tagged adult female loggerheads 108172 (2011) and 119940 (2012) during the inter-nesting period (B).
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066921.g002

Gulf Loggerheads were always thought to be homebodies.

After the females nested, they would make a home at their local beach. They would never travel too far from familiarity.

But, these  threatened female loggerheads are more curious than scientists once thought.

A new study suggests that the turtles nest in different places–laying eggs on the coast of Louisiana one week and traveling hundreds of miles to make another home in Florida weeks later.

The authors of the U.S. Geological Survey study say that the travel routes–which may be littered with leftover oil and increased predators–pose a greater risk to the sea turtle population. The conservation efforts may need to be modified to reflect the findings.

“The satellite data and our observations on the ground tell the same story: loggerheads in this subpopulation nest at multiple beaches, sometimes hundreds of miles apart,” lead author Kristen Hart, a USGS research ecologist, said.

Co-author and USGS biologist Meg Lamont said that simply protecting beaches that are known to be highly populated with sea turtle nests may not be enough.

“These data show it is not sufficient to just protect habitat around high density nesting beaches – such as the St. Joseph Peninsula – because many turtles that nest on the Peninsula use the entire region from the eastern Florida Panhandle to Louisiana,” said Lamont.

Hart said she and her team are continuing to map out the travel routes by tagging the turtles.

“We are working towards defining areas where sea turtles concentrate their activities at sea, effectively building a map of in-water turtle hotspots,” Hart said. “The more we know about their habitat use, the more questions are raised about their behavior and ability to adapt. We hope to build a better understanding of how frequently turtles return to these same locations, and whether or not they move to new habitats when those locations are impacted. This type of information would be extremely valuable for developing management strategies to help in population recovery.”

The study, “Movements and Habitat-Use of Loggerhead Sea Turtles in the Northern Gulf of Mexico during the Reproductive Period,” was published July 3 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Tiny bacteria helped clean up the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, study shows

9 Apr

574629_4486054703511_86236871_nBeing a Pensacola native and growing up swimming and surfing in the Gulf of Mexico,  any time I read the words “oil spill,” “deepwater horizon,” or “BP,” I cringe and think of the day when I found a tar ball on my surfboard. And, until I got a new car about a week ago I proudly sported a bumper sticker reading, “BP lies, the Gulf dies.”

At the same time, the constant media reports about the poor health of the water and beaches seriously hurt the tourism economy that these communities thrive on. Even though the locals still went swimming after the event, the tourists that normally lined the beaches were scarce. I saw the effects first hand when my older brother, who works at a seafood restaurant — that relies on shrimp and oysters from the gulf–had his hours cut in half.

So what happened to all of the oil? There were cleanup efforts. There was speculation that most of the oil sank to the bottom, which is often connected to the reports of dolphins and other various marine life washing ashore dead.

But, a new study found that the Gulf of Mexico was actually more resilient to the oil spill than previously thought, thanks to microscopic bacteria that feed on crude oil.

Terry C. Hazen, Ph.D., and an expert bioremediation at the University of Tennessee presented his findings at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

“The Deepwater Horizon oil provided a new source of nutrients in the deepest waters,” Hazen said. “With more food present in the water, there was a population explosion among those bacteria already adapted to using oil as a food source. It was surprising how fast they consumed the oil. In some locations, it took only one day for them to reduce a gallon of oil to a half gallon. In others, the half-life for a given quantity of spilled oil was 6 days. This data suggests that a great potential for intrinsic bioremediation of oil plumes exists in the deep sea and other environs in the Gulf of Mexico.”

In order to identify these bacteria, Hazen and his team used a new approach called “ecogenomics.” This approach uses genetic,  DNA and protein analysis to get a more precise picture of the characteristics of the organisms. In the past, scientists would simply grow the bacteria in petri dishes and examine them with a microscope.

Hazen said that these kinds of oil-eating bacteria are common in the Gulf due to the abundance of food. According to a report by the National Research Council, the Gulf is littered with more than 600 areas–similar to underwater springs–that ooze out oil beneath rocks, accounting for the release of about 560,000-1.4 million barrels of oil annually.

“The bottom line from this research may be that the Gulf of Mexico is more resilient and better able to recover from oil spills than anyone thought,” Hazen said. “It shows that we may not need the kinds of heroic measures proposed after the Deepwater Horizon spill, like adding nutrients to speed up the growth of bacteria that breakdown oil, or using genetically engineered bacteria. The Gulf has a broad base of natural bacteria, and they respond to the presence of oil by multiplying quite rapidly.”