Saturday, March 15, 2008

Elusive Leatherbacks - Week 1

Week 1 Crew (L-R): Brian Sharp, James Casey, Kara Dodge,
Andy Myers and Connie Merigo

We've now been in Georgia for almost two weeks, with little to report until recently (hence, the lack of postings!). High winds and seas prevented us from getting out on the water for almost a week. We finally made it out on March 6 but a rougher-than-expected sea state made searching for leatherbacks difficult. Our scientific crew that day included myself, Andy Myers (Large Pelagics Lab), Connie Merigo (New England Aquarium), Brian Sharp (Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies), James Casey (UNC Wilmington) and Mark Dodd (Georgia DNR). Despite marginal sighting conditions, we saw several giant ocean sunfish (mola mola), loggerhead turtles, spotted dolphins and a large shark just under the surface.
Testing out the new turtle ramp on the R/V Marguerite

One noticeable difference from last year is the lack of large jellyfish. We saw small jellies on our first trip out (moon jellies, ctenophores, salps) but we are not seeing the abundance of cannonball jellies and sea nettles that we found in our 2007 leatherback turtle hot spots. Our colleagues who fly these same waters looking for right whales confirm a dearth leatherbacks in the area and our team decided to stand down until leatherback sightings picked up and weather improved. Stay tuned for our Week 2 report!
Brian Sharp, Andy Myers, Mark Dodd and James Casey working on turtle capture net
- Kara Dodge, PhD student, Large Pelagics Research Lab
- Photo credits: Andy Myers and Connie Merigo

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