After spending a couple of days settling in and enjoying the gorgeous Indian Ocean view, we were excited to finally meet our trainers Careena and Andrew, and learn the ins and outs of the turtle nesting season at Gnaraloo. As old turtles and certified Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program (GTCP) trainers, Careena and Andrew shared their field expertise with us about sea turtle species identification and nesting activity determination.
Training comprised a presentation introducing us to the three species that nest here in Gnaraloo (loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles (Caretta caretta, Chelonia mydas, and Eretmochelys imbricata)) and how to identify the different types of tracks left on the beach, followed by the most exciting part of training: quizzes! Thanks to Andrew, we will never forget how to spell the scientific names Caretta caretta, Chelonia mydas, and Eretmochelys imbricata!
Our first two days in the field were practice surveys in the Gnaraloo Bay Rookery (GBR). Because the nesting season hasn’t kicked off yet and there were no real tracks to see, Careena and Andrew improvised during our training and we became turtles ourselves. We used field guides to help reproduce different types of tracks in the sand and discuss the cues that can be used to determine the type of activity (a successful nest versus an unsuccessful nesting attempt, for example).
On the final day of training, we visited the Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Rookery (GCFR) and completed our “Train the Trainer” assessment after learning how to guide others in track interpretation. Each of us led a short survey on the beach explaining the purpose of the GTCP, safety procedures during beach surveys, how to identify sea turtle species and nesting activities, and how to identify feral animals (e.g. foxes, wild dogs and feral cats) based on tracks. To complete the training, we had to bring Careena and Andrew’s less experienced alter egos, “Randy Magnum” and “Corona Valentine”, up to speed on these and other aspects of GTCP field surveys.
Even though track training was only a few action-packed days, we were all sad to see Andrew and Careena leave for Perth. We learned so much from their experience and we are thankful for all of their advice as we prepare for the upcoming season. Bring on the sea turtles!
Kimberley Nielsen (QA/QC Data Intern)