On Tuesday, May 16, we woke up early to do our first morning patrol by ourselves. We piled into the truck and started our drive up the beach heading west towards Bear Inlet.
About halfway to Bear Inlet we were completely surprised to see turtle tracks in the sand! We got out and realized our mama turtle had crawled all the way up to the dune and had definitely laid eggs. Since we hadn’t been trained yet, we called Rangers Brian and Brian to assist in this nest excavation. We needed to find the exact position of the nest so we could cage the right area and collect one egg for DNA analysis.
We put a cage over the nest to protect it from predators like coyotes. We collect one egg from each nest; DNA analysis of the eggshell can tell us if the female turtles are returning to the same beaches to nest year after year.
When we collect an egg, we break it and only keep the shell, which contains the mother’s DNA instead of the embryo’s. We then place the shell in a vial of ethanol and store it for a North Carolina sea turtle biologist.
Since this nest was laid so early, we will get a chance to see the hatchlings. We are excitedly awaiting July 5th, which will be day 50, the earliest possible hatch date!