Feeding ecology of endangered green sea turtles

Gualala, California
Open Access
Raised of $5,000 Goal
Ended on 4/23/14
Campaign Ended
  • $220
  • 5%
  • Finished
    on 4/23/14

About This Project

I plan to collect samples and analyze a new sea grass to determine if it is nutritionally harmful for sea turtles to consume. A new invasive sea grass has recently established in the bays of the Caribbean. Endangered green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) feed almost exclusively on sea grasses in their adult years. There is no information if this new sea grass will negatively effect the nutrition and health of sea turtles. It may further harm turtles.

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What is the context of this research?

I have a Ph.D. in ecology and work as a wildlife nutritional ecologist. I teach college classes in ecology and feeding ecology and nutrition. Throughout my career, I have worked almost exclusively on endangered species. I have worked in Samoa, Papau New Guinea, Belize, and Vietnam on projects to help understand if animals are meeting their nutritional needs through diet. Nutritional ecology and foraging ecology are critical to understanding food availability, selection, and population ecology for a species. I really want to help sea turtles and fear that this new sea grass may represent a new threat to an already endangered species.

What is the significance of this project?

Turtles feed on sea grass for over 90% of their adult diet, and so it is critical to their survival. This new sea grass was released into the world's oceans with the opening of the Suez Canal, and and is considered one of the world's worst invasives. But nobody has ever nutritionally analyzed this species. I would like to understand if this species will harm the sea turtles if they consume it. If so, managers can remove it before it outcompetes the native sea grasses.

What are the goals of the project?

I am taking a team of four undergraduate students with me so we can accomplish a lot while there.

Goal 1:I plan to survey all of the bays where the invasive sea grass has established, and collect samples of both the native and invasive for nutritional analysis.

Goal 2: I also plan to observe the sea turtles to see how they forage on the invasive sea grass. Do they ignore it, prefer it, or consume it in equal amounts as the native sea grass? This will tell us how they are perceiving it as a food source in their environment.


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I plan to be in the field with my team for one month to collect all the samples.
We will need funds for airfare, housing, sample collection, and sample analysis.
I plan to take a team of 6, four undergraduates, one GIS mapping specialist, and myself to complete the project. Below is a specific breakdown of the budget details. The total budget comes to $9000.

Meet the Team

Suzanne Nelson, Ph.D.
Suzanne Nelson, Ph.D.

Team Bio

I have worked on fruit bats and their nutritional issues in the South Pacific. Fruit bats have a lot of problems with osteoporosis as a flying mammal trying to both lactate and fly, so that was the basis of my M.S. and Ph.D. work.

I have worked on spotted owls, black bears, manatees, and endangered primates in my career. One of the wonderful things about studying the nutritional ecology of animals is that you are able to work with lots of fascinating animals. I want my work to help the animals and provide for their nutritional and foraging needs the best I can.

Lab Notes

Nothing posted yet.

Additional Information

I am extremely interested in this project, and I feel great pressure to get started on this. The invasive sea grass is spreading very quickly and I want to know if it is hurting the turtles to consume. I will work hard to have it removed if it is harming the turtles.

I am also very excited to be taking students with me. I feel it is critical to teach them the field ecology skills on this project so that they can go and be the next generation of ecologists. We need as many people fighting for endangered species as possible. I want to help to train the next generation of scientists to do just that.

Thank you for your time in reading this.

Project Backers

  • 4Backers
  • 5%Funded
  • $220Total Donations
  • $55.00Average Donation
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