Student talks turtle tracks
IN the early hours of the morning, Megan Berry sacrifices sleep and heads to the beach armed with pen and paper to record the tracks the previous night’s hatchlings made in the sand.
Ms Berry, an honours student from the University of Queensland, has been at Mon Repos Conservation Park since January 7 tracking the movement of the hatchlings at Mon Repos, Kelly’s and Oaks beaches.
“I’ve been taking compass bearings to get an idea of the hatchlings’ fan so we have an idea of which way they are moving,” Ms Berry said.
Before dawn Ms Berry has been conducting other tests.
“At night time I’ve been doing a stage area event where I’ve been creating an 8m circle, digging a trench and then releasing turtles to see which way they head,” she said.
When she finishes collecting her data at the end of this month, Ms Berry will collate it for her honours project on the effect artificial light has on hatchlings’ progression to the beach.
“Here at Mon Repos it is a naturally dark beach so I’ve been comparing the orientation levels of the turtles with Kelly’s Beach and Oaks Beach,” Ms Berry said.
Ms Berry said it was still early days in her research, but some early conclusions had been made.
“What I’ve found so far is that on the Mon Repos beach, the hatchlings have been orientated, which is what we want as they use up a lot of energy wandering around lost,” she said.
If the young turtles remain on the beach until dawn, it increases their chances of becoming dehydrated, as well as the number of predators that attack them.
Ms Berry said she believed the Cut the Glow campaign had been a success, with hatchling disorientation not as bad as previous years.
“In previous years, what seemed to be the issue was hatchlings were heading down south, which was thought to be because of the big sky glow from Bargara,” she said.
Ms Berry said she had only observed the turtles becoming disorientated by individual lights rather than the collective glow.