Defense Date

4-29-2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Type

Master of Science

Degree Name

Marine Science

First Advisor

Derek Burkholder, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Rosanna Milligan, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Erik Salna, M.S.

Abstract

Due to climate change and warming sea surface temperatures (SST), the intensity and frequency of tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic are continuing to increase. Tropical cyclones have many direct and indirect effects on coastal and marine species, such as sea turtles. Sea turtles are extremely vulnerable to climate change, due to having life history, physiology, and behavioral traits that are heavily influenced by environmental factors (Fuentes and Porter 2013). This study examined whether tropical cyclones serve as a triggering event for environmentally cued hatching (ECH) in loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and green (Chelonia mydas) turtle nests in Broward County, FL, as well as possible impacts on incubation length and hatch frequency from changes in numerous environmental factors associated with these cyclones. Barometric pressure was shown to have a significant effect on both loggerhead and green sea turtle hatch frequencies, with lower barometric pressures, an indicator of approaching tropical cyclones, correlated with an increase in hatch frequency. Barometric pressure also showed a significant effect on incubation length, but only in loggerhead turtles. Decreasing barometric pressure was correlated with a decrease in incubation length. The relationship between incubation length and hatch frequency and several other environmental factors was also evaluated. However, these results were inconclusive due to the large amount of environmental background noise. Models were unable to filter out environmental noise to determine a significant effect, or lack thereof, between other factors and incubation length and hatch frequency. These environmental factors require more in-depth investigation. Further study is needed to continue exploring the relationship between environmental factors associated with tropical cyclones and their effects on sea turtle incubation and hatching as potential cues for ECH.

Comments

FWC Marine Turtle Research Permit #880

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