HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Environmental Sciences

Second Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

Kristen. M Hart

Second Advisor

Derek A. Burkholder

Third Advisor

James W. Forqurean


Located 100 km west of Key West, Florida, Dry Tortugas National Park (DRTO) is a largely untouched subtropical marine ecosystem that serves as an important developmental habitat, nesting ground, and foraging area for several species of sea turtles, including green turtles. The Park supports a recovering population of green turtles comprised of resident juveniles, subadults, and adults of both sexes; nesting females include residents and migrating females that only return to nest. Stable isotope analysis has been applied widely to describe the trophic ecology of green turtles, from urbanized bays with significant anthropogenic input, to relatively pristine ecosystems with healthy populations at carrying capacity. However, there is a paucity of published literature about the trophic ecology of green turtles in DRTO. This study describes the trophic ecology occupied by two distinct size groups (61 green turtles < 60 cm (SCL) and 98 green turtles > 60 cm (SCL)). Flipper tissue and plasma were analyzed for stable isotopic composition of C and N. Flipper tissue values for δ15N (3.41‰ to 9.69‰) and δ13C (-22.43‰ to -5.38‰) fall within literature values for green turtles, and the wide range of values indicated they could potentially feed at multiple trophic levels. Understanding the trophic ecology of this population of green sea turtles is instrumental to effective management and habitat preservation strategies in DRTO.


All work was permitted under NMFS Scientific Research Permits 1541, 13307, 17381, 16146, Florida Marine Turtle Permit 176 and Dry Tortugas Scientific Research Permits DRTO-2008 -SCI-0008, DRTO-2010 -SCI-0009, DRTO-2012-SCI-0008, DRTO-2014-SCI-0004, and DRTO-2016-SCI-0008.



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