Research

The UCF Marine Turtle Research Group (MTRG) has conducted research on the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge (ACNWR), adjacent beaches, and in coastal and inland waters for over 30 years. Data collected by this program were instrumental in establishing the ACNWR in 1991. The refuge and nearby coastal habitats support the largest loggerhead sea turtle rookery in the Western Hemisphere and among the most important green turtle and leatherback nesting habitat in North America.

Early morning hatchlings making their way to the ocean on the Archie Carr NWR

Early morning hatchlings making their way to the ocean on the Archie Carr NWR

Our permanent field sites are located on the coast, over 70 miles from the Orlando UCF campus. The MTRG houses one of the longest and largest sea turtle datasets in the world. This dataset is essential to international, federal, and state managers tasked with the protection and recovery of the endangered and threatened sea turtle populations—including populations utilizing central Florida’s terrestrial and marine habitats.

Graduate students working up a juvenile green turtle captured in the Indian River Lagoon

Graduate students working up a juvenile green turtle captured in the Indian River Lagoon

Foggy IRL

Early morning fog on the Indian River Lagoon as the UCF crew sets their nets.

We monitor up to 40 km of coastline along the Central Florida coast from Sebastian Inlet (near Melbourne Beach) to Patrick Air Force Base, including the Archie Carr NWR. We maintain a 30+ year dataset of sea turtle nesting and reproductive assessments (nighttime and daytime research) for this stretch of coastline. For over 25 years, we have also conducted in-water surveys of juvenile sea turtles that are found foraging in the Indian River Lagoon, an important developmental habitat for loggerhead and green turtles.

Oceanic stage loggerhead sea turtles outfitted with small satellite tags

Oceanic stage loggerhead sea turtles outfitted with small satellite tags

We also conduct offshore in-water work in the Northern Gulf of Mexico in order to satellite track very small, oceanic stage sea turtles captured in the region associated with the BP oil spill. This is an on-going project that provides the world’s first in situ data on wild-caught oceanic (“lost years”) juvenile turtles. With Dr. Mansfield’s novel research satellite tracking the sea turtle “lost years” the MTRG is evolving into a center for whole life history sea turtle research—from eggs to adulthood.