By Diamond Bridges and Chereese Cross
A lecture to educate communities on how to protect marine life will be held on Feb. 24 at the Riverhead Free Library by the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation. The lecture will be hosted by Steve Abbondondelo, a long-time volunteer of the organization.
The lecture will include a discussion on sea turtles, whose natural habitats are being disrupted by climate change. Warming sand temperatures create irregular sex ratios in their population which can lead to future reproduction problems.
“If temperatures continue to rise, it is likely that the sex ratio would become highly skewed towards females, which would obviously be problematic for the species in the future,” Jeff Guertin, Biologist from Inwater Research Group, said.
Sea turtle sex isn’t predetermined. The sand temperature determines the sex of the turtle during incubation. Female hatchlings are born in temperatures above 85 degrees, while males are born in temperatures below 85 degrees. The lack of male sea turtles can disrupt their reproductive process, leading to extinction.
Warmer sand temperatures could also fatally overheat an entire nest of unborn hatchlings. If a nest of 100 eggs were to reach 95 degrees Fahrenheit, about five female hatchlings and even fewer males would survive, according to a research journal by the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, published on Feb. 8.
There are no long-term solutions to help steady the sex ratio of sea turtles, Jeanette Wyneken said. “Short-term solutions include shading nests, but this only works when the shade is cool enough to allow males to form,” Jeanette Wyneken, Professor at Florida Atlantic University, said.
Due to rising sea levels, beaches have begun receding which can force sea turtles to travel farther to nest. “With melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels, beaches are starting to disappear,” Lexie Beach, Communications Coordinator for Sea Turtle Conservancy, said.
Riverhead Foundation, a non-profit organization, seeks to preserve the marine environment through education, response, and research efforts. It is the only organization in New York State permitted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to handle marine mammals and sea turtles.
“Our plan of action right now [is] to get the public involved in how they can go out and help monitor the beaches, pick up marine debris, [and] help keep the beaches clean,” Robert A. DiGiovanni, scientist and founder of Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, said. “If we’re able to basically have more people know to look and everyone to know about these animals when they’re on the beach then we’ll have a better chance of knowing what’s going on.”
The lecture by Riverhead Foundation, will also inform the community on ways to prevent sea turtles and other marine mammals from being harmed by debris when they come ashore. “That is something anyone and everyone can help with,” Valentina Sherlock, volunteer coordinator for Riverhead Foundation, said. “Being more responsible as consumers about the waste we are creating and how we dispose of it is a solution to some of the challenges these creatures face.”