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Sea Turtles Up Close

Researchers net valuable information for turtle conservation

A large loggerhead turtle from the Indian River Lagoon is on deck for an exam.

A large loggerhead turtle from the Indian River Lagoon is on deck for an exam.

They spend most of their lives at sea. But there are moments when the lives of sea turtles intersect with the lives of humans on the Treasure Coast. We may watch a sea turtle release or take a guided walk to see them nest. And then there is the scientific work being done with sea turtles in our area, as researchers on boats catch, examine and tag the creatures and then return them to their vast blue home.

On a sunlit day on the Indian River Lagoon, scientists and students from the University of Central Florida’s Marine Turtle Research Group, working along with the Sea Turtle Conservancy, spend some time in field research. For them, the expedition is one day’s work in the midst of ongoing, long-term projects. But it provides a glimpse into the kind of research that is done all the time here, as scientists seek to understand and protect these amazing creatures.

The expedition involves two research boats as well as an observation boat chartered from Captain Hiram’s Resort in Sebastian. On this morning, Capt. Jim Chester and Capt. Scott Smart of Captain Hiram’s seem to be looking forward to the trip at least as much as the scientists are.

“You never know what you’re going to find out there,” says Smart. It’s a line that many a seafarer has probably uttered before the beginning of a voyage — so perhaps it’s appropriate that Smart also maintains a piratical alter ego, happily handing out “business cards” as Capt. Max Silver, descendant of Long John.