UCF researchers launch new sea turtle genetics project

Think 23andMe but for sea turtles

By Gaby Nunez - Producer
UCF Marine Turtle Research Group

University of Florida research group launches sea turtle genetics project. (UCF Marine Turtle Research Group.)

ORLANDO, Fla. - Researchers with the University of Central Florida are using DNA to figure out how diverse the gene pool is among Central Florida’s green sea turtle population.

UCF’s Marine Turtle Research Group is working to understand the differences in genetics, as sea turtles across the state have been facing disease and algae blooms. The sea turtles are also experiencing changes in their habitats from erosion on Florida’s coastline and more plastic in the ocean. These factors threaten their health.

The group is diving into this new genetics project to better understand conservation biology, and to bridge a gap in the knowledge of sea turtles. Sea turtles are under-studied, and scientists are working to determine best conservation practices for their long-term survival, according to UCF researchers.

The group has been monitoring sea turtles’ nesting grounds and coastal in-water habitats.
UCF’s annual night time sea turtle surveys started Monday. These routine checks will now be accompanied with their new genetics project.

UCF Marine Turtle Research Group

University of Florida research group launches sea turtle genetics project. (UCF Marine Turtle Research Group.)

UCF Marine Turtles Research group specifically monitors green sea turtles foraging in the Indian River Lagoon, Trident Submarine Basin in the Port Canaveral area and along the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. Scientists calling this area the perfect place to check their genetic gene pool for change, as the environment is ideal for turtles hatching from eggs and growing into adults. This study will hopefully serve as a baseline for future genetic assessments.

“We hope that a finer-scale understanding of the genetic structure of green turtles will provide greater insight to connectivity between nesting populations in the North Atlantic and help managers design more effective conservation plans” says Gustavo Stahelin, a doctoral scholar in the Department of Biology working on the project. 

UCF Marine Turtle Research Group

University of Florida research group launches sea turtle genetics project. (UCF Marine Turtle Research Group.)

This project was funded by a grant awarded from the Sea Turtle Grants Program.

The Sea Turtle Grants Program is funded from proceeds from the sale of the Florida Sea Turtle License Plate. Learn more at www.helpingseaturtles.org.

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