Each year since the 2011 sea turtle nesting season, up to 15 female sea turtles that have nested in Alabama have been fitted with satellite tracking devices. These devices report the movement of the turtle for the next 18 to 24 months, depending on battery life.
Under a permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a special team lead by Kristen Hart, U.S.G.S., patrols Alabama beaches at night looking for the nesting sea turtles. When the team finds one nesting, they remain quiet until she has completed the nest and is on her way back to the water. As the turtle nears the water’s edge, Kristen’s team quickly corrals the turtle with a portable enclosure. Working with speed that comes from experience, the team takes measurements and tissue samples, then cleans a spot on the carapace, the top shell of the turtle, to place the tracking device. When the site is ready, the satellite tag is attached with high-strength epoxy. They can see from the small LED light flashing inside the translucent housing of the tag that it is transmitting properly. When the epoxy has hardened, the enclosure is opened and the turtle makes its way to the water.