Lohmann Lab at UNC Chapel Hill Partnership

Sea turtles reside in ocean waters around the world. Usually only spending time on land to nest and lay eggs. However there is a population of sea turtles in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. For the last six years the Bald Head Island Conservancy and the Lohmann Lab at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill have partnered together to facilitate research on sea turtles. At the end of the summer sixteen sea turtles are transported from Bald Head to Chapel HIll. The turtles will remain there for 8-10 months before being released directly into the gulf stream. They begin their journey in Chapel Hill only a couple inches long, but during this time period they grow tremendously ending at almost the length of a dinner plate. Growing to a larger size in captivity before being released into the wild gives them an increased chance for survival in the ocean. Each year the 16 sea turtles have named based on a common theme. This year the theme is pasta, featuring turtles named penne, spaghetti and lasagna.

Sea turtles make some of the most impressive migrations of any animals on earth. Particularly the turtles on Bald Head, young loggerhead turtles. Emerging from under the sand to enter the sea and gulf stream. They will travel 9,000 miles around the world’s oceans before making a return back to the North American Coast. To answer questions such as how loggerhead turtles can navigate Earth’s waters at such a young age, the team at the Lohmann Lab hope to research the sea turtles to better understand how animals use Earth’s magnetic field to navigate long-distance migrations. They know that older loggerhead sea turtles can “pinpoint” locations in their internal magnetic field to return to the same areas to feed and nest each year. The next steps are increasing our understanding of this impressive phenomenon.

The research being completed by the Lohmann Lab is critical to our understanding of the creatures we all care about! The better we understand their instincts and abilities the better we will be able to help them in the short and long run. In just a few years the Lohmann lab has made tremendous strides we are thrilled with what we have already learned and even more excited for what is to come. The Conservancy is very excited for the future of our partnership with the Lohmann lab.
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