Summer 2014 on St. Vincent Island

St. Vincent

St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge

Published: Thursday, August 7, 2014 at 10:00 AM.

            Summer is a busy time on the St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge.  The sea turtle patrol is operating full time, the red wolves are being carefully monitored with hopes for a new litter of pups, several research projects are underway, and several summer interns are working on the island.  There are no tours of the island during the summer months because of the heat and bugs, but the refuge will be offering a special week of island tours during National Wildlife Refuge Week in October.

            WILD WEEK, which stands for Wonder - Inspire - Learn - Do, all of which can occur on St. Vincent Island, will take place during National Wildlife Refuge Week.   During the week of Oct. 14 – 18 there will be a themed tour of the entire island each day.  Each tour will have a narrator and a specialist who share their knowledge about the island and the featured theme of that day's tour.  The focus of each of the five tours will be Photography, History of St. Vincent Island, Birds, Native Plants, and a Kids/Family oriented tour.  More specific information about the WILD WEEK tours will be posted on the Events page on the Supporters website –  after Labor Day.  Reservations for the tours will be on a first-come / first-served basis.  Beginning Wednesday, September 3, reservations for WILD WEEK island tours can be made on the Supporters of St. Vincent Island's web page – .

            Sea turtle nesting got off to a slow start this season – perhaps because of the cool spring weather?  It will be interesting to see if the numbers catch up to last year’s record pace as the season progresses.  As of Aug. 1 the turtle patrol volunteers and staff had confirmed 51 sea turtle nesting sites, all of which have been loggerhead sea turtles (the most common sea turtle in this region).  The nests hatch approximately 60 days after the eggs were laid.  Thus far two nests have hatched.  Of those 51 nests, 22 have been adopted through the Supporters' Adopt a Nest program.  There is still plenty of time to adopt a nest.  A $25 “adoption donation” will help pay for the cost of the wire cages, supplies, and fuel for the patrol vehicles.  A donor will receive an “adoption certificate”, a photo of the nest, and a complete activity report at the end of the nesting season. To adopt a nest call 229-6735.

            This summer St. Vincent Island has served as an outdoor laboratory for several interesting research projects.

1.  A doctoral student at Florida State University is studying several venomous reptiles on the island to determine if the snakes' specific dietary limitations (prey) drive an evolutionary response and changes to their venom composition.  By comparing specific island populations to mainland venomous snakes the study will help provide more information about the limits of genetic change given the geographic isolation on an island.  This should help increase the understanding of local adaptation.

2.  A post-doctoral student from the University of Amherst (MA) is conducting a long term study of the Gulf Coast Box Turtle.  This research is to establish a baseline for population numbers as well as to better understand the effects of habitat changes.

3.  Researchers from Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, FL are collecting seeds from the Lupinus Westianus (Gulf Coast Lupine).  They hope to increase knowledge about the species and to secure the species into the National Collection for preservation.

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