4. Night patrol bag

Have you ever wondered what conservationists have to take with them on their night patrol? What sort of equipment is needed in order to perform a scientific based research of the sea turtle in the field?

First, it is necessary to check if everything is in the bag and in proper working order before the night patrol begins. There are few smaller bags within a rucksack to make it easier for a leader to select the right material. One of the most important things is to document everything you do with a turtle or when you encounter a turtle. There are two notebooks for it. One is to write a general information (like a time of encounter, GPS coordinates, high or low tide, if it was a false crawl  or a nest). The other notebook goes more into a detail about nesting (phases of nesting, time, location of a nest, number of metal tags and a PIT tag, measurements).

Image: http://www.houstonzoo.org/
Image: http://www.houstonzoo.org/

Then, there are paired metal tags and pliers in a bag. Metal tags are put on a second (biggest) scale on a front flipper (they have letters and numbers on them). The area has to be cleaned with alcohol first. PIT tag is a microchip in a top of a needle which is applied with a syringe under the second scale of a right flipper. It has its unique number. It has to be scanned first to make sure it's working. It is against a good practice to start  putting tags on a turtle before she is covering. Only when she has finished laying the eggs and started covering then it is time to start with measurements and other tasks.

Image: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/

Conservationists have to also measure the length and width of a turtle with a tape (3 times). In some cases, DNA sample might be needed and from the base of a scale of a front flipper a tiny sample is taken with a scalpel. Parasite sample is obtained from a cloaca if some worms are present and they are taken with tweezers into a tube. All this has to be properly documented. Turtle has to be also checked for barnacles and general health (if some part is missing it has to be documented). Indeed, a lot has to be done in a short span of time (ideally when she is still covering) but the wellbeing of a turtle comes first !