JUNO BEACH, Fla. -
Coming back from the brink of extinction, the number of local sea turtle nests hit record numbers during the past couple of years.
Friday morning, biologist Kelly Martin is examining the aftereffects of Hurricane Irene on the turtle nesting season along Florida's Atlantic coast.
"We've had a pretty big impact from the storm, the waves are obviously a lot higher than normal, and our erosion rates a bit higher, so we are losing some of our nests," said Martin.
The morning after the storm sees Martin searching for survivors among the wreckage of countless nests.
"We keep a record of how many nests we've lost due to erosion. There's not a whole lot we can do for the eggs. There's a very minimal window after a nest is laid in which you can move it out of harms way. These nests have been on the beach for 1-2 months now, so there's nothing we can do to move them and prevent a problem," said Martin.
Every nest on the beach has been GPS tagged and recorded, making it easier to get an accurate assessment of the loss of life.
"We've got about 2,200 active nests left on the beach, that's both marked and non-marked," said Martin.
For Martin, it's a classic case of nature versus nurture.
"Turtles have nested during hurricane season for as long as we have records. It's something they've adapted to, and it's something we've come to accept as normal," said Martin.
However, accepting fact doesn't make the loss any easier to deal with.
"You've got hundreds of eggs on the beach, and you've got hatchlings that are fighting waves, it's not easy to watch. You just have to remind yourself it's part of nature," said Martin.
The staff at the marine life center will continue to patrol the beach looking for hatchlings.
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