Hawai’i Hawksbill Sea Turtle Report




Prepared by Will Seitz, Lauren Kurpita, and Liz Ransom February 2011

Aloha Honu‘ea Ohana! The 2010 hawksbill turtle nesting season is pau! For the last nine months, over 40 diehard turtle volunteers and interns tirelessly monitored and managed Hawai‘i Island’s southern coastline for hawksbill nesting activity and protected endangered turtle nests. This season was highly successful with 39 nests found and protected at six beaches: ‘Āpua Point and Halapē (in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park), and Kamehame, Koloa-Nīnole, Pōhue Bay, and ‘Āwili Point outside the park. Additionally, an olive ridley nest was saved from the surf and protected at ‘Āwili Point (pictured here).
Similarly to the 2009 season, the 2010 season was one of the longest on record. Honu‘ea field season is almost year round now, with this last season extending from April 2010 to mid-January 2011. We identified 12 individual nesting hawksbills and one olive ridley. There were likely more unidentified elusive nesters and nests. Of the 12 hawksbills, seven were returnees from previous seasons, while the other five were newly tagged. These five new recruits now bring the total number of tagged adult female hawksbills on Hawai‘i Island to 105. The olive ridley was only the fourth documented olive ridley nest in Hawai‘i state history. About 4,000 hatchlings safely reached the ocean from the 40 total nests including the olive ridley. Over 80,000 hatchlings have reached the ocean since the project began in 1989. There is hope for the honu‘ea! The following are site summaries:
Āpua Point: One newly tagged turtle laid four nests at this oasis. Families from Kalapana who were camping at the beach were able to observe this nesting turtle. As usual, these hatchlings here were helped across the cobblestones to the ocean. We estimate that over 200 hatchlings reached the water here thanks to volunteer assistance.
Halapē: The most popular backcountry campground in HAVO had two returning nesters that laid ten nests. One of the nesters, Barnacle Betty, was a returnee from 2004. The other turtle was tagged in 2007. Volunteers informed campers who were able to witness nesting turtles and hatchlings. This was especially needed since the nests were located in front of the campsites. Turtle personnel helped put out a wildfire that was accidentally started by campers. Personnel also worked with the Park Maintenance and Vegetation crew and the Wilderness Volunteers to control invasive koa haole that was encroaching on the nesting habitat. An estimated 547 hatchlings reached the ocean from this beach.
Kamehame: Four turtles and 10 nests were documented at this hawksbill nesting mecca. We suspect there were several additional nests as well. Kamehame had the most nesters and nests in the State. Two of the turtles were newly tagged and the other two were returnees. One of them was tagged way back in 1996 and had not been seen for 10 years. The other was seen two years ago, and during the interval was satellite tracked by NOAA residing off leeward Maui. From the 10 nests, we estimate that over 1,345 hatchlings reached the sea. Volunteers also assisted with habitat restoration by removing non-native plants.
Punalu‘u: Some community members reported seeing hatchlings near the pavilion at a small pocket beach. However, we were unable to locate a nest here.

Kōloa-Nīnole: One newly identified nesting turtle laid three nests at this site near Punalu‘u. Sadly, all three nests were unsuccessful due to exposure to high tides. In addition, another returning nester was seen here. We suspect that she nested undetected at another nearby beach, Kāwā.
Pōhue Bay: Nine nests from two returning hawksbills were protected and over 1,300 hatchlings reached the ocean at this important nesting site. One of the turtles was a returnee from 2005 and the other from 2007. Interestingly, both of these nesters were sighted by divers off of Maui in the years between nesting seasons. Including the turtle from Kamehame, there were at least three nesters this year that travelled from Maui to nest in Ka‘ū.
Āwili Point (Road to the Sea): One newly tagged hawksbill laid three confirmed nests and possibly two more. At least 248 hawksbill hatchlings reached the sea here from two highly successful nests. A third nest was unsuccessful due to heavy rains in the fall. The biggest surprise of the 2010 season was when an olive ridley turtle laid 88 eggs in the tidal inundation zone of the beach (pictured here) and were rescued by volunteers and translocated to higher ground. She was newly tagged. The nest was a huge success with 80 hatchlings safely reaching the ocean thanks to the efforts of the volunteers.
Keauhou, Punalu‘u, Horseshoe, Kahakahakea, Hāli‘ipalala, Humuhumu Point: No nesting was observed at these beaches. Beach checks were limited to daylight hours, so we could have missed signs of nesting activity since wind and tides may erase tracks made during the night.

SPECIAL MAHALO to Minky Markiewicz the last two decades of volunteering for Resources Management Division! THANK YOU! We wish you the best on your new journey. We will miss you!
Mahalo for your support! We want to acknowledge our supporters and partners: Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hawai‘i Natural History Association, National Marine Fisheries Service, World Turtle Trust, UH-Mānoa Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, Three Mountain Alliance, ‘Imi Pono No Ka ‘Aina, Ka‘ū High School, Hawai‘i County, Trust for Public Land, Yamanaka Enterprises, Nani Kahuku ‘Aina, Americorps and Kupu, Hawai‘i State Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, UH-Hilo, and the Big Island ‘ohana!!!

HUGE MAHALO to all the 2010 season interns and volunteers:

Randy Bacon
Ryan Belcher
Dave Bouck
Carrie Boyle
Wes Briones
Cole Burgess
Amy Comstock
Robbin Dilley
Reni Driskil
Natalie Folsom
Vanessa Foster
Nichole Gaskill
Joe Grandelski
Laura Griffin
Zu Gonzales
Malia Lehua Heimuli
Matthew Holl
Jenna Huskinson
Aleysia-Rae Kaha
Trevor Johannsen
Scarlett Kettwich
Selma Kettwich
Emily Leucht
Minky Markiewicz
Summer Maxwell
Stacie Miller
Monica Oey
Kelly Peebles
Brad Peterson
Liz Ransom
Michael Rawls
Kenny Riley
Jessica Robertson
Angie Salonikios
Hannah Shimabukuro Thelma Tomich
Katie Turner
Sasha Vallieres
Diane Ware
Sophie Wilhoit
Jamie Willeke
Colin Wirth

Epic Desert Road Trip Part 5: Petrified Forest National Park

Driving deeper into Arizona, we entered a fantastical landscape known as the Painted Desert.

The Painted Desert is a vast area of Arizona that includes both Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest National Parks. Some people have described the landscape as rock rainbow, others have said it resembled a multi-colored, many layered cake. No matter what you prefer to compare it to, the colorful sediments and rocks combined with the Arizona sun create magnificent views.


In addition to the natural beauty, petroglyphs also decorate the rocks.


As mysterious as the petroglyphs seem, there is an even stranger phenomenon found in the Painted Desert — a petrified forest of giant fallen trees.


The logs are actually a three dimensional representation of the original tree turned into stone.  They look totally real!!  Like you could burn them.  In fact, a lot of what was laying around the desert seemed as if someone had cut the logs and then split them into firewood.  But when you pick them up or touch them, you know you are not touching wood.  The “logs” are cold, hard, solid stone.

Next:  The Exciting Conclusion to our Epic Journey!

Creature Feature: Cobra Caroline

Caroline Seitz

Director/Founder of Reptiles Alive LLC


Reptiles Alive Name: Cobra Caroline (aka The Reptile Lady)

Hisstory: Cobra Caroline performed her first live reptile show in public when she was 9 years old.  She continued presenting wildlife education programs through high school and college and then worked a few years at various zoos and nature centers.  In 1996, she founded “The Reptile Lady” which would soon become “Reptiles Alive LLC.”

RA Diet: Favorite lunch time items for Cobra Caroline include banh mi sandwiches, BLT’s with homegrown tomatoes, and anything her mom cooks for  her.

Natural Diet: Cobra Caroline is an opportunistic omnivore.  She will eat both plants and animals, including seafood.  Her diet is variable depending on the seasons.  Winter  foods may include slow cooked soups and stews,  where as summer fare typically includes vegetables grown in her garden and fish and crabs from the Chesapeake Bay.

Range: Although Cobra Caroline was born in Arlington and has lived her whole life in northern Virginia, she spends much of her time traveling, especially to Reno, NV where her father lives.  She also has had special opportunities to spend time on the Big Island of Hawaii where her brother lives and works as a sea turtle biologist.

Habitat: You could find Cobra Caroline in many different habitats.  If you are on the road, look for driving the reptile van to a show.  You might see her performing a show at a school, library, festival, or other venue.  She manages the office, so she spends a lot of time on the phone and on the computer.  And she supervises the animal collection, so she spends time monitoring the health and care of the animals here.  WHEW – she is everywhere!

Size: Don’t be fooled by Cobra Caroline’s size.  At 5 feet tall, she is more than capable of handling a giant python, capturing a crocodile, or carrying a heavy tortoise.

Lifespan: Cobra Caroline could live to 80 years or more.

Reproduction: Cobra Caroline has successfully raised many plants and vegetables into a beautiful home garden.

Conservation: Since she was 4 years old, Cobra Caroline has dedicated her life to teaching other people how important snakes and other animals are to our environment. She spent her childhood learning about nature by reading books, writing in her nature journal, and spending copious amounts of time in the swamp near her house searching for snakes, frogs, insects and other creatures.  She started volunteering at nature centers and zoos as a teenager and became a Virginia Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator when she was 18.  Wildlife conservation IS Caroline’s life.

Cool Facts: After graduating from George Mason University with a B.A. in Speech Communication, Cobra Caroline spent some years working a variety of fun jobs.  She worked as a park naturalist at Hidden Pond Nature Center;  a park ranger Mason Neck State Park where she lead canoe trips into bald eagle habitats and a wildlife educator at a zoo where she performed shows with monkeys, kinkajous, exotic birds, and other animals.  One of her strangest jobs was working for an animal removal company as a “Snake Removal Technician.”  This involved spending hours crawling through dirty and sometimes scary crawlspaces and attics searching for snakes and inspecting the facility to figure out how to stop them from getting in.

Cobra Caroline feels lucky every day – as the director of Reptiles Alive, she gets to “work” at job she loves.  She can’t imagine doing anything else.

Sea Turtle Volunteer Application

Dear Applicant:

Thank you for your inquiry into the 2010 season of the Hawaii Island Hawksbill Turtle Recovery Project. We will begin selecting applicants in early 2010. The following is some background information on our project and a description of the volunteer duties and requirements.

Since 1989, volunteers have assisted project biologists with monitoring, protecting, and collecting baseline data on nesting hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata). The endangered hawksbill is very rare throughout the world. Hawksbills in Hawaii face numerous threats, including non-native predators, invasive plants, artificial lights, vehicular traffic, and ocean debris. While approximately 90% of documented nesting in the Hawaiian Islands occurs on the southern coastline of Hawaii Island, only 100 nesting turtles have been tagged since 1991. Typically 5 to 15 nesting turtles and 25 to 50 nests are documented per season.

For the 2010 season, approximately 15-30 volunteers will at any given time be needed to monitor the nesting beaches from June to December (possibly later). Volunteers commit to work on the project for a minimum of 10 weeks and preference will be given to applicants who can commit to a longer term. Exceptions can be made for Hawaii Island residents who are able to provide their own housing and transportation to and from the National Park.

Applicants are not required to have prior experience working with sea turtles. Successful applicants will be self-motivated, conservation-minded, and able to get along well with others. A positive attitude, diligent work ethic, and a love for the outdoors are a must.

Turtle Volunteers must:

* Be at least 18 years of age.
* Possess a valid driver’s license (U.S. or international).
* Possess current first aid and CPR card
* Be able to commit to work on the project for a minimum of 10 weeks. Preference given to those able to commit longer. (for exceptions, see above).
* Be able to hike up to 12 miles over rugged lava terrain in difficult conditions with a 30+ pound backpack.
* Be able to hike and work in vog (sulphur dioxide emitted from the nearby volcano, which can be problematic for people with respiratory concerns).
* Be able to get along well with others.
* Be able to stay awake late at night.

Turtle Volunteer duties include:

* Camping from 6 up to 12 consecutive nights at remote beaches with a project technician or other trained volunteers.
* Conducting nightly watches (from 5 p.m. until at least 2 a.m.) to observe nesting turtles and emerging hatchlings.
* Hiking up to 12 miles (one-way) over rugged lava terrain with a 30+ pound backpack to reach field sites.
* 4-wheel driving on long, bumpy roads to reach field sites.
* Day-checking other nesting beaches on a regular basis to look for signs of turtle activity by hiking up to 12 miles (one-way) or 4-wheel driving.
* Handling adult turtles, which includes restraining, measuring, applying flipper tags, and checking for injuries.
* Ensuring that hatchlings reach the ocean by monitoring nests that are ready to hatch, rescuing stranded hatchlings, and excavating nests.
* Recording baseline data, which includes keeping a field notebook, filling out data sheets, drawing maps, and entering data into the computer.
* Controlling predators by baiting and checking live-traps daily and euthanizing mongooses, feral cats, and rats using carbon dioxide gas.
* Picking up trash and debris along the coastline.
* Photographing turtle activity if needed.
* Interacting with and educating the local community about sea turtle conservation on a regular basis both in the field and in formal presentations.
* Assisting project technicians with logistics such as equipment and camp maintenance, vehicle inspections, office work, and various other duties as assigned.
* Keeping volunteer houses clean and following all housing policy rules.(if living in housing)

Shared dorm style housing can be provided at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The housing is located near the project’s office and National Park’s visitor center in a rainforest environment at an elevation of 4,000 feet. Bedrooms are shared by multiple volunteers. A $10 per work day food stipend will be provided, although additional funds are needed to supplement this stipend for basic needs and entertainment. Furthermore, a vehicle will not be provided for personal transportation.

It can take several weeks for your application to be processed, so please be patient. You will be notified of your status by either phone or e-mail. If you are accepted, a detailed information packet will be sent to you. You must arrive at least one day prior to your orientation date, which will be scheduled when you are accepted. Transportation to and from the National Park from Hilo is provided on your arrival and departure dates.

If you have any questions or would like to find out more information, please contact us by either phone (808) 985-6090 or e-mail [email protected]


Mailing Address: Hawaii Island Hawksbill Turtle Recovery Project

Resources Management Division

P.O. Box 52

Hawaii National Park, HI 96718

E-mail Address: [email protected] Fax: (808) 985-6029

Thank you for your interest in protecting Hawaii’s hawksbill turtles.

2010 Hawaii Island Hawksbill Turtle Recovery Project Volunteer Application

Name: ________________________________________________________________________

Address: ______________________________________________________________________

Phone: Day ( ) ____________________ Evening ( ) __________________________

E-mail address: _________________________________________________________________

Birthdate: _____________________________________________________________________

How did you find out about this project?_____________________________________________


Why do you want to volunteer for this project? ________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________




Dates available to volunteer: __________________________ to __________________________

Predator control is a high priority of this project. Volunteers are trained in the procedure of dispatching mongooses, feral cats, and rats using carbon dioxide gas. All volunteers are required to euthanize trapped predators. Are you comfortable with this aspect of the program? YES NO

Do you possess a valid driver’s license (U.S. or international)? YES NO

Many of our sites are accessible only by 4-wheel drive. Do you have any 4-wheel drive experience? YES NO Can you drive a standard transmission? YES NO

Will you be able to provide your own sleeping bag and large frame pack?

Sleeping Bag: YES NO Pack: YES NO

Are you currently certified in First Aid and CPR? YES NO


Name and Location of Universities or Colleges Attended or Attending: ____________________


Major area of studies: ____________________________________________________________

Degrees obtained:_____________________________ Date obtained:______________________

Pertinent Courses: ______________________________________________________________


_______________________________________________ (Attach a separate sheet if necessary)

Outdoor field experience:

Describe relevant experience: _____________________________________________________



Work Experience from two of your most recent jobs:

1. Name and address of employer: _________________________________________________


Name, phone #, and e-mail address of immediate supervisor: ____________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Your job title:__________________________________________________________________

Dates employed:______________________________ to ________________________________
Average number of work hours per week? ___________________________________________

Description of Duties: ___________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________ (Attach a separate sheet if necessary)

2. Name and address of employer: _________________________________________________


Name, phone #, and e-mail address of immediate supervisor: ____________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Your job title:__________________________________________________________________

Dates employed:_______________________________ to _______________________________

Average number of work hours per week? ___________________________________________

Description of Duties: ___________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________ (Attach a separate sheet if necessary)


List three work or school related references who know about your qualifications for the position.
Name: ___________________________________ Title: _______________________________

Address: ______________________________________________________________________ Phone: ( ) ___________________________E-mail:_____________________________

Name: ___________________________________ Title: _______________________________
Address: ______________________________________________________________________

Phone: ( ) ___________________________E-mail:_____________________________

Name: ___________________________________ Title: ______________________________

Address: ______________________________________________________________________

Phone: ( ) ___________________________E-mail:_____________________________

Signature of applicant:__________________________________ Date:_____________________