Sea Turtles Abundant During 2017 Nesting Season

Sea Turtles Abundant During 2017 Nesting Season

By Lisa D. Mickey

sea turtle

Loggerhead sea turtle emergence: the turtles emerge in a group and proceed to crawl down the beach to the water

Turtle-tracking volunteers and Canaveral National Seashore staff were busy during the 2017 nesting season with record-setting numbers of turtles finding the beaches of Volusia County.

Volusia County’s beaches experienced its second-highest nesting season since 1988 (when records were first kept) with 720 nests in 2017. Of the documented nests this year on Volusia County beaches, 634 nests were loggerhead sea turtles, while 82 were green sea turtles and four nests were the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles – uncommon for this region.

Those numbers shattered records for both greens and Kemp Ridley turtles, and was the third-highest number on record for loggerhead nests on Volusia County beaches.

In Canaveral National Seashore, which spans both Apollo Beach (Volusia County) and Playalinda Beach (Brevard County), a total of 12,315 nests were recorded.

In Apollo beach, there were 1,791 loggerhead nests, 2,192 green turtle nests and seven leatherback sea turtle nests.

In Playalinda, rangers recorded 2,765 nests for loggerheads, 5,544 nests for green turtles and 16 leatherback nests. No Kemps Ridley nests were recorded on either beach in Canaveral National Seashore.

Some of the nests were damaged or lost with the arrival of Hurricane Irma this fall in both the national park and on Volusia County beaches. In Volusia County, 262 nests could not be fully evaluated because: nests could not be located (30); nests were depredated or scavenged (37); tidally inundated (42); or washed away by the sea (153).

And while nesting season in Volusia County is typically in full swing from May 1 through October 31, nesting is not always exact – as there were still 15 nests incubating on the beach after Oct. 31.

As the 2017 numbers indicate, sea turtle conservation on the shorelines of Volusia County was viable and productive, once again.

MDC 20th Anniversary Celebration

MDC 20th Anniversary Celebration



Bring your friends and family as we showcase the past, present, and future of MDC. 

Meet some of the important folks that started MDC way back in the late 90’s and those that continue to be involved today.

Beginning at 6:30 MDC will host an open house to tour the facilities, as well as the Artists’ Workshop next door. Light refreshments and beer will be available, with popcorn offered throughout the evening.
From 7-7:15 p.m., festivities will begin with an introduction and overview of the event. There will also be an introduction of founding and lifetime MDC members, board members, staff and volunteers.
From 7:15-8:15 p.m., a special slide presentation showcasing the history of MDC will be shown, with comments from founding members and center officials. The public will have a chance to reminisce and comment about MDC’s history.
At 8:15 p.m., filmmaker Jordan Kahn will show his short film on the Marine Discovery Center entitled, “Discover Amazing,” followed by a question-and-answer session.
A champagne toast is planned at 8:45 p.m., saluting the Marine Discovery Center’s two decades.
MDC members, former staff members, volunteers and local citizens are encouraged to attend the free celebration to help salute the center’s 20 years of educating the community about the Indian River Lagoon and surrounding coastal ecosystems.
Please visit our Facebook Event Page for any updates!

Reserve your tickets online
Tickets by Eventbrite

Annual Appeal

Annual Appeal

Annual Appeal

Because of you, the Marine Discovery Center is celebrating 20 years of community engagement through exploration, conservation and education. Together we’ve restored living shorelines, counted horseshoe crabs, measured seagrass, rescued dolphins, manatees and pelicans and most importantly educated over 30,000 people annually to create the next generation of ambassadors for the Indian River Lagoon.

As a community we all understand that our shared future, recreation, livelihood and investments will thrive as the Indian River Lagoon thrives. We’ve also been reminded recently of the vulnerability of this special body of water and how important it is to our economy, community and overall way of life.

At 20 years old, the Marine Discovery Center is a proven reliable steward of environmental and financial resources. Your gifts to the Marine Discovery Center are an investment in a respected and trusted environmental leader and this year contributions will have doubled the impact! In celebration of our 20th anniversary all donations will be matched dollar for dollar up to $20,000 towards our endowment fund! Please make a gift of $500, $100, $50 or $25 to protect our common interests in the Lagoon through Marine Discovery Center’s work. Each dollar you give is a promise to support a mutual-heartfelt commitment to determined efforts by the Marine Discovery Center toward Lagoon health, awareness, and sustainability.

You may also pledge a sustaining gift via automatic credit card donations, you can donate online using any of the “donate” buttons on our site. You may contact me directly at 386-679-3622 regarding gift planning, becoming a member of the Dolphin Society or making an IRA qualified charitable contribution. Also, please remember to check with your place of business to see if it will match your charitable contribution.

Special 20th Anniversary gifts of at least $1,000 made by December 31, 2017 will be listed with your name on an anniversary plaque at the Marine Discovery Center.

Because of your support, through the years, the Marine Discovery Center has earned credibility and established far-reaching revered relationships. Loyal friends, Dolphin Society members, volunteers, and corporate partners join in the knowledge that together we make a difference.


Chad Truxall
Executive Director

Best-selling Author Keynote Speaker For Sh.O.R.E. Symposium

Best-selling Author Keynote Speaker For Sh.O.R.E. Symposium

Osprey Nesting Platform

by Lisa D. Mickey
News Release

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla., Oct. 18, 2017 – Best-selling author and 2017 “Champions of Change” award recipient Wallace J. Nichols, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Sh.O.R.E. Symposium.

The Marine Discovery Center, Atlantic Center for the Arts, and Daytona State College will again host Sh.O.R.E. – Sharing Our Research with Everyone — an annual symposium designed to address current issues and research relating to the Indian River Lagoon (IRL).

The third annual, all-day event will be held Friday, Dec. 1, at the Brannon Civic Center at 105 South Riverside Drive in New Smyrna Beach.


Dr. Nichols published in 2014 his book, “Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How being Near, In, On or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better At What You Do.”

Nichols has been called the “keeper of the sea” by GQ magazine and “a visionary” by Outside magazine. A California-based marine biologist and water advocate, Dr. Nichols has authored more than 200 scientific papers, technical reports, book chapters and popular publications. He has also appeared in numerous print, film, radio and television media outlets, and has lectured in more than 30 countries.

His research has spanned ocean and aquatic ecosystems, migratory species, marine protected areas, fisheries management and plastic pollution. According to his website, “Blue Mind,” describes the “physical, ecological, economic, cognitive, emotional, psychological and social benefits of healthy oceans and waterways.”

“We’re trying to engage a broader audience this year by bringing in a renowned keynote speaker who will interest our community,” said Dr. Debra Woodall, director of the Institute of Marine and Environmental Studies (IMES) at Daytona State College.

“We hope the public will come hear him speak and will also stay to learn more about the issues and proposed solutions associated with the Indian River Lagoon,” added Woodall, assistant department chair of DSC’s school of biological and physical sciences.

Woodall believes Nichols’ focus on the power of water and the role it plays in the lives of people is a natural fit with the residents of coastal Central Florida.

“We certainly understand the economic impact of water in our area,” Woodall said. “But water also has a very positive physiological and psychological impact on us.”

Following the symposium, the Atlantic Center for the Arts (ACA) will partner with Sh.O.R.E., and will offer an author’s book signing across the street from the Brannon Center at the Harris House. A reception at the River Park Terrace will also be held.

“ACA’s future role with this event will be to engage high school and undergraduate students in addressing environmental issues expressed through art,” added Woodall. “This will help reach many citizens because some people become educated through science, while others learn through art.”

The Sh.O.R.E. Symposium will begin at 9:30 a.m., with sessions running until 4 p.m.

High school students and college undergraduates will join science professionals in presenting information to the public about their recent research, current scientific findings and management strategies for the Indian River Lagoon.

The Sh.O.R.E. event is free to the public, but preregistration is required. Seating will be limited.

For more information and to preregister, visit Online preregistration deadline will be Nov. 29.

Save Your Applause For The Scientists

Save Your Applause For The Scientists

Wendy Noke of Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute assists a dolphin calf

By Lisa D. Mickey

I admit it. I’m as guilty as anyone else when it comes to admiring top sports teams and appreciating the skills of world-ranked athletes.

I love seeing them work together as a team to win championships or close games. And I enjoy watching individual professional athletes perform extraordinary feats.

Certainly, as a sportswriter for more than 20 years, I have seen my fair share of record-breaking performances, met some exceptional athletes and seen history made in athletics that will forever be on instant replay in my mind.

But in recent years, I’ve met some new superstars who work in virtual anonymity and deserve far more attention than any of them would ever want. Their names are not well known and they don’t reap lucrative benefits for the long hours of plying their craft even though they are among the world’s best. There’s no confetti, headlines or applause from thousands of adoring fans for these people.

In fact, most of the time when they perform their best work, they are alone, dirty, bloody and in environments where even their best friends might decline to go. Their incentive is not fame and fortune, but rather, an intrinsic curiosity to answer questions, solve problems, and detail those findings in documents that can be used by others.

Who are these people? They are scientists.

And these scientists are everyday people who are committed to research often involving specific species and specific habitats. They regularly deal with evolving changes that affect the living organisms they study and they are unabashedly passionate about the focus of their studies. Their fist pumps are cerebral, at most.

For example, I recently reached out to the scientists at the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce, Fla., to inquire about a blue land crab (cardisoma guanhumi) that was showing up in my neighborhood in Central Florida. Scientist Sherry Reed kindly responded and informed me that Hurricane Irma had spawned a migration of these crabs as they move from salt marshes to the ocean at this time of year.

Reed provided the information I wanted, and in a follow-up email, she called these crabs “beautiful creatures” (they are!) and admitted they were “especially near and dear to [her] heart.”

That kind of passion for a species and commitment to understand their existence is exactly why I believe we should thoughtfully consider who our real heroes are and why.

Scientists most often specialize in a focus area and spend countless hours and years documenting their species. Both when things go right and when things go wrong, they still seek answers to questions.

How many times have I listened to Lori Morris of St. Johns River Water Management District passionately discuss the importance of seagrass in the Indian River Lagoon? And when an algal bloom in 2011 killed 47,000 acres of precious seagrass in the estuary, why was I not surprised that Morris was out in the water with other scientists, hand-planting grasses and later snorkeling to monitor its progress?

How can I not get excited about oysters and shoreline restoration when Dr. Linda Walters of the University of Central Florida starts talking about the work she has done with oyster-shell recycling for nearly two decades? If you ever work with her on one of these shoreline projects, it’s like spending a day with the Johnny Appleseed of oysters.

I’ve also logged time on the water with Wendy Noke of Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute looking for sick and injured dolphins. I’ve watched Wendy suspend her great affinity for specific animals she had monitored for years when it came time to perform necropsies to determine what had killed them. A few years ago, when a deadly virus swept the offshore dolphin population, I knew I could find Wendy with a scalpel in her gloved hands, harvesting tissue for pathology results – sometimes twice a day. Maybe even Wendy wanted to cry at the loss of so many magnificent animals, but there was too much work to be done in the name of science.

If you want to get excited about sharks, listen to George Burgess talk about his favorite species. Burgess is the director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, Fla. He has spent his career following these animals and documenting their behaviors and statistics. He can tell you where not to swim in New Smyrna Beach, based on shark-bite statistics and baitfish prevalence, but he can also espouse the miracles and mysteries of these animals from a lifetime of research.

A few times, I’ve had the privilege of walking at the elbow of Dr. Jane Brockmann, a professor emeritus at the University of Florida, who has studied horseshoe crabs for more than 30 years. Once I was with Dr. Brockmann when we found spawning horseshoe crabs on an atypical shoreline. These animals are thought to have been in existence for more than 445 million years, so to observe the surprise and delight of a veteran scientist who was seeing something new after three decades of study was better than witnessing a half-court buzzer beater.

Sometimes I have dinner with another professor, Dr. Hyun Jung Cho, who teaches integrated environmental science at Bethune-Cookman University, and I find myself marveling at her commitment to study wetlands and aquatic vegetation at all times – even if she’s wearing a dress on her way home from church and happens to spy a retention pond with interesting grasses. “That’s why I keep rubber boots in my car,” she said matter-of-factly, when I asked if she really waded into these ponds in her Sunday clothes.

Research ecologist Gina Kent, of the Avian Research and Conservation Institute, monitors the nesting habits, migratory patterns and the habitat challenges of swallow-tailed kites. When these magnificent raptors return to Central Florida from South America to nest each year, Gina is collecting data. And with the information I have learned from her and shared with others who live where these birds nest, now my previously uninterested friends are excitedly offering regular reports on “those birds with the interesting tail feathers.”

Even away from the institutes and universities, the scientists among us help shine a spotlight on our world and its living organisms that really should be valued and cherished more than any homerun, slam-dunk, 60-yard field goal or ace in the hole.

Michael Brothers, of the Marine Science Center, for example, can look at a gathering of 10,000 seagulls on a beach and identify several different species with one quick glance. Chad Truxall of the Marine Discovery Center can lead a group to a sandbar and suddenly unveil a host of creatures just under the soil’s surface that could otherwise easily be overlooked.

Maybe I’m slowing down as I round the bases in life, but I can “see the pitches” better than ever. These scientists clearly demonstrate skill, knowledge, experience, commitment and passion – asking for nothing and giving everything they have every single time they perform.

That’s why I say, if you want to applaud someone for a genuine superstar performance, save it for our scientists. They do their excellent work for the species they study, but more importantly, for the role their species plays in the world.

Scientists are looking at history, the present and the future with the hope their respective work can help us better understand our world and what we can do to assure a viable planet. And the passion they show for their work is contagious – kind of like that wave that starts in a stadium and brings true fans to their feet.