Sanibel’s Living Dinosaurs: Leatherback Sea Turtles at the SCCF!

Join the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation for a special Virtual event!

It’s not just people who love the beauty and quiet of Sanibel’s Beaches.  Sanibel and other coastal areas are also visited by the Leatherback Sea Turtle.  Are you interested in learning more about this mysterious, unique and rare visitor to Sanibel?  We suggest you join the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation for a special “virtual” lecture series to learn more. The first of the SCCF’s “Virtual Evening at the Homestead” series is called “Florida’s Living Dinosaurs: Monitoring Florida’s Endangered Leatherback Sea Turtles“.

Join the SCCF tomorrow, Nov. 17, at 7:00 pm via Zoom as SCCF’s Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan gives an update on our 2020 Sea Turtle Nesting season while introducing Florida Leatherbacks, Inc.  You can register here.

  • Sea turtles crawl onto the beach to lay their eggs

According to the SCCF, Leatherback sea turtles are one of the rarest species of marine turtle on the planet, and their population in Florida remained somewhat of a mystery in this area until recently.  Kelly Martin and Chris Johnson, from Florida Leatherbacks Inc., will discuss their ongoing research on leatherback sea turtles in this engaging presentation.

By conducting nightly surveys to tag and identify each individual, biologists with Florida Leatherbacks Inc. have been able to define important population and biological parameters. This study incorporates basic morphometrics, satellite tracking, and genetic analysis to help better describe this local population and work toward conservation efforts.

Leatherbacks are the rarest of the three species that regularly nest in Florida. To date more than 1,000 unique individual leatherbacks have been identified.  Important nesting parameters have also been defined and migratory patterns are now better understood.


The SCCF also provides the following information about the speakers:

Florida Leatherbacks Inc. studies southeast Florida’s population of nesting leatherback sea turtles. Martin and Johnson formed the non-profit Florida Leatherbacks Inc. in 2014 to study the endangered leatherback sea turtle population in Martin County, Florida.

Kelly Martin has worked with sea turtles for nearly 20 years. She grew up in Michigan and obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Zoology from Michigan State University. She began her career working with nesting leatherbacks, assisting in sea turtle rehabilitations, and conducting nesting surveys along the east coast of Florida. From there she moved to Clearwater Marine Aquarium and ultimately Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, where she worked in the aquarium, assisted in nesting research, and completed her master’s degree in Marine Science at the University of South Florida — studying the auditory abilities of loggerhead sea turtles.

She returned to the east coast of Florida as a biologist for Loggerhead Marinelife Center, where she helped manage nesting surveys on one of the densest nesting beaches in the world and managed a leatherback tagging and tracking project. Martin later moved to the government sector and spent four years conducting lighting surveys and managing sea turtle compliance monitoring for beach nourishment projects for Palm Beach County. She currently works as the program coordinator for the Marine Environmental Education Center and serves as the president of Florida Leatherbacks Inc., a non-profit conducting leatherback tagging and tracking on the densest leatherback nesting beach in Florida. Her passion lies with leatherbacks and she has seen just over 1,000 in her career but she is interested in all aspects of conservation of all seven species of sea turtle.


Chris Johnson has been conducting marine turtle research since the early 1990s along Florida’s beaches. Johnson has worked with the City of Boca Raton, Florida Atlantic University, Nova University and the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. Johnson and partners at Duke University, Palm Beach County, Sea Turtle Conservation League of Singer Island, and John D. MacArthur Beach State Park began a comprehensive study of leatherback turtles in 2001. That study identified more than 600 nesting leatherbacks utilizing northern Palm Beach County beaches.


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