Light pollution: the new frontier of beach clean ups.
Stella Maris Environmental Research is a 501(c)(3) not for-profit organization based in the heart of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge (ACNWR). Beaches in South Brevard County contribute to protection and conservation of marine turtle populations worldwide. Within this coastline nestles the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, the highest ranked nesting beach in the world where sea turtles exhibit natal philopatry (returning to their birthplace to reproduce). Unfortunately, light pollution is a definitive form of habitat degradation and is a true threat to Brevard’s sea turtle nesting and hatchling populations. It is critical to determine the fate of emerging hatchlings and the effects of this particular beach’s lighting environment to avoid disorientation resulting in beach mortality. Quantifying light intensity on the beach after sunset and hatchling orientation at dawn is a vital portion of sea turtle conservation where effort is needed to make recommendations for mortality reduction via lighting management. We intend to grow public awareness of lighting as a pollution source for sea turtles in order to reduce human related mortality and exhort long term stewardship. Further, results of this study will be used to inform conservation managers on current lighting ordinance efficacy for protecting sea turtles.