Where is Eliza Ann? What can be learned?

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A screen shot from the internet June 27 shows the path in the Gulf of Mexico taken by Eliza Ann, the loggerhead tagged June 20, 2017, for AMITW in the Tour de Turtles. Islander Graphic: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Eliza Ann was the first sea turtle successfully tagged and tracked for the Tour de Turtles after nesting on Anna Maria Island.

The satellite tag is transmitting signals showing the loggerhead’s location in the Gulf of Mexico a year after it was attached.

Data generated from the tracker and devices on other sea turtles helps scientists around the world answer questions related to sea turtle conservation.

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring and the Sea Turtle Conservancy placed a tracking device on Eliza Ann June 19, 2017, after the turtle nested. The animal was released to the Gulf of Mexico early June 20, 2017. That tracker, using satellite telemetry, showed the path taken by the sea turtle as she nested twice more, crawled ashore another time and journeyed on a three-month migration during the STC’s 10th Annual Tour de Turtles.

As part of the 2017 tour, 20 sea turtles were tagged and released. The turtles then competed to determine which turtle swam the most miles in three months.

Eliza Ann traveled 1,693 miles to win first place in the marathon, which tracked distance covered through Nov. 1, 2017.

Additionally, the satellite tag provided the first documented proof that a sea turtle nested multiple times on Anna Maria Island in the same season.

The race is over, but Eliza Ann is still going strong — as of June 28 the turtle was north of Cuba and had journeyed 2,754 miles.

Meanwhile, the 2018 tour contestants, including Bortie, the loggerhead tagged on Anna Maria Island June 20, are being tracked, with the competition officially beginning Aug. 1 when all 20 turtles will have been tagged. Bortie was among the first of the turtles tagged for the 2018 tour.

More than 450 sea turtles, including loggerheads, greens, hawksbills and leatherbacks have been tagged since 1997 for STC’s research.

The scientists know when Eliza Ann raises her head above water because the antenna on the tracker sends a signal, indicating location, the number of dives taken during a 24-hour period, the duration of the most recent dive, and the water temperature of the location, according to Lexie Beach, STC communications coordinator.

STC research specialist Dan Evans said the information has allowed him to investigate the differences in migratory patterns between several species of sea turtles.

According to Evans, research shows that loggerheads, greens and hawksbills tend to stay regional, but the leatherback’s migration encompasses all the regions of the other species.

Kristen Mazzarella, senior biologist with Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, said June 27 that research from projects such as the tour is vital to marine biologists — and not just those following sea turtle migration.

She said there is crossover in research, especially since the field is relatively new. Most of the data on sea turtles has been uncovered in the past 30-40 years.

“We are all colleagues and we compare notes and techniques,” Mazzarella said. “Subsequently, we all can use the data in unique ways for the projects we are working on. Different people might look at a track and ask a different question.”

On the web, Eliza Ann can be tracked on the Sea Turtle Conservancy website at https://conserveturtles.org/trackingmap/?id=171.

Bortie, the island’s 2018 Tour de Turtles contestant, can be tracked at https://conserveturtles.org/trackingmap/?id=191.

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