Brevard Sea Turtle Tagging & Data Collection Project 1972-1980

The Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research (ACCSTR) at the University of Florida has developed the Legacy Database Initiative (Preserving the Past to Save the Future) to:

  • Preserve, archive, and computerize the unique and valuable data that have been collected on sea turtle populations from Florida and around the world over the past decades,
  • Organize the necessary metadata associated with these data, and
  • Ensure that these data are available to future generations of sea turtle biologists and conservationists to promote sea turtle conservation.  We envision that some databases will allow for complete access while others may have restricted access depending on the wishes of the data collectors.

The ACCSTR has initiated the Legacy Database program with the data from the Brevard Sea Turtle Tagging & Data Collection Project:  1972-1980 (BSTTDC) which was directed by Billy J. Turner (Director) and Thomas R. Hiter(Assistant Director).  The BSTTDC database is fully accessible (see below for instructions).

The funding to computerize the data and organize the necessary metadata associated with the BSTTDC project was provided in part by a grant awarded to ACCSTR from the Sea Turtle Grants Program.  The Sea Turtle Grants Program is funded from proceeds from the sale of the Florida Sea Turtle License Plate.  Learn more at

Sea Turtle License Plate

Computerizing these data was a team project of the ACCSTR.  Participants were Peter Eliazar, Melania López-Castro, Mariela Pajuelo, Kimberly Reich, Hannah Vander Zanden, Alan Bolten and Karen Bjorndal.

Brevard Sea Turtle Tagging & Data Collection Project:  1972-1980 (BSTTDC)

This database contains the tagging records for loggerheads (Caretta caretta) and green turtles (Chelonia mydas) from a project conducted on Melbourne Beach, Florida, between Spessard Holland Park to the north and Floridana Beach to the south in Brevard County, on the east coast of Florida, USA (map).  From 1972 through 1978, the project was directed by Billy J. Turner with Thomas R. Hiter serving as Assistant Director.  The number of colleagues who were engaged in the project varied among the years.  Mr. Turner and Mr. Hiter ended their work with the project at the close of 1978.  Randy Fowler, then a college student, continued the tagging effort through 1980 with diminishing patrol effort.  Data from years after 1980 are reports from other researchers of turtles tagged by BSTTDC.

In addition, between 1973 and 1975, some turtles were tagged on the beaches in Cape Kennedy Air Force Station on Cape Canaveral, Florida (map).  This area, which lies to the north of the Melbourne Beach study area, had restricted access.  Billy Turner and some of his team members received clearance to enter this area, but logistics were always difficult and precluded extensive coverage.

This database is important for a number of reasons.  First, few data are available for sea turtles nesting in Florida during this time span.  In particular, this study documents the early years of the resurgence of the green turtle nesting population inFlorida.  Second, the study area had the highest density of loggerhead nesting in the continental US during the years of this study (Carr & Carr 1978) and continues to have the highest density (Ehrhart et al. 2003).  Third, this study represents the years before Dr. Lew Ehrhart, University of Central Florida, began his long-term monitoring of sea turtles in this same area.  Finally, part of the study area is now included in the Archie Carr Wildlife Refuge and thus has been granted substantial protection.

PDF files are available below for two papers that have been published based on the BSTTDC database (Bjorndal et al. 1983; Meylan et al. 1983).

Literature Cited

  • Bjorndal, K.A., A.B. Meylan, and B.J. Turner.  1983.  Sea turtles nesting at Melbourne Beach, Florida, 1.  Size, growth and reproductive biology.  Biological Conservation 26:65‑77.
  • Carr, D. and P.H. Carr.  1978.  Survey and reconnaissance of nesting shores and coastal habitats of marine turtles inFlorida, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.  Unpublished report to U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (Contract Number 0360423519), 34 pages.
  • Ehrhart, L.M., D.A. Bagley, and W.E. Redfoot.  2003.  Loggerhead turtles in the Atlantic Ocean:  Geographic distribution, abundance, and population status.  Pages 157-174 in Loggerhead Sea Turtles, A.B. Bolten and B.E. Witherington(editors).  Smithsonian Books, Washington, D.C.
  • Meylan, A.B., K.A. Bjorndal, and B.J. Turner.  1983.  Sea turtles nesting at Melbourne Beach, Florida, 2.  Post‑nesting movements of Caretta caretta.  Biological Conservation 26:79‑90.

Further information

Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research
PO Box 118525
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida 32611 USA