Melania López Castro

Deciphering the Mystery of the 'Lost-year' of [Atlantic] Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas) Using Trace Elements




For the past year, my research has been focused on learning where green sea turtles in the Atlantic spend

their first years of life, a period also known as the “lost years”. In order to determine where young greens

spend their lost years I needed to collect scute samples of small green turtles from different foraging areas of Florida, Bahamas, Nicaragua and Brazil. The Boyd Lyon Sea Turtle Fund Scholarship granted me the

opportunity to travel to two foraging areas of Brazil, Almofala in NE coast of Brazil and Santa Catarina in the SE coast of Brazil and collect a total of 60 scute samples from those regions. Not only was I able to collect

samples in such crucial sites for my dissertation but also had the chance to meet with Brazilian colleagues,

share my research ideas with them and left the doors open for future collaborations.



Since my trip to Brazil in December 2009, I have also visited the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua

(February – March 2010) where I was able to collect more green turtle samples

(increased my sample size to 18) and also obtained samples from the Bahamas. I have analyzed the samples

from Bahamas and some samples from Florida for stable isotopes of 13C and 15N, and the samples from

Brazil are currently waiting to be analyzed. Once I have all the results of the stable isotope analyses, I will be

able to sort the oceanic layers of each scute samples and use them to run the trace element and

lead isotope analyses. I look forward to obtain the results of this last analysis so I can start working with my

data and hopefully solve the mystery of the “lost years” of green sea turtles.





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