From urban beaches to remote barrier islands, this is Cape Lookout National Seashore

From urban beaches to remote barrier islands, this is Cape Lookout National Seashore

As a Miamian, I have been near a coastline my entire life. Usually dotted along by bars, restaurants, and hotels, it is hard to get away from people when trying to enjoy the beach in Miami. Having been at Cape Lookout National Seashore (CALO) for a little over a week, I am dumbfounded by the drastic difference in beaches. Adorned with shells, sand dunes, marshlands, and even wild horses, there is nature for everyone to enjoy.

Shelling galore!

            CALO was established as a National Seashore in 1966. Boasting more than 50 miles of coastline, the natural barrier island ecosystems are powerful and ever-changing. Unlike developed beaches that may opt for soft structures like beach nourishments to combat issues like erosion, the barrier islands of CALO are dynamic. Storms may come and create new inlets and change sand dune ecosystems, allowing for natural processes to occur. We as humans must learn to adapt to these dynamic barrier islands instead of controlling them, which I find fascinating.

            CALO’s shoreline provides nesting grounds for sea turtles, as well as two important species of shorebird. Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta) are the most common nesting mother in the park, accounting for more than 95% of the observed nests each season. I am so excited to have helped locate the first nest for the sea turtle season during my first week of interning! The sea turtle nest was located a bit too close to the waters high tide line, so we were able to relocate it more upland to avoid wash over from tides and storm events. I can’t wait for the sea turtle mama’s to come in full force within the next month!

Found the first sea turtle nest of the 2021 season! I am pictured holding one of the Loggerhead Sea Turtle eggs- roughly the size of a ping-pong ball. We use the cooler to carefully transfer over the eggs and relocate them to a safer portion of the beach. Remember, sea turtles are federally protected and are handled under research permits.

Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus) listed as Threatened and American Oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus) a species of high concern both using CALO as nesting grounds. While my internship is not primarily focused on shorebirds, I have been able to help the biological technicians who monitor these species! It was a real treat to see a few American Oystercatcher chicks hatch yesterday in the field.

American Oystercatcher chicks! They hatched just a few hours before this video was taken.

I am so excited to continue learning more about this incredible National Seashore as the summer progresses.

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