MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Millions of dollars in grant money is flowing into a sea turtle DNA project, and the Grand Strand is an important part of its success.
The project helps with conservation efforts and is teaching us new things about sea turtles we never knew before. WMBF News was live at Myrtle Beach State Park where researchers are doing an inventory at a sea turtle egg nest.
This sea turtle nest is one of 200 in the Grand Strand right now, and its part of a genetic fingerprinting study. This study is called the most important research ever done for sea turtles.
Here's how it works: one egg from every Loggerhead sea turtle nest is sacrificed for research the morning after it's laid.
It sounds harsh, but there's an average of 120 eggs in each nest, and when a researcher takes an egg and cracks it open to keep only the shell, there's only a yolk inside.
Huntington Beach State Park Ranger Mike Walker said sea turtles don't start forming until about 24 hours after the nest is laid.
Ranger Walker took an egg out of the park's record-breaking twenty-second nest Thursday, and he keeps the shell in a vile until researchers pick it up and take it to the University of Georgia, which is where the study is based out of.
Ranger Walker said so far they've been able to figure out which beaches sea turtle moms go to and return to. They're able to find generations of nesting sea turtles, a better grasp of the population, and how many nests are laid and when.
Ranger Mike Walker explained why they take an egg as soon as possible from a nest.
"The DNA on the inner membrane of the egg shell is just the mother's DNA, so they can easily isolate that and fingerprint her, so to speak," Ranger Walker said. "If the egg is a few days old then it's both of the parent's DNA combined together and it gets much more complicated."
North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia are the only states in the study for Loggerhead Sea Turtles.
Huntington Beach State Park beach a twenty-plus year record this week with it's twenty-second sea turtle nest. Ranger Walker expects it to be a record-breaking year for the Grand Strand.
For more information on the project, click here.