Helping the sea turtle population one egg at a time

Only one out of a thousand turtles will make it to adulthood.

FOLLY BEACH, S.C. (WCIV) -- Lowcountry beaches are filled with locals and tourists this time of year, but it's important to remember that Loggerhead sea turtles -- an endangered species -- are right in the middle of nesting season.

Michelle Pate is the Sea Turtle Program Coordinator with the Department of Natural Resources. She takes every opportunity to educate people on ways they can save the turtles.

"We really ask that folks sort of quietly observe from a distance with no flash photography and just allow them to do their natural process without human interference," said Pate.

But as well as protect them, it's important to study them. There is currently a genetics research project in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia with the University of Georgia and DNR.

"We are hoping to answer some basic nesting population questions. What is involved in that is removing a single, viable egg from each nest along the coastline of those three states," said Pate.

These eggs, one of roughly a hundred in the nest, will never hatch, but the information gathered from them is invaluable as it will help the species moving forward.

"They are using molecular genetic technique to determine which females have laid that egg and then be able to answer questions such as how many nests these turtles are laying and help us determine how many number of nesting females are in the population right now," said Pate.

The ultimate goal is to increase the population because they can't be replaced.

"The turtles that nest in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia are considered a different genetic population from those that nest in Florida. So if we were to lose our nesting population up here we couldn't replace them with turtles from Florida because they are two different populations," said Pate.

It's a tough task given that only one in a thousand even make it to adulthood.

Florida has the largest nesting population followed by the northern recovery unit, which is composed of Georgia and the Carolinas.

To find out where all nesting areas are across the state, click here.