Celebrating 20 years at KML

Hot off the printing presses! New KML 20th Anniversary t-shirts! Designed by KML alum, Peter Bouwma (Bouwma Communication Design), with the KML 20th Anniversary logo on the front pocket area and full-color artwork depicting marine creatures of the Keys, bayside and oceanside, on the back (can you find KML on the map?). These beautiful 100% heavy-weight (6.2 oz) cotton tees are available in sizes Small through XX-Large. Short-sleeved style available in white or ash for $15.00 (plus $1.13 tax). Long-sleeved tees available in ash only for $20.00 (plus $1.50 tax). Order yours online through the Wildlife Foundation of Florida http://www.wildlifefoundationofflorida.com/?q=catalog/1

If you are visiting KML, order your shirts through the Foundation, present your receipt, and pick up your shirt in the office. KML ball caps are also still available for $15.00, plus tax.

As always, your generous donations are used for upgrades and improvements around the Lab and are tremendously appreciated.

Lionfish, Lionfish Everywhere!

KML staff recently participated in the Middle Keys Lionfish Derby, which was the first derby of REEF's 2nd Annual Lionfish Derby Series. The City of Layton was one the derby's major sponsors which was held at Fiesta Key Resort on Long Key.

Though the team was unable to improve upon last year's 2nd place finish, they had a great time and were able to catch 66 lionfish, which was just a few fish behind the 3rd place team that had 69.

To see the complete derby results follow this link:

Then the week following the derby, researchers Carmen Schloeder and Andrew Sellers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama visited KML and were also in search of the invasive lionfish.

They completed 9 dives in 3 days off of Long Key and were able to find lionfish on every dive except for 1. On the dives they were looking at density of the fish to compare to reefs in Panama and Belize. They also collected fish to look at gut content, size classes, distribution, and parasitology. In total they were able to catch 44 lionfish on their dives during the visit.

Happy Holidays from KML

Heddy & Lisa are keeping track of everyone's wish-list

Bill & Dave have Santa's sleigh in fine working order

Andrew & Cindy are keeping an eye on the weather forecast and sharp look-out for any stray reindeer

The staff at KML wish you all a Happy Holiday Season and look forward to seeing y'all in the New Year!

Lower Keys Lionfish Derby

This past weekend KML staff participated in the 1st Annual Lower Keys Lionfish Derby sponsored by REEF, and placed 2nd out of 18 teams for most lionfish collected with 21!!

Follow the link below to see the complete results...


The team hit the water bright and early in Long Key and had to be in Key West to have their lionfish counted and measured by sundown.

You can see that Andrew, Bill, and Cindy were glad to do their part to remove the invasive fish from the Florida Keys waters and also enjoyed eating their catch at the banquet.

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Mooching Manatee

We found this big ol' manatee slurping the trickle of fresh water as we flushed our engines today! He looked in great shape, with no visible prop scars but lots of barnacles on his back. We don't normally encourage them into such close association with boats by offering them fresh water from a dock hose.

2010 Long Key Sea Turtle Nesting Season

With the end of another sea turtle nesting season the volunteers of Save-A-Turtle look back at the long and busy summer on Long Key beach.

The crack team was made up of Cindy Lewis (KML staff scientist on for her 1st official season), Nancy Godshall (Long Key Condo resident and self-proclaimed "Turtle Nazi"), and The Crowders (KML staff scientist Andrew, FWRI's biologist Whitney, and their son Finlee back for his 2nd season).

As you can see below Finlee is well on his way to following in his parents footsteps of tracking the "turtles", which was one of his first words!

The group walked the beach every morning again from mid-April to the end of October and marked a record high 49 crawls with 13 of those being nests. The first nest was laid May 11th and the last couple of nests weren't laid until July 19th and 29th, which is much later than any other previous few years. This was possibly due to the cold weather event the Keys experienced this winter and the sea water temperatures taking longer to warm up.

The nesting to false crawl ratio of 26.5% was the lowest percentage that had been seen in the last 3 years and far behind last year where the ratio was over 40% (11 nests and 16 false crawls).

Of the 1420 eggs that were surveyed by the team 860 loggerhead sea turtles hatched, which is over a 60% success rate. However that was down over 17% from the year before mostly due to 2 nests being over-washed by extremely high tides and one nest being destroyed by raccoons. Above you can see the nests that were affected by the high tides and were inundated with saltwater.

The group was encouraged by such a high number of crawls (only 25 and 27 the two previous years), and looks forward to next season where hopefully there will be even more nests!

Science Meets Management in the Keys

KML staff scientists were available to answer questions at the Keys Marine Lab display

Nearly 300 researchers and managers converged on Hawk's Cay Resort on Duck Key in October to attend a conference and workshops on the Marine Ecosystems of the Florida Keys, "Linking Science to Management". Celebrated researcher, Jeremy Jackson, was the keynote speaker for the event. Special focus of this first-time-ever conference was on resource issues important to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the Dry Tortugas National Park. Topics presented in nearly 50 talks included climate change science, reef restoration and ecology, fish and invertebrate ecology, food web structure, hardbottom and grassbed habitats and ecology, spatial management and marine zoning, oceanography and water quality, regional connectivity, and fisheries management. Two interactive poster sessions, featuring nearly 150 posters, followed the day's talks and provided a stimulating backdrop for scientific networking. The conference was a huge success, judging by the numerous requests for "a next time"!

Deep Freeze in the Keys

It has been a bitter cold weekend down here for Keys residents, including the marine life. With air temperatures hovering at 39F this morning and icy north winds howling in over Florida Bay (wind chill of 28F - yes, we can have a windchill factor here too!) water temps in the Bay have been only 45F. It's just not supposed to get this cold at 24 degrees north latitude! We've seen hundreds of grunts and snappers, dozens of burrfish, boxfish, bonefish, and groupers (including reds, blacks, & Nassaus) dead and dying in the rack along our seawall. Our display animals have not fared well either. With no way to warm the large 122,000 gallon flow-through Shallows (waters temperatures down to 44F) we lost our bonnethead shark, both tarpon, the bonefish, numerous snapper and jacks. We have heaters in our above-ground tanks for our spiny lobsters, slipper lobsters, assorted crabs and mollusks, and the mantis shrimp. But with the wind whipping around the tanks, water temps are only hovering at 57F. Needless to say, the invertebrates are still very sluggish but hanging on! KML staff have been patrolling the seawall searching for any potential survivors. We have numerous burrfish, boxfish and a queen angel slowly reviving in the warming tanks.

Cold-stunned sea turtles have floated in to KML shores on the north winds. Wagons have been handy for moving the large turtles, like this big Loggerhead....
...and some, like this little Hawksbill, are small enough to just carry........in to the office to warm up....
.... until FWC Sea Turtle Stranding Co-ordinator, Sue Schaf could transport them to the Marathon Turtle Hospital. So far, KML has rescued 4 Loggerheads, 3 Hawksbills, and a Green turtle but we expect more will float by in the next few days before the waters warm up. Air temperatures are expected to be in the 70's by week's end and Bay temps should slowly improve too, allowing for the release of the rescued animals.
Adult female Loggerhead 230 lbs - largest rescued turtle received at the Turtle Hospital so far this week
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Spotted Eagle Rays visit KML

Two juvenile spotted eagle rays (Aetobatus narinari) spent the afternoon cruising around the KML Lagoon last week. The little guys seemed intent on corralling a small school of mullet and took turns darting through the middle of them. One poor mullet had a hole in his side to document the strike!

Governor Crist at KML

Florida's governor, Charlie Crist, paid a brief vist to KML this week. The Governor and Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission Chairman, Rodney Barreto, were on their way to Marathon to assist with the release of a rehabilitated seaturtle. The Lab was a convenient stopping point for Governor Crist to change into more Keys-friendly attire. The Governor took a few moments to chat with staff before continuing on to the Turtle Hospital.

Cindy, Heddy, Lisa, Governor Crist, Dave, Bill, Commissioner Barreto
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Long Key Sea Turtle Nesting Season

As the sea turtle nesting season begins to wind down, it is time to look back to see how this season compared to last year.

The Keys Marine Lab's Biologist Andrew Crowder and his wife, Whitney, a ranger at Long Key State Park have monitored the beaches of Long Key again this year from April 15th until the end of October. This year they even added the Keys youngest sea turtle surveyor to the team, their son Finlee who will be 6 months old in a few days.

The first nest was laid right before the end of April, which was earlier than either of the last two previous years of monitoring, and there have even been crawls as late as the middle of this month. Last year the last crawl occurred at the beginning of July.

There haven't been any tropical storms or hurricanes that have seriously affected the Keys to date, knock on wood, but the raccoons have been busy again destroying all the eggs in 3 nests out at the point in the park. There have also been challenges for the sea turtle hatchlings with disorientations due to lighting, but all in all the nesting has been successful.


Manatee family visits KML

While preparing for a morning boat trip last week, we noticed a disturbance along the seawall in the lagoon in front of the wet lab. A pod of 6 manatees had cruised in to check out our seawater intake pipes and show off their new baby. They nibbled the algae on the PVC pipes and tickled their bellies with the seawater bubbler. Baby was very curious about our marker buoy. All 5 adults had terrible prop scars on their heads and backs from past encounters with boat motors. One manatee was actually missing almost half of its tail fluke. In spite of the temptation, we did not offer them drinks from our fresh water hose as this would only encourage them to return to dock areas and marinas, putting them in danger of further run-ins with boaters. We enjoyed their visit for over a half hour and then they moved on.

Sea Turtle nesting on Long Key

Sea turtle nesting season stretches from May 1st through October 31st here in the Keys.

The Loggerhead turtles are usually done nesting by early September but "turtlers" continue to monitor the beaches for the occasional Green or Hawksbill nest.

Long Key State Park staff and Save-a-Turtle volunteers have been monitoring the beaches of Long Key since early April. Walking the beaches each morning, they monitor the previous night's nesting activities. Only 10 Loggerhead nests were marked and monitored this year, 3 of which were within the State Park.

The eggs typically hatch 50-75 days later. The 7 nests located outside of the Park averaged 110 eggs per nest with a 54% hatching rate. Losses due to predation were around 15%, and typically are due to raccoons. The nest pictured above was flooded during the high tides and storm surges due to hurricanes (Faye, Gustav, and Ike). Turtlers usually wait at least 10 days after hatching occurs to "dig" the nests and assess hatching success. In cases of poorly-placed nests or in areas were raccoon predation is a concern, they may dig the nest sooner. Any late hatchlings left behind in the nest are scooped up, held for the day, and safely escorted to the water's edge at nightfall.
A grand total of 422 Loggerhead hatchlings left the nests from the Long Key beaches this year.
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