by Staff Sgt. Melissa B. White
36th Wing Public Affairs
8/19/2014 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Editor's
note: This is the second part of a series featuring conservation
programs managed by the 36th Civil Engineer Squadron Environmental
Team Andersen has partnered up with a scientific research team from
the University of Guam this year to help make the base's beaches
cleaner and greener -- with turtles -- by participating in the sea
turtle monitoring, protection and educational outreach program on Guam.
The program aims to conserve the critically endangered hawksbill sea
turtle and endangered green sea turtle species that occasionally make
their way to the rocky and sandy shores of Andersen for foraging,
nesting and residential behaviors. The 36th Civil Engineer Squadron
Environmental Flight will use the findings from the research along with
current and new conservation efforts they implemented to update the AAFB
Sea Turtle Management Program for 2015.
"We are contributing to the overall recovery of these endangered
species," said Ruben Guieb, 36th CES Environmental Flight Natural and
Cultural Resources Conservation Program chief. "We are taking active and
aggressive actions toward being good environmental stewards, and we do
care about their recovery. We will use this information to better
understand the species and track any changes in their population in the
An integral part of the program includes field studies where Tarague
Basin on base is surveyed and monitored for turtle activity by the UOG
scientific program. This part of the program began in March and will
continue until the end of March 2015 in order to gather sufficient
scientific data to determine a baseline of how often and how many
turtles come to the base each year, along with the behaviors they
"I've worked on turtle projects before, and this one is different
because this beach has so little data from the past," said Marylou
Staman, University of Guam Sea Turtle Monitoring, Protection and
Educational Outreach on Guam project manager. "We're working to
determine a hard nesting season and to gather really good data about the
turtles and their habits in order to see through the next few years if
what we're doing is helping and they keep coming back here."
Since they started surveying the beaches five months ago, Staman and her
team have monitored 14 green sea turtle nests on the base, which
resulted in a total of 984 hatchlings, based on the empty shells left
behind. She said the statistics are critical because sea turtle
biologists predict only one out of every 1,000-2,000 hatchlings survive
to adulthood. Green sea turtles take 25-30 years to reach sexual
maturity. That means maybe only one turtle from this season could return
to Andersen in 25-30 years to reproduce.
The scientists survey the beach at least six days each week to monitor
turtle activity and any active nests. When a nest is discovered, they
mark off the site with pink tape and observe the nest daily until the
turtle is finished nesting in that location. This process could take
several weeks because the turtle lays eggs in the same location in
two-week intervals, providing about 70-120 eggs each time.
When nesting occurs at the Tarague Beach recreational area, the 36th
Force Support Squadron Outdoor Recreation does its part to protect the
endangered species by closing off any campsites that may be adjacent
turtle nests. They also provide campers with educational material on the
turtles to make guests aware of the creatures and how they can help
keep them safe.
During Staman's almost-daily treks on the beach, any activities she
notices that may harm the endangered species and their recovery are
reported to the appropriate base agencies.
"People don't realize that dogs are attracted to the scent of the nests,
or if a dog is with its owner and leaves its mark on the beach, then
it's going to attract boonie (stray) dogs that could endanger the
nests," Staman said. "So if I see someone down here with a dog, then I
report it ... and I've started seeing more signs put up by the base to
let people know dogs aren't allowed. It's nice to work on a beach where
you feel like people are really proactive and giving you support."
The base has shown initiative in other ways this year by installing
turtle-safe lighting by the Tarague Beach area. The bulbs are designed
to emit light in lower wavelengths turtles are unable to see. This
change eliminates a deterrence that may have minimized or prevented
nesting in the past and will allow emerging hatchlings a greater chance
of making it to the water by following the moonlight reflecting off the
ocean without the disorientation of artificial lighting.
Andersen also hosted a beach clean-up on Earth Day in April, with plans
to have another one in September as part of the 20th Guam International
Coastal Cleanup. This practice coincides with the base's goals of
protecting the turtles by preventing danger of entanglement in litter.
"I think the turtles are really lucky to have the beaches on Andersen
because the base's support is really good and there are fewer and fewer
nesting beaches for them," Staman said. "If this is just the start of a
long-term project, I think Andersen has the power to do something