Wildlife Sense is a research and conservation project to study and protect Kefalonia's threatened loggerhead sea turtles. Under this keystone species, we also study and monitor their native coastal habitats in Kefalonia, which are critical for their reproductive success and their year-round foraging and migrations.
The sea turtles of Kefalonia belong to the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) species. During the summer months, female turtles crawl up to the back of beaches along the south coast of Kefalonia, lay their eggs, and then cover them with sand. The eggs then utilize the warmth of the sand to incubate.
Seven to nine weeks later the embryos have developed into sea turtle hatchlings. They hatch out of their eggs during the night and slowly crawl up through the sand in groups until they reach the beach surface. They then immediately crawl towards the sea, enter the water and swim away to the open seas, where they spend their first years away from land.
Our teams monitor the nesting beaches of Kefalonia daily throughout the reproduction period to identify fresh sea turtle nesting activity. Nesting attempts are recorded, and successful nesting locations are clearly marked and protected. During the hatching period, when sea turtle hatchlings come out of the nests and crawl to the sea, our teams record the hatching events and pay special attention to prevent any accidents or damaging effects. Particular attention is paid to light pollution, which can cause hatchlings to crawl in the wrong direction, never making it to the sea. We identify potentially harmful light pollution sources and try to convince their owners to remove or shade them so that their effects are minimal. When this is not possible, we shade the nests so that emerging hatchlings are not disoriented and make it quickly to the sea.
To improve our understanding of the coastal ecosystem, its interactions with its physical environment, and how it is influenced by human activities, we maintain a continuous record of sea currents, sand and sediment composition, sea bed coverage and a wide range of parameters. This dataset is enriched with information from local weather stations and from external specialized stations that record sea currents, tidal and wave actions, as well as sea surface temperature. Our research is important for the appropriate management of the coastal ecosystem as well as for long-term planning by the local authorities.