Each year, four loggerhead hatchlings are selected from nests at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park and brought to the Aquarium for study, public display, and eventual release. [update 4/5/2022: There are no hatchlings currently at the Aquarium]
The young sea turtles will spend one year at the Aquarium under the watchful eyes of our animal care staff and an adoring public. In the wild, these young loggerheads would leave the beach and face many predators to reach their goal of finding patches of sargassum seaweed near the Gulf Stream. Loggerheads spend their early years drifting with currents in the open sea, a period called the "lost years" because we know so little about their lives during this time.
While these turtles are at the Aquarium, we collect data to develop a better understanding of the early growth and development of loggerhead sea turtles, including studies of the hatchlings' swimming capabilities at different growth stages. After one year, the young turtles are prepared for release off the coast of Virginia and North Carolina. We equip the turtles with specially designed satellite transmitters so that we can monitor their movements and behavior once they re-enter their natural ocean habitat.
This project is made possible through public donations and our partnerships with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Old Dominion University, and University of Central Florida.
You can follow their post-release tracks at the Yearling Loggerhead Satellite Tracking website.