Saturdays in June and July: Learn about sea turtles on free walks

Florida's Gulf Coast is a hotspot for nesting sea turtles, but how much do you know about our flippered friends? You can learn the tale behind the turtle tracks and scout local beaches for nests by joining Mote Marine Laboratory's free, educational Turtle Walks on Saturdays in June and July.

Mote recently documented the first sea turtle nests of 2015 for the stretch of beaches from Longboat Key through Venice.

The public Turtle Walks are led by a Mote-trained volunteer participating in Mote’s Sea Turtle Patrol and Longboat Key Turtle Watch, which partner to monitor local beaches. The volunteer scouts for signs of turtle nesting as part of an effort to conserve sea turtles. She will also discuss sea turtle life history and talk about other local wildlife and natural habitats. People of all ages are welcome. Children must be accompanied by an adult. No reservations are needed.

Walks begin at 6:45 a.m. every Saturday in June and July. Participants should meet at the public beach access point at 4795 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key. Parking is available.

During the Turtle Walks, participants might find evidence of turtle nests or of "false crawls" — when females come ashore but return to sea without nesting. Guides will describe how Mote scientists and trained volunteers carefully interpret and document these signs. Participants will also learn how all beachgoers, coastal residents and visitors can keep beaches safe and inviting for sea turtles.

Southwest Florida beaches provide nesting grounds for threatened loggerhead sea turtles, endangered green sea turtles and occasionally for other sea turtle species. Florida's west coast hosts the largest nesting population of loggerheads in the Gulf of Mexico. Nesting season runs from May 1 through Oct. 31.

2015 marks Mote's 34th year of protecting sea turtles along 35 miles of Sarasota County beaches. To support Mote’s sea turtle research and conservation efforts, donate online at www.mote.org/support and select "donate." In the drop-down box, choose "Sea Turtle Conservation."