Those who use the San Gabriel River Trail between Long Beach and Seal Beach, and Anaheim Bay near the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, have been delighted to see an unusual sight in the water: Eastern Pacific green sea turtles, a federally listed endangered species.

Marine Biology Professor Christopher Lowe studies a variety of sea creatures and is an expert in underwater tracking technologies. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries approached Dr. Lowe, in fact, to help study turtle movements, so he and his graduate student, Dan Crear, are working with NOAA researchers who hold capture and tagging permits, applied acoustic transmitters to 18 turtle shells.

Dr. Lowe and Crear examined how anthropogenic (human) effects on water temperature may influence turtle distribution and residency. “There are several power plants in the river that discharge seawater used to cool the generators,” Lowe explains. Turtles like the warm outflow water, so Lowe’s group put acoustic listening stations and water temperature loggers along a section of the river and in Anaheim Bay.

“Most of the turtles tagged in the river stayed in the river,” says Lowe, while some traveled to Anaheim Bay and even into Long Beach’s Alamitos Bay in the summer. In the winter, however, they all returned to the warmer river, Lowe explained.