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Kristen Hart, Ph.D.

Research Ecologist

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Preparing to release a juvenile green sea turtle at Buck Island after workup. PC: Andrew Crowder. Permits: BUIS-2016-SCI-0009, NMFS # 20315.
Preparing to release a juvenile green sea turtle at Buck Island after workup. PC: Andrew Crowder. Permits: BUIS-2016-SCI-0009, NMFS # 20315.

Preparing to release a juvenile green sea turtle at Buck Island after workup. PC: Andrew Crowder. Permits: BUIS-2016-SCI-0009, NMFS # 20315.

I have just finished a satellite tag application to an adult green sea turtle prior to release. PC: USGS.

I have just finished a satellite tag application to an adult green sea turtle prior to release. PC: USGS. Permits:
DRTO-2016-SCI-0008, MTP-176, NMFS # 17381.

Releasing a juvenile green sea turtle after workup in the Dry Tortugas National Park. PC: USGS. Permits: DRTO-2008-SCI-0008, MTP-176, NMFS # 17381.

Releasing a juvenile green sea turtle after workup in the Dry Tortugas National Park. PC: USGS. Permits: DRTO-2008-SCI-0008, MTP-176, NMFS # 17381.

An adult male loggerhead sea turtle with a satellite tag in Biscayne National Park. PC: Andrew Crowder. Permits: BISC-2020-SCI-0007, MTP-176, NMFS # 20315-01.

An adult male loggerhead sea turtle with a satellite tag in Biscayne National Park. PC: Andrew Crowder. Permits: BISC-2020-SCI-0007, MTP-176, NMFS # 20315-01.

Preparing for an in-water capture of a green sea turtle in the Dry Tortugas. PC: USGS. Permits: DRTO-2010-SCI-0009, MTP-176, NMFS # 17381.

Preparing for an in-water capture of a green sea turtle in the Dry Tortugas. PC: USGS. Permits: DRTO-2010-SCI-0009, MTP-176, NMFS # 17381.

Releasing a loggerhead in the Dry Tortugas. PC: Brett Seymour. Permits: DRTO-2014-SCI-0004, MTP-176, NMFS # 17381.

Releasing a loggerhead in the Dry Tortugas. PC: Brett Seymour. Permits: DRTO-2014-SCI-0004, MTP-176, NMFS # 17381.

Mixing epoxy for a satellite tag deployment in Biscayne Bay. PC: USGS. Permits: BISC-2019-SCI-0008, MTP-176, NMFS # 20315-01.

Mixing epoxy for a satellite tag deployment in Biscayne Bay. PC: USGS. Permits: BISC-2019-SCI-0008, MTP-176, NMFS # 20315-01.

A nesting hawksbill sea turtle with a satellite tag and accelerometer at Buck Island National Monument, St. Croix, USVI. PC: Andrew Crowder. Permit: BUIS-2014-SCI-0019.

Nesting hawksbill sea turtle with a satellite tag and accelerometer at Buck Island National Monument, St. Croix, USVI. PC: Andrew Crowder. Permit: BUIS-2014-SCI-0019.

Preparing to release a juvenile green sea turtle at Buck Island after workup. PC: Andrew Crowder. Permits: BUIS-2016-SCI-0009, NMFS # 20315.I have just finished a satellite tag application to an adult green sea turtle prior to release. PC: USGS.Releasing a juvenile green sea turtle after workup in the Dry Tortugas National Park. PC: USGS. Permits: DRTO-2008-SCI-0008, MTP-176, NMFS # 17381.An adult male loggerhead sea turtle with a satellite tag in Biscayne National Park. PC: Andrew Crowder. Permits: BISC-2020-SCI-0007, MTP-176, NMFS # 20315-01.Preparing for an in-water capture of a green sea turtle in the Dry Tortugas. PC: USGS. Permits: DRTO-2010-SCI-0009, MTP-176, NMFS # 17381.Releasing a loggerhead in the Dry Tortugas. PC: Brett Seymour. Permits: DRTO-2014-SCI-0004, MTP-176, NMFS # 17381.Mixing epoxy for a satellite tag deployment in Biscayne Bay. PC: USGS. Permits: BISC-2019-SCI-0008, MTP-176, NMFS # 20315-01.A nesting hawksbill sea turtle with a satellite tag and accelerometer at Buck Island National Monument, St. Croix, USVI. PC: Andrew Crowder. Permit: BUIS-2014-SCI-0019.

Meet Kristen Hart

I am a Research Ecologist, focusing on population-level studies of a broad array of herpetofauna and other wildlife in South Florida. I lead several research programs and collaborate closely with other U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), university and National Park Service scientists.

I have built a program of USGS cyclic- and reimbursable funded research, with major funding being provided from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the USGS Priority Ecosystem Studies Program, the National Park Service and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. I work with rare, threatened, endangered species of reptiles including Diamondback terrapins, loggerhead sea turtles, green sea turtles, hawksbill sea turtles, Kemp’s ridley sea turtles and crocodilians. I also work with the invasive Burmese python in the Greater Everglades.

I am based in Davie, FL and have field sites in the Everglades, Biscayne and Dry Tortugas National Parks in South Florida, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge (Gulf Shores, AL) and Buck Island Reef National Monument (St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands).

2005    Ph.D. Ecology, Duke University
1999    M.E.M. Coastal Environmental Management, Duke University
1997    B.S. Biology, Boston College

Get To Know Kristen

Poughkeepsie, NY and we had a family home in Cape Cod, MA. Spending time in streams and ponds and then out at the coast definitely contributed to my love of being in nature.

Office days are numerous, and on a typical day I may have to review a paper, write a portion of a manuscript, interpret results from data analysis and communicate findings to various audiences. I also manage a team of about 10 employees and have many meetings with them and other partners. Field days are the most fun, where we may be on the water catching sea turtles using hand-capture techniques, affixing satellite tracking devices to them and sampling them. In the summer we spend a lot of nights working on the nesting beaches in remote locations, so that is an up-all-night routine and then we sleep in the day.

I am married and we have a sweet 7 year old daughter who is the light of my life! I spend a lot of time with her swimming, playing, riding bikes, doing art projects, reading, etc. She keeps us on our toes!

I think I have always loved working with turtles, so it is hard to pick one species. I truly love Diamondback terrapins – I had a “rescue” terrapin as a pet for 13 years. But I also love all the sea turtles!

I lead cutting-edge research on sea turtles where we are testing long-held hypotheses about how these ancient mariners operate – and we are finding new things! We have amassed the world’s largest male sea turtle satellite tracking dataset, which we hope to publish later this year. We are quantifying the sizes of areas used by sea turtles, and then defining important areas used by sea turtles tagged in multiple different locations – these results can be used by managers to designate priority areas for conservation. In some cases, we are providing the very first data on turtles in these locations. We are also estimating important survival rates for these imperiled populations and shedding light on the genetic stock structure of the populations. It is very exciting! Finally, we are defining when turtles are in migration modes, and where those migration corridors are.

Each individual research project is different as the goals are often to inform a specific management question. Certain aspects are different because it varies by site how to best capture them in different habitats, but the standard workups are similar, the protocol to affix a satellite tag is similar, etc.

I was actually a French major in college, then I discovered my love of biology. Then I went to Duke to get my Master’s and after that, I became affiliated w/ the federal government – I’ve been with USGS for 23 years!

Get involved, volunteer on research trips, communicate w/ scientists, read the peer reviewed literature, go to conferences, etc.

I will have a federal pension when I retire, and I have shaped my own research program that fits well within the U.S. Department of the Interior, in which USGS is housed.

I like publishing our work to communicate it – which means analyzing our data. The ‘discovery’ of looking at new results and being the first to see them or know them is exciting!

Interview conducted in June 2023

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