The Tybee Island Marine Science Center
The TIMSC provides valuable marine education programs and health services to island wildlife, terrapins and marine animals, as well as science and ecology services with the University of Georgia.
The Tybee Island Marine Science Center is located on the south end of the island, just off the 14th Street parking lot, next to the Tybee Pier & Pavillion. The TIMSC provides marine education programs, classes, nature tours and eco walking excursions, wildlife rehabilitation programs, and Diamondback Terrapin rescue and release programs to sick or injured adult and hatchling terrapins throughout the year.
View map of The Tybee Island Marine Science Center »
1510 Strand Avenue
Tybee Island, Georgia 31328
We are on the south end of the island, just off the 14th Street parking lot, next to the Tybee Pier & Pavillion. Open Daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
History of TIMSC
Marine education programs on Tybee Island began in 1987 with beach walks and seining. These classes were offered as an outreach program from the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service. After tremendous response, the outreach program merited a location of its own. In May 1988, only a year later, the Tybee Island Marine Science Center opened its doors.
The initial sponsors of the Center were the City of Tybee Island and the University of Georgia, Marine Extension Service. These two groups were joined in 1990 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. The formation of the Tybee Island Marine Science Foundation in 1990 established another major sponsor.
Currently, the Center is co-sponsored by the Tybee Island Marine Science Foundation, the City of Tybee Island, and NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. The Foundation is the primary sponsor and provides fundraising support and a Board of Directors.
Volunteers and interns continue to be an integral part of the operation of the Center. Their assistance contributes greatly to the success of the facility.
Tybee Island Sea Turtle Project
In addition to being a great place to enjoy the sun and surf, Tybee Island beaches are important nesting areas for endangered sea turtles. They return each year to nest from May 1 to October 31. If you are here during these months, we hope you will help us protect these magnificent creatures by remembering a few simple things:
- It is against the law to touch or disturb nesting sea turtles, hatchlings, or their nests. Sea turtles are protected by the Endangered Species Act.
- Avoid using flashlights or flash photography while on the beach at night.
- Turn off outside patio lights and shield indoor lights from shining directly onto the beach at 9 pm during the nesting season, May through October. Lights disturb nesting turtles and hatchlings.
- Dispose of garbage and recyclables properly. Pollution can severely harm marine life.
- If you see any sea turtle activity, please call the Tybee Island Marine Science Center at 912.786.5917 or 912.695.6922.
SEA TURTLES DIG THE DARK!
Turn off beach front lighting at 9 pm.
May 1 - October 31
Coastal Georgia's salt marshes are home to many Carolina diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin centrata). These turtles can live for 40 years and the females do not start nesting until they are seven to eight years old. Nesting occurs from May to July and the eggs incubate for 60-70 days before the quarter-sized hatchlings emerge.
Prior to the 1920s, diamondback terrapins were hunted to the brink of extinction in order to satisfy Americans' appetite for wine-based turtle soup. During prohibition, however, the soup lost popularity and terrapin populations started to recover in some areas. Current threats to diamondback terrapins include habitat loss, vehicle strikes, and drowning in crab traps. Some US states are also exporting these turtles to the Asian market for turtle soup.
Nesting female terrapins search for high ground in order to lay their eggs above the high tide line. Asphalt causeways often provide such nesting grounds but many females are stuck by vehicles during their search. Male and female terrapins also scavenge on the bait left in crab traps. Once caught in these traps the turtles cannot escape and will drown. Diamondback terrapins are listed as an unusual species in Georgia and have no federal protection.
The Tybee Island Marine Science Center staff rescues and receives sick or injured adult and hatchling terrapins throughout the year. Most of these animals are then taken to local veterinarians or the Georgia Sea Turtle Center for treatment and release. When gravid females are killed by cars on the causeway, center staff members extract the eggs and transport them to Armstrong State University for incubation and subsequent release. Healthy hatchlings become part of our head start program that allows them to reach a larger size before release in order to reduce the chance of predation.
Lastly, we offer Terrapin Excluder Devices made for crab traps to the public at no cost.