Help save endangered sea turtles with your smartphone!

It’s that simple. You can help sea turtle conservation efforts by downloading an app on your phone and recording your turtle sightings. Scientists use this valuable data to better understand sea turtle movements, in order to establish marine protected areas and conservation corridors that protect turtles at sea.

The world’s largest sea turtle, the leatherback, can be seen off the coast of California from March to November. When you are out kayaking, whale watching, fishing or just enjoying the open ocean you could spot a turtle. Your sighting is important to scientists!

Here’s what you do if you see a sea turtle:

  1. Take a picture

  2. Record the location coordinates

  3. Identify the type of turtle

  4. Note its behavior and/or condition

When you get back on land, or before you head out on the water, download the iNaturalist app and join the Sea Turtle Spotter Project. In the app, you’ll be able to post all the important information you recorded.

Sarah Schmidt, Project Assistant for Upwell, builds leatherback awareness in California’s coastal communities from Monterey to Half Moon Bay. She frequently gives impromptu and group trainings to empower people to help sea turtles by contributing data to the Sea Turtle Spotter project. If you see Sarah out and about be sure to say hello, she’d be happy to give you a quick training on the app.

Sarah says, “It’s so much fun talking to people and hearing their stories about what they see offshore. People around here are so ocean aware, so they are so enthusiastic about Sea Turtle Spotter. Even though a lot of people tell me they’ve never seen a leatherback, it’s totally possible that you could. I tell people to look for jellies because the leatherbacks are here to forage. I met someone who did see a leatherback off of Santa Cruz and they said it was massive! I haven’t seen a leatherback myself yet, so I was listening to every detail with such excitement. They said they immediately knew it was a leatherback just because of the size.” She also says that whale watching tours have reported seeing leatherbacks. “One whale watching tour saw a leatherback right off Moss Landing and they got a great photo of it!”

Sarah also introduced Sea Turtle Spotters to Upwell’s Executive Director George Shillinger and collaborating scientist Scott Benson from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at a Turtle Talk hosted by the Elkhorn Slough Yacht Club. She said of the event, “When I got to interact with George and Scott and hear the great questions Sea Turtle Spotters had for them, that was the best! They are the experts! They are so passionate about their scientific work and that’s important because it really inspires people when they learn how endangered these incredible creatures are.”

Are you ready to become a Sea Turtle Spotter? Visit our website to learn more about the project or even become a Sea Turtle Spotter Ambassador, like Sarah! Don’t worry if you are not a sea turtle expert, Upwell has created detailed field guides to help you.

Thank you for partnering with us to in our mission to protect turtles at sea!