A satellite tag can be deployed to remotely track an individual turtle for an extended period across extensive geographies. Satellite tags have most often been deployed on post-reproductive females at nesting beaches to establish migration routes and have also provided critical information on pelagic foraging grounds far from shore.
Acoustic tags are less costly than satellite tags and rely on the use of a hydrophone to receive data. Acoustic receivers can be installed in foraging habitats or along migration routes to track individuals at intervals. Since acoustic tags are smaller than satellite tags, they can be deployed on hatchlings.
Tracers and Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMs)
We conduct experiments with passive tracers to simulate the movements of sea turtle hatchlings dispersing from a nesting beach. Cross-referencing with remotely sensed environmental data, such as ocean currents and sea surface temperature, allows us to outline key habitats and identify correlated patterns of use by particular age-size classes or species of turtles. Using this ROMs model, we examine how regional ocean currents and eddies can assist hatchlings in reaching safer offshore waters as well as how changing ocean conditions may impact hatchling transport.
Habitat-Based Predictive Models
Our first habitat-based predictive model, South Pacific Turtle Watch, is informed by fisheries observer datasets (contributed by governments, non-profit organizations and regional fisheries management organizations), leatherback turtle satellite tracking datasets and remotely-sensed environmental datasets. We train fishers and resource managers to use this model predicting sea turtle movements and distributions in association with near real-time oceanographic conditions as a means to reduce fisheries interactions.
Sea Turtle Spotter on the iNaturalist platform is a highly accessible smartphone application that allows marine enthusiasts to report turtle sightings and enables scientists to better understand changes in marine turtle populations, behaviors, movements, foraging locations, and habitat conditions. Citizen science data can be used to improve sea turtle management and decrease negative human interactions (e.g., bycatch, ship strikes), as well as to build conservation awareness.