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UK Scientists Lead the Tracking of Atlantic’s Endangered Sea Turtles


UK Scientists are leading research which seeks to unlock the migratory secrets of endangered marine turtles at all four corners of the Atlantic this summer. Members of the public are invited to log on and follow their progress on a ground breaking free access website provided by USA non-profit SEATURTLE.ORG.

This summer, marine turtle scientists from the Centre for Ecology and Conservation of the University of Exeter in Cornwall are working with a range of national and international conservation groups in North Carolina USA, Cayman Islands, Northern Cyprus, Turkey and the Cape Verde Islands to track the highly migratory nesting marine turtles. Work is funded by the UK Government’s Natural Environment Research Council and a host of interested donors, concerned at the status of many sea turtle populations.

Workers have already begun attaching high tech satellite transmitters to adult female loggerhead sea turtles in the USA and Northern Cyprus with plans to deploy up to 15 more in July. The project will allow the tracking of real-time movements of the turtles from their nesting beaches to their feeding areas which are often many hundreds of miles away.

Seven turtles were monitored during last years’ nesting season to have satellite transmitters glued to their shells so that their post-nesting migratory movements could be followed. Several of those transmitters are still functioning, providing data on daily locations of each of the turtles.

"The results we obtained from the 2003 studies were invaluable in providing insights into the movements of these critically reduced populations." Said Dr. Brendan Godley, NERC Research Fellow with the Marine Turtle Research Group, University of Exeter in Cornwall. "We look forward to extending the work. These findings have tremendous practical value and given the huge amounts of traffic on the website are of immense public interest".

This year the turtles are being tagged earlier in the season in order to study the turtle’s movements during the nesting season. Sea turtles typically nest three to four times in a season, with each nesting event separated by about two weeks. Their movements during the nesting season, between nesting events, are not well understood. "The more we can learn about sea turtles and their in-water behavior, the better we can design management strategies to effectively protect these amazing creatures," said Dr. Matthew Godfrey, biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, one of the international consortia members.

Visitors to SEATURTLE.ORG can follow the progress of the turtles tagged so far in a number of other projects being hosted at the site."The site has created a great deal of interest among sea turtle enthusiasts, being visited nearly 9000 times per day, and has proven to be a tremendous benefit to sea turtle researchers by helping them manage the large amounts of data generated by satellite tags" said Dr. Michael Coyne, Founder of SEATURTLE.ORG, "We hope to see many more interested members of the public, particularly school children logging on and finding out about these fantastic sea creatures."

Dr. Brendan Godley |
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