What’s next for the green sea turtle “Pit Stop” tag?
Prior to my Fellowship, I embarked on a unique project to dramatically reduce the cost of tagging green sea turtles. The objective was to acquire spatial and behavioural data using open source principles and technologies.
5 tags were deployed, and two weeks later, the first nesting female green sea turtle we had tagged returned with GPS and accelerometer data
We were thrilled to see that our beta enclosure and electrical payload, comprised of a GPS (Global Positioning System) and tri-axial accelerometer, survived its maiden ocean journey. Our so called “pit stop” tag (designed so researchers could replace tags on the beach without having to replace the epoxy resin that attaches the tag to the turtle’s shell) was a success – however, we knew that this would just be the beginning of our endevour.
The question now is – what’s next?
The answer is fast GPS acquisition. Commerically, a Fastlok™ GPS by Wildtrack Telemetry Systems Ltd is the best-in-show answer to aquiring accurate GPS data in less than a few seconds by collecting raw pseudo random code from GPS satellites and then processing it onboard the device. The location can then be relayed via Argos (low earth orbit satellites) and the location of the tagged animal revealed.
Could we develop an open GPS platform for use by any tag manufactuer to aquire GPS locations within less then a few seconds, and therefore lower the cost of aquiring data?
I often like to describe the experience of working with green sea turtles (chelonia mydas) to that of working with modern day dinosaurs. A reptile – the green sea turtle’s ancestors evolved on land and returned to sea over 140 million year ago, having witnessed both the evolution and extinction of dinosaurs – yet today they are classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Threats include habitat destruction and the loss of their nesting beaches, plastic pollution in the ocean (plastic bags can be mistaken for jelly fish by sea turtles and are responsible for a great number of deaths) and bycatch through commercial fishing practices.
Accessible data on the movement and behaviour of sea turtles is valuable for researchers wanting to understand how they can better monitor and conserve green sea turtles globally.