Team seeks to un­cover sea tur­tle mys­ter­ies

Midwest Times - - FRONT PAGE - Francesca Mann

A team of five re­searchers has com­pleted the 10th sea­son of the Gnar­aloo Tur­tle Con­ser­va­tion Pro­gram af­ter 120 days work­ing on a re­mote pas­toral sta­tion in the Coral Coast.

The sci­en­tific pro­gram aims to iden­tify, mon­i­tor and pro­tect marine tur­tle rook­eries along a 65km stretch of beach at the south­ern end of the Nin­ga­loo Reef.

For the past four months, a team of bud­ding sci­en­tists has called Gnar­aloo home as they stud­ied the tur­tles nest­ing in the area.

Al­though the en­dan­gered log­ger­head tur­tle is the pri­mary species found nest­ing at Gnar­aloo, green tur­tles and hawks­bill tur­tles have also been found to be nest­ing.

Sci­en­tific in­tern Tess DeSerisy, one of two Amer­i­can re­searchers h on the team, said the team hoped d to un­cover the mys­ter­ies of the sea tur­tles.

“Sea tur­tles in the WA bound­ary are not re­ally well un­der­stood,” she sh he said. “If we can get a bet­ter id idea de of things like pop­u­la­tion dyn ddr ep dy­nam­ics, it will give us a bet­ter re rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the pop­u­la­tion a as a whole.

“We’ve “just fin­ished a big 10y year yea data­base and we want to use th this hi re­search to con­serve the tu tur­tles.” ur

The T team usu­ally con­ducts com ear eec c early morn­ing beach sur­veys and com­ple­men­tary re­search ac­tiv­i­ties, ti ie but this sea­son they be­gan fl flip­per flip tag­ging.

To T ac­quire real-time feed­back of mi­gra­tion pat­terns and nest­ing a and an for­ag­ing ar­eas, two tur­tles were we w also satel­lite-tagged.

The T pro­gram launched in 2008 when h Gnar­aloo Sta­tion lease­holder Paul Richard­son teamed up with project man­ager Karen Hat­tingh.

Each sea­son a new group of in­terns is brought on board, se­lected from Aus­tralia and around the world.

Ms DeSerisy said the pro­gram had been an eye-open­ing jour­ney.

“I’ve loved it. This is a to­tally unique ex­pe­ri­ence as far as the re­mote lo­ca­tion is con­cerned and the tur­tles,” she said.

“Aus­tralia is an amaz­ing place to come and travel to. I’ve worked with tur­tles be­fore but not in this re­mote set­ting.”

The 10th field sea­son ended on Fe­bru­ary 28.

Pic­tures: Gnar­aloo Sea Tur­tle Con­ser­va­tion

The Gnar­aloo Sea Tur­tle Con­ser­va­tion Pro­gram team mem­bers Me­gan Soulsby, Tessa Con­can­non, Tess DeSerisy, Si­mone Bosshard and Heather Shipp. IN­SET: Hatch­lings at Nin­ga­loo Reef.

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