Sea turtles spend most of their lives in the ocean, so nesting periods are an important time to interact with turtles. TLT researchers conduct regular surveys of key nesting beaches to study leatherbacks and other sea turtles.
Research teams composed of scientists and volunteers measure nesting turtles, count eggs, and register nest temperatures. Sometimes they collect data on a nest without observing the turtle that created it. This information will be added to calculations on population size. Researchers also take note of threats to turtles like artificial lighting on the beach, which may deter turtles from nesting. The presence of scientific teams at nesting beaches helps to scare off poachers and predators to maximize the number of hatchlings produced.
TLT scientists sometimes outfit turtles with satellite tags to track their movements. Satellite tracking data reveals what types of habitat turtles occupy at various stages in their lifecycle. For example, we have learned that leatherbacks stay in shallow waters close to shore during nesting periods (e.g. internesting) and travel long distances across wide stretches of open ocean in search of jellyfish. Satellite tags provide information about how turtles behave (e.g., swim speed and depth, duration and frequency of dives). Tag-equipped turtles also serve as "ocean sensors," informing and validating environmental models. Data from satellite tags helps us understand how to protect turtles, whenever and wherever they are vulnerable to human impacts.