GIS puts turtle rookery on world map20/09/2011
A dedicated group of Australian-based scientific researchers and volunteers have turned to advanced mapping technology in their fight to save three of the world's endangered sea turtle species: loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles.
With sea turtle populations in drastic decline globally, the Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program (GTCP) is part of a worldwide effort to better understand and manage the dangers these animals face from predators and encroaching human activity.
Among the threats to the turtles at Gnaraloo on the Ningaloo coast, Western Australia, are foxes and native crabs – which disturb and prey on turtle eggs and hatchlings – coastal tourism developments and overenthusiastic visitors.
With studies revealing only one in 10,000 sea turtle hatchlings survive to sexual maturity, it is critical to study, understand and protect the location of primary turtle nesting sites to help secure the future of the species globally.
To do this at Gnaraloo, the GTCP partnered with GIS specialists Esri – utilising the organisation's world-leading Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to map, analyse and interpret crucial data and its implications.
GIS technology provides essential data analysis and decision-making capabilities, and enables a better understanding of the sea turtle rookeries on Gnaraloo’s coastline.
During the annual turtle nesting season at Gnaraloo (November to April), a team of scientific researchers patrol beaches along Gnaraloo, recording turtle nesting activities based on track monitoring and nest identification. This information is then entered into sophisticated GIS software for mapping and analysis, so the GTCP can determine their course of action for future protection.
At the end of each nesting season, the GTCP widely release their findings to government, environmental agencies and other researchers for consideration in planning and management decisions of visitation or land-use activities which may have significant impacts on the coastal nesting habitat of the turtles.
Through their partnership with Esri, the GTCP have significantly improved the quality of their reports, which has provided their research with greater credibility and scope, helping to highlight the need to continue protecting the Ningaloo sea turtles and their coastal nesting habitat.
With their Esri GIS solution, the GTCP have a more compelling insight into threats facing sea turtle rookeries and a clearer understanding of the action required to prevent decline.