Sea Turtle Secrets: Exploring Sea Turtle Behaviors with Trident ROVs

Latest update June 23, 2019 Started on May 10, 2018
sea

For this expedition we aim to: 1) identify individual sea turtles through the collection of photos and videos via Trident ROVs, and 2) explore the behaviors of sea turtle interactions when humans are not present.

May 10, 2018
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In The Field

TRIDENT DELIVERY DELAY
I (Stephen Dunbar) left California on June 19 for Roatan, but unfortunately, the Trident ROV had not yet arrived for me to be able bring it down. Instead, it arrived on the 20th, which means the start of our Sea Turtle Secrets project will be delayed just one more week, at which time ProTECTOR, Inc. Intern, Zoe Aguila, will bring the Trident down with her, and we'll be able to start the project going. As soon as it arrives here in Roatan, we'll be posting videos and photos of our first encounter with the Triton, and about the learning process. STAY TUNED!!

Preparation

WE'RE ALMOST READY!!
Thanks to all our supporters and colleagues from the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network (WIDECAST), the California Turtle and Tortoise Club (CTTC) Inland Empire and Low Desert Chapters, our Loma Linda University colleagues, and ProTECTOR, Inc. Friends around the world, and, of course, to OpenROV and the National Geographic Open Explorer platform, for helping us initiate this amazing project!

We've just received notice that OpenROV is shipping a Trident out to us tomorrow, and we hope to be able to take it down to Roatan on Thursday. It's out hope and plan to be able to start sharing sea turtle videos, photos, and data by sometime next week! There will be a steep learning curve with the Trident, but we'll be sharing what we're learning along the way, and, of course, letting you peek with us into all the sea turtle secrets we can discover!

You can also follow us on the ProTECTOR, Inc. Facebook page for other aspects of our sea turtle research at: https://www.facebook.com/ProTECTOR-199247040225339/

GETTING READY!


The ProTECTOR, Inc. Team is gearing up for the start of our field research season and Dr. Stephen Dunbar will be heading down to Roatan, Honduras in just over a week. We are eager to hear about our application to Open ROV about receiving two Tridents in order to start the project work as soon as we arrive in the Island. We're preparing ProTECTOR, Inc. Interns and Volunteers to assist with in-water studies for which the Tridents will be key features in collecting important data on sea turtle secrets.

Expedition Background

The Protective Turtle Ecology Center for Training, Outreach, and Research, Inc. (ProTECTOR, Inc.) is a member of the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST), and is the only organization in the country of Honduras doing sea turtle research. As such, ProTECTOR, Inc. is a leader in using computerized photo identification for identifying individual sea turtles (Dunbar, et al, 2014; Dunbar and Ito, 2015; Leslie, et al, 2016. We can now use citizen-science photos taken by divers to identify where resident turtles are spending their time. But, this means that divers must approach turtles close enough to photograph them. There are few studies that consider the impacts of divers on turtle behavior. In 2016, we published a seminal paper (Hayes, et al, 2016 in Journal of Sustainable Tourism) on the impacts of divers in approaching sea turtles in a marine protected area (MPA) off Roatán Honduras. Now, we plan to use Open ROV Trident ROVs to fully explore the ‘unseen’ behaviors of sea turtles in both the Bay Islands of Honduras, and in the Gulf of Thailand.
We are seeking a grant of 2 Trident ROVs and plan to use the Trident ROVs to record photo and video images of sea turtles from the surface during day and night without divers present, and compare their behaviors to times when divers are present. Individual turtles will be photo-ID’d and then individual behavioral traits will be profiled for each turtle. The study will take place in the Sandy Bay West End Marine Reserve off the island of Roatán, Honduras where ProTECTOR, Inc. has been doing research over the past 12 years, as well as off Koh Talu in the Gulf of Thailand, where ProTECTOR, Inc. has been working for the past two years. Peeking into the secret lives of sea turtles has huge implications for the protection and conservation of sea turtle populations in MPAs around the world, especially where sustainable eco-tourism is a goal for the protection and conservation of endangered marine species. We foresee making excellent photos and videos available to both the public and scientific communities through this project.

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