TURTLE HEALTH RESEARCH
The overarching aim of our research is to uncover information that can feed back into the processes of diagnosing and treating disease as well as population health assessments in the wild.
These would be useful tools to save individual animals, but perhaps more importantly, could be used as early warning signs of deteriorating environmental health in an area where sea turtles live for an extended time.
To this aim, we study wild populations of healthy animals, sick animals that are undergoing rehabilitation at ReefHQ Turtle hospital, and the ontogenic development of the immune system in little hatchlings in our research facility. This combination of animal groups provide opportunities to study sick and healthy turtles in parallel at various ages, which will address important conservation issues for these threatened species.
A turtle health scientist needs to have very versatile skills in order to study these endangered animals. We collect data and samples from free-living turtles in the field, then we analyse samples in the laboratory, and finally we care for and closely study turtles in our research facility ‘The Caraplace’. Below you will find a few snapshots on how that works. A full list of current research projects can be found here.
Once we catch a turtle, we tag it with a titanium flipper tag inscribed with a unique ID number. All data is recorded against this number and researchers will be able to recognize them and access this data if the turtle is ever caught again.