ARGOS USER STORIES

Capturing the turtle: This is mostly done at night when the turtles are least active. For this study, a free diver caught the turtles by hand and brought them to the surface. Back in the lab, general morphometrics are taken of the turtle and metal flipper tags are attached (or recorded). 

Capturing the turtle: This is mostly done at night when the turtles are least active. For this study, a free diver caught the turtles by hand and brought them to the surface. Back in the lab, general morphometrics are taken of the turtle and metal flipper tags are attached (or recorded). 

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) uses Argos satellite tracking data to determine sea turtle migration patterns in the Colombian Pacific.

Authors/Contributors: Molly Edmonds, Diego Amorocho Llanos

World Wildlife Fund

Marine turtles spend most of their time in the ocean, and only the females come to shore to nest. In many areas of the world, females return to a particular stretch of beach to nest and knowing where the beaches are plays a pivotal role in sea turtle conservation. 

Overall, we know very little about their migration patterns. Argos satellite tracking is one way of filling that knowledge gap, allowing researchers to track marine turtles as they swim from place to place. Once a tag is epoxied to the carapace the researchers simply go online to follow the transmitter's location using the newly redesigned ArgosWeb interface (some utilize the SeaTurtle.org database as well). 

WWF places satellite tags on marine turtles in many areas around the world. The information collected from the tags helps to design better management strategies for their conservation, such as creating marine protected areas (MPA) for important feeding areas or addressing threats to nesting beaches. Knowledge of marine turtle migration pathways is also important to reduce interaction with fisheries, when turtles too often become victims of by-catch.

Satellite tracking involves attaching an Argos transmitter to the upper carapace of the sea turtle. As the turtle surfaces or comes completely out of the water, the transmitter sends a message to an Argos satellite. (For an animation of how the Argos system works, check out this video.)

A few years ago, WWF placed satellite tags on two juvenile hawksbill turtles in a protected area within the Eastern Pacific. The photos on the left and below illustrate the different steps of the process, from capture to tagging to release. The satellite tags and attachment process are harmless to the turtle. Learn more about the transmitter's impact on sea turtles through this NOAA Technical Memorandum

You can follow all of the sea turtle migrations through this project on SeaTurtle.org (linked here). 

Preparing the shell: Before tags are attached to the carapace, the area has to be cleaned of algae. 

Preparing the shell: Once the shell is cleaned of algae the area is then sanded to ensure a clean, smooth attachment surface.

Waiting for epoxy to harden: Akin to "watching the grass grow". Before releasing the turtle in the wild researchers allow the epoxy to harden so that the transmitter doesn't fall off immediately. 

Attaching the tag: A slow curing epoxy is used to attach the tag to the carapace to reduce thermal impact of the epoxy on the turtle.

Releasing into the wild: Once the epoxy hardens, the sea turtles are returned to their natural habitat.