Enhancing Strategic Collaborations for the Conservation of Northwest Atlantic and Mediterranean Loggerhead Marine Turtles

Duke University, USA and University of Exeter, UK are undertaking a collaborative project to support the process of defining marine turtle high use areas, including ways to handle data that can contribute to answering this question. This pilot effort will focus on loggerhead marine turtles (Caretta caretta) in the Northwest Atlantic and Mediterranean regions. The project aim is to provide opportunities for regional marine turtle experts to bring together their knowledge, data, and input and apply them to conservation issues on a larger scale.

Major themes to discuss include:

1) effective ways to leverage existing and past project results/data (e.g., documented/undocumented processes and criteria at local, regional, international levels, standardized data archival, accessible tools and methods for data processing) for current and future collaborations;

2) processes for defining a criteria and classifications for marine turtle habitat and area use;

3) methods for incorporating empirical data and expert driven knowledge to a given criteria to define marine turtle high use areas; and

4) identifying new short- and long-term priority projects, educational resources, opportunities for students, and funding sources that would contribute to defining marine turtle high use areas.

There are many ways to leverage existing and past project results/data, especially when contributing to initiatives that incorporate large amounts of data from various sources. Researchers can rely on data management applications and services to archive their telemetry tracking data, create public-facing tracking web pages, and have a repository where project managers could be contacted for data sharing and collaboration. However, the process for preserving and sharing valuable tracking data to maximize the benefit they can bring for turtle conservation and management can be made more efficient.

Duke University and University of Exeter will be conducting surveys and hosting workshops to discuss standard practices and recommended improvements that can better meet the needs of highly collaborative projects which aggregate data. To initiate the process, marine turtle experts who have undertaken recent tracking projects will be asked how they manage tracking data and their current data sharing policies. Workshops prioritizing the Northwest Atlantic and Mediterranean regions will allow for gathering information applicable to both regions regarding these themes.

Widely distributing this project’s outcomes can spark interest and inform other global marine spatial planning efforts, such as identifying marine turtle high use areas for other regions and species, important marine mammal areas (IMMAs), important bird areas (IBAs), or ecologically or biologically significant areas (EBSAs). Determining appropriate ways to move forward while applying the best available scientific data can help to advance these international efforts.

Region Workshops

Northwest Atlantic Workshop: March 22, 2021, 9 am – 12 pm EDT

Mediterranean Workshop: March 24, 2021, 11 am – 2 pm UTC

Main discussion points:

1. The outcome of the survey on data management and sharing of sea turtle tracking data, and

2. Related topics on loggerhead sea turtles in either the Northwest Atlantic or Mediterranean.

High Use Areas Workshop:

April 22, 2021, 9 am – 11 am EDT / 1 pm – 3 pm UTC

Main discussion points:

1. The outcomes of the two regional workshops, bringing together researchers working in the Northwest Atlantic and Mediterranean, and

2. Dive deeper into the process of defining loggerhead high use areas in these regions

A collaboration with Connie Kot and Sarah DeLand (Duke University, Nicholas School of the Environment), Drs. Annette Broderick, Brendan Godley, and Alan Rees (University of Exeter, Centre for Ecology and Conservation) and Dr. Matthew Godfrey (Duke University/North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission)