The objective of this research is to improve our understanding of threatened and endangered sea turtle populations in the US Pacific Islands Region (PIR). This includes studies on the status, trends, geographic distributions, biology, ecology, and anthropogenic threats pertaining to these populations. The PIR includes the Hawaiian Archipelago (Main Hawaiian Islands, MHI, and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, NWHI), the Mariana Archipelago (Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, CNMI), American Samoa, and the Pacific Remote Island Area (PRIA, includes various US affiliated low-lying islands and atolls).
One focus of this project is to analyze existing datasets from surveys of insular turtle populations using aerial and underwater towed-diver methods. Conducting quantitative analyses on these datasets will provide insights into abundance, trends, geographic distributions, and habitat use of insular green (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) across the PIR.
Another major focus of this research is to work with partners in Guam and CNMI to understand foraging and nesting turtle populations in the Mariana Archipelago. This work includes the deployment of satellite tags on foraging and nesting turtles, and subsequent analysis of the location and dive data to determine habitat use, migration routes, and connections to other areas (particularly in Asia and Southeast Asia). Additionally, analysis of capture-recapture data from in-water and nesting beach surveys in the Marianas will allow for estimates of population abundance around these islands. Similar analyses may also be conducted for turtles in American Samoa as the research program there continues to grow.
A third focus area is the development of population models for populations with sufficient data—this would likely begin with the green turtle population in the Hawaiian Archipelago, for which nesting and stranding data exist. Various quantitative analyses of the stranding and nesting databases from Hawaii will improve our understanding of the population dynamics of the recovering Hawaiian green turtle, which can serve as a model for understanding changes in other populations throughout the PIR.
A fourth focus area includes evaluation of fisheries bycatch and its impacts on turtle populations in the PIR, and in neighboring regions that also provide habitat for PIR turtles. This may include analysis of bycatch data in the Hawaiian and American Samoan longline fisheries, as well as the collection and analysis of data on fisheries effort and bycatch in areas of high bycatch concern for turtles (e.g., Indonesia and Philippines).
Computer, field, and laboratory analyses to support the above focus areas will be designed as needed.
Jones TT, Seminoff JA: Feeding Biology: Advances from Field-Based Observations, Physiological Studies, and Molecular Techniques, in The Biology of Sea Turtles, Vol. III. Wyneken J, Musick J, Lohmann K (eds). Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2013
Jones TT, et al: Resource Requirements of the Pacific Leatherback Turtle Population. PLoS ONE 7(10): e45447. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045447, 2012
Jones TT, et al: Growth of captive leatherback turtles Dermochelys coriacea with inferences on growth in the wild: implication for population decline and recovery. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 399: 84-92, 2011
Protected species; Quantitative; Population modeling; Endangered; Ecology; Marine turtles; Fisheries bycatch;