How this Works
We use a bit of data manipulation, science, and technology. It is not easy to follow a sea turtle as it roams the oceans, but each year the technology gets better and better.
Its starts with an expensive piece of gear called a "PTT"
Platform Transmitter Terminals (PTTs) are small, battery powered devices that are most often attached to the carapace of a sea turtle. These can be attached with epoxy to hard shelled turtles like loggerheads and green sea turtles or via a simple direct attachment for leatherback sea turtles. The PTT collects data and then sends regular updates to the Argos equipped satellites each time the turtle surfaces for air. After a period of time the batteries are exhausted, and the transmitter stops working and falls off the turtle or is removed by researchers when the turtle is encountered again.
Data from the turtles are relayed to satellites flying high overhead.
The Argos system is a satellite-based location estimation and data collection system. Researchers place small devices onto sea turtles that collect and transmit data to an Argos-equipped constellation of satellites. The Argos system receives data from a PTT and then uses a special algorithm to estimate its location at the time of transmission based on the Doppler shift of the signal frequency received during the passing of one of the polar-orbiting satellites. More information about Argos can be found here
Researchers share their data with us and our system processes data as it is received from the Argos system
Once the data have arrived in our system, the website uses a special algorithm to process and remove unreliable data. Depth data, water temperature and other parameters are stored and all data are plotted on the main map.
While the technology is amazing and getting better each year, a lot can go wrong with satellite tagging. Often when we no longer receive data from a turtle is is because of biofouling or a depleted battery. Since these transmitters are in the marine environment they are subject to growth of algae and barnacles. Researchers will apply certain anti-fouling compounds to the PTTs but the protection does not last forever. With proper programming, batteries can last several years, but their capacity is not infinite and they will eventually die. Sometimes a PTT will fall of a turtle prematurely. This can happen during mating season when male turtles are competing for females. It can also occur when turtles rest under coral reefs or other underwater structures.
TrackTurtles.com is a website designed by the volunteer group Florida Leatherbacks Inc. (FLI)
FLI conducts research on endangered leatherback sea turtles in Martin County, Florida USA. Each summer FLI tracks leatherbacks from the nesting beach.
Some data presented here are provided by our data partner - Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Adopt a tracked turtle
You can support research on these amazing animals by "adopting" a tracked turtle today. 100% of donated funds are used to purchase satellite transmitters, tracking fees and website costs.
- All species
- Green turtle
Get In Touch
Would you like to see your turtles on this site, or have a question about how it all works? Let us know!
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