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Nesting Marine Turtles: WAMSI Kimberley Marine Research Program Lunch and Learn

WAMSI Kimberley Marine Research Program Lunch and Learn sessions

When:  Thursday, 19 October 2017, 12:00-1:00

Where: Torndirrup/Nambung seminar rooms, Kensington

What:  Key biological indices required to understand and manage nesting sea turtles along the Kimberley coast.

Who:    Dr Scott Whiting, DBCA

              Dr Tony Tucker, DBCA

              Dr Nicki Mitchell, UWA

              Blair Bentley, UWA

              Dr Oliver Berry, CSIRO               

As part of the WAMSI Kimberley Marine Research Program, supported by the Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy, scientists from DBCA, UWA and CSIRO have been working with Traditional Owners to better understand nesting sea turtles in the Kimberley.

The Kimberley region is one of few places in Australia where a knowledge gap remains for a basic understanding of marine turtle nesting biology. The females are most accessible when they come ashore to lay eggs and predictable because individuals show strong fidelity to rookeries. This fidelity also drives spatial differentiation and allows DNA analyses to define connectivity and management units. With such an extensive regional scale project spanning 12000 km of coastline we also identified climate change as a major environmental driver of potential population change. Climate change also has potential to modify beach habitat through sea level rise and increased storm events and incubation parameters are changed by rising thermal conditions. Turtle sex is determined by incubation temperature of the beach sand and warmer temperatures may skew sex ratios towards females or even hotter temperatures to lethal levels.  The Kimberley has existing Indigenous custodians of land and sea that reside along the coast or in regional urban communities. These groups hold a wealth of knowledge about the natural environment and are committed to its management. These groups were integral to this project.

This presentation discusses four major project components: investigating distribution and seasonality of nesting; defining management units using genetics; identifying critical incubation indices affected by climate change impacts; and developing two-way communication and collaborative partnerships with Indigenous groups through planning, onground work, training and information exchange. A key component to the research was the participation by 11 Indigenous groups.

Some of the main findings that will be discussed include:

  • Over 85% of all nesting beaches were surveyed across the Kimberley by aerial survey and onground visits
  • Nesting hot spots were identified for winter and summer nesting seasons
  • New flatback genetic stocks were identified and green turtle stocks were better defined
  • Pivotal temperatures and lethal incubations thresholds were identified for green and flatback turtles
  • Extensive collaborative field work resulted in an enhanced working relationship across multiple groups.
  • Strategic regional and community management objectives were integrated to identify potential long-term monitoring locations and methods.

Please join us to learn more about sea turtles, their nesting habitats and management in the Kimberley.

As part of the WAMSI Kimberley Marine Research Program, supported by the Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy, scientists from CSIRO and ALCES (based in Canada) have been building a modelling tool to condense data collected from the KMRP projects to help inform future management decisions that may be required for the marine environment. Researchers have employed the use of two models (Ecopath with Ecosim [EwE] and ALCES) to help improve our understanding of the likely impact of increases in different pressures, and how effective different management strategies might be. Its hoped that such a tool and the outputs will improve capacity to plan and manage the Kimberley’s network of marine reserves. Dr. Fabio Boschetti from CSIRO will give an overview of the initial results from the EwE simulations of impact on the marine environment under different scenarios.   

More information is available at

For more information or to RSVP, please contact Kelly Waples at : Science Coordinator, Kimberley Marine Research Program

9219 9796



Project Summary



DBCA Kensington

Thu 19 Oct 2017 To Thu 19 Oct 2017

12:00pm To 1:00pm