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Sara Kophamel Orduña

Research Project: Assessment of Health Status in Sea Turtle Populations by Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis Method

Sara Kophamel is a veterinarian particularly interested in examining portable diagnostic methods for wildlife health assessments. Health assessments in sea turtles are often hindered by the lack of an accurate and non-invasive tool that can be used in the field. Sara's current research aims at calibrating body composition assessment methods, which are an essential component in ecological and nutritional studies.

The composition of the body (i.e. fat mass and fat-free mass) may indicate nutritional imbalances and ill-health, and can also inform about the productivity of the foraging habitat. Sara is therefore calibrating a device which measures fat mass, called bioelectrical impedance analyser or BIA, on green turtles (Chelonia mydas). To do so, she is using CT scans and convolutional neural networks for image processing, commonly known as artificial intelligence.

By implementing BIA as a new, diagnostic tool for sea turtles, Sara expects to improve population assessment studies and to facilitate rehabilitation decisions. After completing her Ph.D., Sara would like to diversify her skills by pursuing a career in wildlife conservation.