May 1, 2013: - Children from Annandale State School have been keeping tabs on five flatback turtles as they make their way from their nesting site off the coast of Papua New Guinea to northern Australia.
The Year 3 and 4 students have been able to work out where the turtles are each day using satellite tracking.
“We were able to attach tracking tags on the five female turtles as they completed nesting on Waral Kawa (Deliverance Island) in the Torres Strait,” James Cook University’s Dr Mark Hamann said.
“Each night the position of the turtles has been logged and the next day the children have been able to pinpoint on their maps where the turtles are and how far they have travelled.”
Dr Hamann said that the project, which is funded by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Research Program and the Torres Strait Regional Authority, provided a unique opportunity to engage the students in a fun and exciting way.
“As they get involved in the Seaturtle.org Satellite Tracking Program it can add to a variety of their lessons such biology, maths, and geography,” he said.
Their teacher Leesa Taylor said that tracking the turtles was engaging the students in an authentic and real activity that fitted perfectly with the National Curriculum
“Students have improved their mapping skills, enjoyed checking the progress on the turtles and are learning so much about sea turtles from the visits of Dr Hamann to the classroom,” she said.
Dr Hamann said that while the project was a wonderful teaching aid, it was also an important research project involving rangers from the Torres Strait as well as researchers at James Cook University.
“This is the first time since the 1980s that studies have concentrated on this important nesting site for the flatback turtle on Waral Kawa,” he said, “and while the turtle is listed as a vulnerable species there is also the important local tradition of harvesting turtle eggs.”
The research team has set up remote cameras on the island to record the number of turtles using the beach.
“But we also found there was a population of black rats on the island which probably found their way ashore from passing ships,” Dr Hamann said. “As they eat turtle eggs and hatchlings they pose a threat to the survival flatback turtle.
“We have begun an eradication project and hopefully we have discovered their presence on the island early enough to prevent any significant impact.”
Contact: Dr Hamann 4781 4491 or 0415 298238
JCU Media: Jim O’Brien 4781 4822 or 0418 892449
Issued: May 1, 2013