Revolutionizing Turtle Health on the Reef

Ocean Health

Revolutionizing Turtle Health on the Reef

Are the turtles off the Great Barrier Reef healthy? Join us to test a novel method to assess the body composition of sea turtles in the wild.

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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

Sea turtles are ‘sentinels’ of our ocean´s health. A healthy turtle equals a healthy environment.

Help scientists monitor the health of green sea turtle populations in areas heavily impacted by human activities.

Our reef is threatened by human activities. Townsville is experiencing the biggest port expansion of its history and will need to dredge vast amounts of sediments to make space for that. The massive flooding event that took place in January 2019 added further stress and sediments to the seagrass meadows that sea turtles graze on. Close to Bowen, the Burdekin River drains the largest agriculture catchment in Queensland with many harmful chemicals and nutrients used in this industry running off directly into the ocean. On top of that, an enormous coalmine is being built along the coast in this region. We don ́t know what the consequences of these actions will be in the future, but we would like to monitor the health of turtles in these regions as they happen.

Green sea turtles like to hang around in the same feeding area for their entire life. If these areas are now affected by human impact, or if the reef itself is having a tough time, turtles will suffer as well. That ́s why sea turtles are known as ‘sentinels’ of our ocean ́s health.

Emaciated Turtle

Emaciated Turtle

This project aims to examine is how well green sea turtle populations living in heavily human-impacted areas along the Great Barrier Reef are doing compared to turtles living in pristine areas where human impacts are not a major issue (yet).

Information about how much fat animals are able to store gives researchers’ insights into how resilient the population is to harsh conditions and how likely they are to be able to reproduce successfully.

By defining “areas of risk” for sea turtles, we aim to influence conservation management decisions and actions to better protect this endangered species.

About the research area

Magnetic Island, North Queensland, and Bowen, North Queensland, Australia, Australia, Australia & South Pacific

Daily life in the field


This is a summary:

The Scientists



ABOUT Sara Kophamel

Sara Kophamel works with Earthwatch volunteers examining sea turtle health in Queensland, Australia. Having a background in veterinary medicine, Sara is specially interested in wildlife health and conservation.



Accommodations and Food

Accommodations and Food


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