Marine Turtle Database and Specimen Collections Support Ongoing Research

Data on stranded marine turtles collected by the PIFSC Marine Turtle Research Program (MTRP) have been organized and archived in the PIFSC Oracle enterprise database to support a wide range of research projects. In January 2013 the MTRP used the data to prepare a comprehensive report entitled "Marine Turtle Strandings in the Hawaiian Islands, January - December 2012". The report shows that during 2012 there were 20.4% fewer standings overall than in 2011. Stranding of live turtles was 34.9% lower in 2012, and stranding of dead turtles was 14% lower than in 2011.

In other research utilizing the database, the MTRP analyzed data collected during turtle necropsies. Analysis of gender determination for 1,125 Hawaiian green turtles examined during necropsies from 2003 through 2012, showed a gender ratio of 1.08 females per male (585 females, 540 males). The gender ratio for 421 turtles necropsied from 1984 to 1994 was 1.16 females per male. The more recent data demonstrate that the Hawaiian green turtle population continues to be gender balanced.

In addition, MTRP has been providing access to the Center's turtle database and sample collections to support the research of PhD students at Texas A & M University and Oregon State University. MTRP transferred gastro-intestinal samples from 45 olive ridleys, 22 green turtles, and 2 loggerheads archived in MTRP collections to Dr. Pamela Plotkin, Director of the Sea Grant program at Texas A&M. The samples will be used by a PhD student investigating diets of pelagic sea turtles in the Pacific. And MTRP staff provided Susie Hilber-Piacenza, a Sea Grant Population Dynamics Fellow at Oregon State University, with a hands-on introduction to the Center's 40-year collection of data on nesting of Hawaiian green turtles maintained in the MTRP database. Hilber-Piacenza will use the data in her PhD dissertation at OSU supervised by Dr. Selina Heppel.