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New tech for turtle nest data collection

Training has begun for new monitoring technology to be used in the collection of data during the turtle nesting season on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula.

Rangers undertaking data collection training

Newly appointed West Coast Turtle Threat Abatement Alliance (WCTTAA) Coordinator, Dr Manuela Fischer, joined consultant Ben Jones in delivering new iPads and providing training on the NESTOR app, for two of the Alliance member groups, the Land and Sea Rangers at Mapoon (top photo) and Napranum. Training will also be rolled out to the remaining four members of the Alliance as nesting gets underway. 

The Nestor app is a purpose-designed marine turtle nesting data collection tool that provides live GPS tracking with an inbuilt map and live locations of current nests. It enables fast recording of new tracks and nests and includes offline images and identification guides of each turtle species and their track and nest characteristics.

“It’s very accurate for nest location, with a GPS accuracy to 30cm,” Ben said.

“It has a one-page data sheet interface, and it has the ability to record multiple monitoring events against the original data record, including predation and hatching success. It can also record when mesh cages are used to protect a nest.” 

The new app will replace the older cyber tracking system, which has caused some “glitches” in the field, an example being the loss of data at some of the ranger camps last year. 

“Fortunately, they have a paper backup system which meant a lot of information was retained,” Manuela added.  

“Our job is to ensure tracking the work being carried out by the Alliance members is made easier, so accurate and comparable data is consistent along the western Cape for years to come.”

Each year the WCTTAA member groups carry out turtle nesting camps for the nesting season for a period of up to four weeks at selected beaches. The rangers find the nests, record their time and location and whether they have been predated, mark the area with signage, check for any predator tracks, and cage undisturbed nests to protect them from feral animals, and in some cases, heavy vehicle traffic on the beaches. 

They monitor day and night for new nests and check the status of marked nests.  At the end of the season hatchling success rates are monitored. 

The WCTTAA was formally established in May 2013 and its members include land and sea owners and managers from Apudthama Land Trust and the Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council (NPARC), Napranum Aboriginal Land Council, Mapoon, Pormpuraaw, Kowanyama and Aak Puul Ngantam (APN).