Sea Turtle Tracking

Mote Marine Laboratory is one of the world’s few remaining private marine research laboratories and, as a nonprofit organization, is funded through federal, state and local grants, individual donors and organizations such as Ocean & Company.

Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program utilizes sea turtle GPS trackers to analyse sea turtle migratory and nesting patterns. Their findings contribute to a better understanding of nesting trends and a brighter future for many generations of sea turtles to come.

Ocean & Co proudly supports Mote's mission! With every Sea Turtle Tracking bracelet purchased Ocean & Co will make a donation to Mote Marine Laboratory.

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Mote Marine Laboratory is one of the world’s few remaining private marine research laboratories and, as a nonprofit organization, is funded through federal, state and local grants, individual donors and organizations such as Ocean & Company.

Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program utilizes sea turtle GPS trackers to analyse sea turtle migratory and nesting patterns. Their findings contribute to a better understanding of nesting trends and a brighter future for many generations of sea turtles to come.

Ocean & Co proudly supports Mote's mission! With every Sea Turtle Tracking bracelet purchased Ocean & Co will make a donation to Mote Marine Laboratories.


How do satellite transmitters work?

Researchers attach a battery-powered satellite transmitter to the sea turtle’s upper shell, or carapace. Each time the turtle surfaces, the transmitter sends out data on its geographic location, which can be received by satellites orbiting overhead. In turn, the satellites send the data to scientists’ computers.

Why is my turtle showing up on land?

The data points on the turtle’s location vary in accuracy — the ones that appear to be on land are less accurate, and scientists take this into account when describing the migrations of sea turtles. Accuracy depends on the number of messages the satellite receives from the transmitter, the positions of the transmitter and satellites in relation to each other, and the environmental conditions.

Why is my turtle not transmitting?

Transmissions can only be picked up during short windows of time when certain satellites are overhead and the sea turtle comes up for a breath at the surface. Mote’s tags are programmed to transmit each time the turtle surfaces, though transmissions aren’t always successfully received by satellites. In other cases, tags may be programmed to transmit less often to save battery life. Also, transmissions vary in accuracy (see point 2 above), and Mote’s map does not show the least accurate transmissions. These factors can result in a few days with no received transmissions. Eventually, however, all transmitters stop sending information, and that can happen for several reasons:

  • Attachment or antenna failure: Sea turtles are known to hide under rocks, and loggerhead sea turtles have even been observed “scratching their backs” on rocks and reefs. These behaviors could dislodge the transmitter or break or damage its antenna.
  • Biofouling: Most transmitters have a “saltwater switch” which tells the transmitter it’s at the surface of the water (when its sensors are dry), where it can send data. However, the saltwater switch could be compromised by algae, or even coral, mussels or barnacles growing over the sensor, making it seem wet all the time. Mote scientists put anti-fouling paint on satellite tags to prevent this for as long as possible.
  • Mortality: All species of sea turtles are threatened or endangered, which is why we are interested in tracking their behaviors. Scientists can sometimes guess at a turtle’s cause of death based on transmitter data: For example, if a turtle has been caught as by-catch by a commercial fishery, frequent transmissions in a line towards shore could indicate the turtle is deceased aboard a fishing vessel headed towards shore.
  • Dead battery: Most batteries on transmitters can last up to a year. To save energy, transmitters only actively try to transmit when the sea turtle is at the water’s surface.