Revolutionising Turtle Health on the Reef

Ocean Health

Revolutionising Turtle Health on the Reef

How do you know if turtles off the Great Barrier Reef are healthy? Join us to test a novel method to assess body composition of sea turtles in the wild.

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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

The primary outcome of this research will be the development of a plan to reduce conflict between local community farmers and raiding wildlife.

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. 

Emaciated Turtle

Emaciated Turtle

We are sea turtle researchers, and although we love sea turtles, we know that our work is part of a bigger scenario. 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 we refer to sea turtles as ‘sentinels’ of our ocean ́s health. 

What we want to examine is how well turtle populations living in human-impacted areas are doing compared to turtles living in pristine areas where human impacts are not a major issue (yet). What ́s the point in doing this? By defining “areas of risk” for sea turtles, we will actually be able to influence conservation management decisions and actions. We may be able to better protect the areas our sea turtles call their home. This is only possible with your help.

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 is a Spanish veterinarian currently doing her PhD in sea turtle health at James Cook University, Townsville. Sara received her Degree of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Zaragoza, Spain, and worked for two years with wildlife and exotic pets at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Germany. Driven by the desire to focus more on wildlife health and conservation, she decided to join the Turtle Health Research team at James Cook University to start her PhD. Townsville is next door to the Great Barrier Reef and to important green sea turtle foraging grounds, as well as home to amazing nature and wildlife. Sara is especially interested in developing new diagnostic tools for assessing wildlife in their natural environment and is currently adapting a tool for examining green sea turtles in the field.



Accommodations and Food

Accommodations and Food


Comments & Questions

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