Initial research for the program will focus on gathering more information on flatbacks. Much of their lifecycle is unknown and there is not a clear understanding of how many turtles there are in WA, or where they breed, forage and mate.
Current research is focussed on answering the following questions:
Biological knowledge gaps:
- Where are the nesting beaches and when are the turtles nesting?
- Where are the foraging areas, migration routes and mating areas?
- How related are turtles from different nesting beaches – are most turtles in WA from the same breeding population or do they make up several different populations?
- Do individual turtles nest at different beaches and do they always return to their natal beach (where they hatched) to lay eggs?
- Do turtles from different rookeries forage in different places or are there common feeding grounds?
- Where do turtles go and what habitats do they use once they have hatched?
- What is the role that flatbacks play in the ecosystem?
- What do they eat and how do they forage for food?
Monitoring trends in the population:
- What is the benchmark abundance (numbers) for nesting flatbacks in WA?
- Is the abundance of the North West Shelf stock remaining stable?
- How can we tell if the Gorgon Project is having a significant impact on the wider stock?
- How can technology improve monitoring? (For example remote cameras, aerial survey, satellite technology)
- What are the best places to set up monitoring programs for flatbacks?
- What are the main sources of mortality in flatbacks?
- What are the main pressures (threats) to turtles and how might these impact turtles over space and time?
- How does climate change and increasing temperatures effect populations.
- What are some other potential impacts? (For example radioactivity on Montebello Islands)
- Can we model future distributions of nesting or foraging flatbacks to plan for protected areas?