Initial research for the program will focus on gathering more information on flatbacks, and is detailed in the Strategic Conservation Plan.
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 focused 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?