Basking Behavior & Ecology of Green Sea Turtles for Conservation Research
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BASKING BEHAVIOR & ECOLOGY

Hawaii basking sea turtle with surfers and swimmers in background

Hawaii basking sea turtle on beach

While green turtles utilize beach habitats for nesting purposes around the world, Hawaiian green turtles exhibit an unique basking behavior in which they rest on beaches for hours throughout the day. Historically, research studies have linked green turtle basking behavior to physiological thermoregulation. Due to increased ocean temperatures, studies have even suggested sea turtles may stop basking on beaches in Hawaii by 2039. Despite a possible correlation between this basking behavior to increased temperatures and abundance of green turtles in Hawaii, studies in sea turtle basking have been limited.

That is why Sea Turtles 911 conducts behavioral and ecological research in this phenomenon by surveying beach habitats for basking turtles. Volunteer researchers use non-invasive cameras, such as non-contact infrared cameras, to collect temperature data to study the thermal biology of basking sea turtles. Volunteers use photo identification techniques to identify individual green turtles for mark-recapture studies and population size estimates of turtles that exhibit this unique basking behavior. This allows us to identify trends and track changes in turtle basking behavior, including new individuals basking, locations, times, abundance; and to determine the extent of turtle basking site fidelity, connectivity of habitats, and whether turtles utilize multiple beach habitats for terrestrial basking. By learning how green turtles in Hawaii use this terrestrial adaptation as a survival strategy, we improve our understanding of the relationships that might exist between certain variables and develop further studies to explore these conditions in greater depth.