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Title: Lagrangian analysis of sea turtle ecology
Author: Scott, Rebecca
Awarding Body: Swansea University
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2013
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Many marine organisms are highly mobile, which presents a variety of research and conservation management challenges. Sea turtles are a particularly paradigmatic group of long distant migrants whose movements as adults have been detailed by satellite tracking technology. However, small hatchlings are not amenable to this approach. This thesis used Lagrangian oceanography approaches to study the cryptic lives of juvenile turtles, since ocean currents drive their dispersion from natal beaches. Through increasingly sophisticated and novel uses of Lagrangian surface drifter buoys, state-of- the-art global ocean models and emerging animal life history datasets, my PhD thesis details significant findings of the key life history attributes of these enigmatic migrants. Initially, 1 modelled the dispersal of hatchlings from their nesting beaches to derive the first robust estimates of hatchling growth rates and by so doing, highlighted the long maturation times of turtle species. Then, I programmed hatchling swimming behaviour into ocean model simulations to reveal how these small drifters could improve their survival chances in strong current flows. More interdisciplinary research also highlighted aberrant routes of dispersal that can arise through storm displacements. Subsequent meta-analysis on the movements of flying, swimming and walking migrants highlighted key biological determinants of sea turtle migrations. Spatio-temporal analysis of sea turtle marine protected area (MPA) use highlighted minor (tractable) legislative revisions that would significantly improve MPA effectiveness. Finally, research culminated in a global synthesis of the movement patterns of adult and hatchling sea turtles which provided global support for a new migration paradigm, that whilst adult turtles travel independently of ocean currents, ocean currents still indirectly drive the ontogeny of adult sea turtle migrations and foraging habitat selections due to their past experiences as drifting hatchlings. This new understanding into the biological and physical determinants of sea turtle migration strategies is thus hoped to have broad conservation utility.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Sea turtles--Migration ; Marine ecology ; Oceanography