Determination of Temporal and Spatial Distribution, Migratory Patterns, and
Habitats for Sea Turtles using AVHRR
the six sea turtle species that are found in U.S. waters or that nest on
U.S. beaches, all are designated as either threatened or endangered under
the Endangered Species Act (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1998). These sea
turtles were listed because, to different degrees, their populations had
declined largely as a result of human activities (Committee of Sea Turtle
Conservation, 1990). Recent population studies have concluded that the
number of females that nest in the Southeast United States is continuing to
decline. Successful conservation of large marine vertebrates requires an
adequate understanding of their temporal and spatial distribution, migratory
patterns, and habitat utilization (Godley, 2003).
Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) sea surface temperature
data was utilized from the Center of Excellence in Remote Sensing Education
and Research (CERSER) on the campus of Elizabeth City State University.
CERSER currently has a 1.5 TeraScan System which is able to ingest AVHRR and
SeaWiFs data. This data was combined with turtle point source data to
determine if there was a correlation between the sea surface temperature and
the location of sea turtles. AVHRR sea surface temperature datasets were
also collected and analyzed from NOAA’s CoastWatch program. The CoastWatch
data was then compared with data from CERSER for validation. Turtle point
source data was overlaid onto sea surface temperature data to provide a
means of visualization. Maps will also be developed to track and display the
migratory patterns of sea turtles.
Destruction of feeding and nesting habitats and pollution of the world’s
oceans are all taking a serious toll on the remaining sea turtle
populations. By identifying the distribution, migratory patterns, and
habitats of sea turtles preventive measures can be taken to ensure that this
endangered species is protected from human destruction. This will also
enable the development of strategies for protecting sea turtles.