Please note: You are viewing the unstyled version of this website. Either your browser does not support CSS (cascading style sheets) or it has been disabled. Skip navigation.


   Print  PDF  Change text to small (default) Change text to medium Change text to large

To Track a Sea Turtle

Enlarge Image

To Track a Sea Turtle
Underwater vehicles follow tagged turtles in the wild
» View Oceanus magazine
» View Slideshow

Related Multimedia

Leatherback Turtle

Leatherback Turtle
» View Slideshow

Tagging the Leatherback Turtle

Tagging the turtle
Tagging the turtle

» See more videos

Leatherback sea turtles

Leatherback sea turtles are one of the ocean's most mysterious creatures. These endangered turtles travel thousands of miles each year, from the tropics to cool northern waters to feed on jellyfish. Yet despite their enormous size and worldwide distribution, we know little about their day-to-day lives in the ocean, including where, when, and how they feed. Studying these enigmatic turtles at sea is not easy, because they spend most of their time underwater. The technology to follow and image them in open water has not been available—until now.

Introducing TurtleCam! 

In 2012 and 2013, we successfully followed and filmed tagged great white sharks using a WHOI REMUS-100 autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). This “SharkCam” was so successful it was able to video document never-before-seen deep-water ambush attacks by great white sharks!

This year, we will use similar technology to tag turtles and investigate their behavior at sea with a REMUS we’re calling “TurtleCam.”

It works like an advanced version of the game “Marco Polo.” REMUS sends out a ping ('Marco'), and the transponder attached to the turtle replies (‘Polo’). REMUS then follows the turtle, capturing its movements on video and measuring the salinity, temperature, depth, and current speed in the water around it.

Video from TurtleCam will give us a unique look at leatherback turtles' behavior to help us interpret traditional (satellite and archival) tag data from turtles. We will be able to:

  • Answer questions about leatherback diet, feeding strategies, and dive behavior in under-studied but critically important New England coastal waters
  • Learn how to decrease threats like fishing gear entanglements, boat collisions, and plastic ingestion
  • Educate the public about conservation, protection, and recovery efforts for this endangered species

How can you help get TurtleCam in the water?

We have started getting turtle reports in the waters off Cape Cod where we will conduct our TurtleCam study. While we have tags* and the REMUS-100 ready to go, we need $10,000 to cover the cost of field work operations. We need funds to charter a spotter plane to find turtles at sea. Once turtles are located, we will charter a vessel for WHOI researchers to tag and track the turtles with REMUS, using the spotter plane to support tagging operations. We anticipate that funds from ProjectWHOI will support two to three days of field work.

$25 will buy batteries and suction cups for the tags
$100 will buy a half-hour of aerial survey time
$200 will buy an hour of charter boat time
$750 will allow us to charter the boat or the plane for half a day
$1,500 will allow us to charter the plane or the boat for a full day
will give you naming rights to a tagged turtle

Of course, a donation in any amount will help! Make your donation now and stay tuned to see what we find as we journey into the subsea world of leatherback turtles!  Please designate 'TurtleCam' in the blank box on the donation page to make sure your donation goes to this project.

Thank you!

Make a Donation

TurtleCam Videos

Last updated: December 14, 2018

whoi logo

Copyright ©2007 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, All Rights Reserved, Privacy Policy.
Problems or questions about the site, please contact