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Why leatherbacks?

Our research:

Leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) are an endangered species. They are the largest species of sea turtle, often reaching over 1,000 pounds. They are very vulnerable to fisheries bycatch, marine pollution and coastal development. Here in Florida, their nest counts and the number of individual nesting turtles are increasing.  This study was designed to understand why this is occurring, and how to better protect these amazing animals.

In 2000, biologists, state park managers, staff from Palm Beach County ERM, and local environmental groups met to discuss the growing number of leatherback nests found on Florida beaches. At that first meeting, the group decided that in order to understand the population, we would need to conduct an intensive night time study utilizing mark recapture, satellite tracking, and genetic studies. 2014 marks the 14th season of this study.

Our Methods

How we conduct  this study

Each night from mid March until June 30th, our team patrols the beach from the Lake Worth Inlet to the Jupiter Inlet. The team encounters nesting leatherback turtles and tags, weighs and measures each animal. By uniquely identifying each individual, we have begun to unravel some of the mysteries of this important nesting population. Our research team collaborates with scientists from institutions such as the National Marine Fisheries Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife, WIDECAST, the Canadian Sea Turtle Network, and many Universities. Collaborations and partnerships like these are key to truly understanding the global population of leatherback turtles.


Since the beginning of the project in 2001 the team has found more than 500 individual turtles using these important beaches. By collecting measurements, skin biopsies, and tag return records, we have been able to publish some preliminary results about this important population. A summary of leatherback size can be found in the Herpetological Journal, results from several studies on organic pollutants are published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin, and some of our tracking data are published in Chelonian Conservation and Biology. We continue to collaborate with colleagues to make sure these important data are utilized to better understand the population and we strive to come up with new and exciting research projects each year.



This project is conducted by staff and volunteers of Project Leatherback Inc.  PLI is a Florida  based not for profit corporation that provides common sense and professional research, environmental consulting, and data management services to clients in nonprofit, government, and private industries.

Project Leatherback Inc.

All content on this site © 2014 Project Leatherback Inc. and its contributors/collaborators