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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.

We conduct an intensive night time study utilizing mark recapture, satellite tracking, and genetic studies to unravel the mystery of the leatherback sea turtle. By tagging individual turtles and documenting every encounter, we can better understand the size and health of the population as well as basic parameters like nest frequency, individual size, migratory patterns, and survival rates.

Our Methods

How we conduct  this study

Each night from mid March until June 30th, our team patrols the beach looking for nesting leatherback turtles. The team encounters leatherback turtles and tags, weighs and measures each animal. By uniquely identifying each individual, we hope 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.


By collecting measurements, skin biopsies, and tag return records, we are 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 results of tracking studies are published in Chelonian Conservation and Biology. Our goal is to 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.

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