The International Course on the Biology and Conservation of Sea Turtles

Bermuda's immature green turtles have been the focus of a tagging study initiated in 1968 by Dr. H.C. Frick, a trustee of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation. One of the first scientific investigations of this species in their juvenile developmental habitat, the Bermuda Turtle Project (BTP) continues today as a joint effort between the Sea Turtle Conservatory (STC), the Atlantic Conservation Partnership (ACP), the Bermuda Zoological Society (BZS), and the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo (BAMZ).

Bermuda once had a large assemblage of nesting and foraging adult green turtles.  In spite of legislation adopted in 1620 to protect against the taking of juveniles, by the end of the 1700’s the adult green turtle population was so reduced by hunting pressure that a commercial harvest was no longer profitable. The law failed to halt the destruction of the breeding colony and there has been no evidence of green turtles nesting in Bermuda since the 1930’s.  While Bermuda's nesting population of green sea turtles is believed to be extinct, the shallow reefs and sea grass meadows of the Bermuda Platform do still provide foraging grounds for young hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and green turtles (Chelonia mydas) born elsewhere.

An important component of the BTP is a 2-week course taught annually at BAMZ which builds regional capacity for the management of endangered sea turtles by providing training to university students, biologists, conservation officers and resource managers from countries throughout the Western Atlantic/Caribbean region.  Participants are exposed to the basics of sea turtle biology through the reading of scientific literature, lectures, discussions, and extensive field work.  The course emphasizes the relationship between biology and management and the international nature of sea turtle populations.  Subject material is organized around a life cycle model; from the nesting beach and reproductive biology to population genetics, the pelagic phase, and feeding biology.  Emphasis is placed on understanding how biology impacts management decisions and conservation outcomes.  The course allows those individuals that participate to use the knowledge learned to make better conservation and management decisions in their home countries.  Participants are also given the opportunity to better understand how to improve monitoring and the collection of data specific to their country that will allow for better decision-making.  Additionally, participants build professional relationships that will better serve them in the future by providing support and advice through the contacts made during this course.

The course provides training to university students, biologists, conservation officers, and resource managers through an intensive two-week course taught in Bermuda on the biology and conservation of sea turtles. Participants assist in capturing, measuring, tagging, and collecting blood samples from sea turtles. Emphasis is placed on understanding the impact of biology on management decisions and conservation outcomes. The course builds capacity for regional management of these threatened and endangered marine species, allowing participants to make better conservation and management decisions in their home countries. To date, over 150 people from 36 different countries have participated in this course.  We believe that it is only by understanding the biology of all stages of the long and complex life cycles of these animals that holistic management of sea turtle populations can be achieved. Funding for this course has come from Chevron Texaco International, Global Indemnity Re, RenaissanceRe, Fairmont Southampton Bermuda Resort, the Sea Turtle Conservancy, and the ACP, in addition to personal donations from individuals who are interested in sea turtles and their conservation.

Click here for information about the Bermuda Turtle Project International In-water Course. Click here for an Application form, or here to see the Annual Report.