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The rationale for, and development of, the IOSEA Satellite Tracking Metadatabase stems from an article published as the Profile of the Month for February 2009, entitled: "Satellite tracking - Estimated potential not yet realised?".
The article's basic premise was that much more could and should be done to compile existing metadata relating to satellite tracking in order to facilitate a more coordinated approach to future work, and to maximise the usefulness of what is still a relatively expensive research tool.
Having an overview of what tracking studies have already been done may help to pinpoint complementary data sources never before compiled in a single reference. Equally important, one can use the database to identify strengths and gaps in coverage in satellite tracking, in terms of geographic area, species, sex, age class etc.
Altogether the IOSEA metadatabase contains information on over 1,000 satellite-tracked turtles from about 30 countries of the IOSEA region (as of July 2012). The database includes details of over 150 IOSEA-region projects (concerning more than 400 animals) that have published their results in the literature or online, as well as a similar number of projects on seaturtle.org/tracking which provide information on the movements of about 600 animals fitted with satellite transmitters.
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We find – perhaps not surprisingly – that adult female green turtles have been extensively tracked in the IOSEA region (nearly 400 animals in more than 20 countries), whereas leatherback and olive ridley studies have been limited to just a handful of countries. While relatively few hawksbills have been tracked, many countries have been involved. Satellite tracking of male turtles and juveniles (of any species) is relatively uncommon.
Historically, Australia, China, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Oman, Thailand and UAE top the charts when it comes to satellite tracking studies in the IOSEA region. Over the past decade, the years of 2009 and 2010 stand out as being especially prolific for tracking studies, with about 200 transmitters having been deployed over the course of those two years. From the beginning of 2011 upto now, July 2012, the numbers of turtles that have been tracked are about 200.
We would welcome additional contributions to the database. If you are familiar with a project not already included, please complete the linked MS-Word template and return it to the Secretariat by e-mail.
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The database application makes it very easy to retrieve and package information according to one's particular interest. The metadatabase does not reference any specific location data for animal tracks in deference to copyright restrictions; however useful links are made to external websites (such as seaturtle.org/tracking) and published papers where one can the view satellite tracks of individual animals.
The basic search allows one to search for satellite tracks by individual country, multiple countries, or all countries in the database; as well as specific areas in several countries where project areas are differentiated.
The display of results comprises a project title, country of transmitter deployment, tracking period, species, number of animals tracked, longest signal (of all those tracked by the project), an indication of whether the signal is still active or not, and a link to any external website.
Additional information is provided on the project team, including contact email, project partners and sponsors (if known); together with more detailed information on the actual transmitter deployment, such as: general indication of the migration area(s), number of animals of each age class / sex, shortest transmission signal, and availability of any associated publication. A comprehensive information sheet compiled for each project includes, additionally, a detailed description of the project activities, where available.
A comprehensive User Guide describes the system's functionality in more detail.
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So, what is the practical value of such a metadatabase? To begin with, the database and associated literature might be consulted to help determine future research priorities, based in part on what satellite tracking studies have already been conducted. One might, for example, assess the cost-effectiveness of fixing a transmitter to yet another green turtle (the 233rd) in "Country X" -- in terms of information to be gleaned for conservation/management purposes -- relative to the possible return on investment from another species or geographic location.
Since the IOSEA Profile of the Month was published in February 2009, there have been some interesting developments on the seaturtle.org/tracking website which give a glimpse of the potential for even more refined analyses. A new Data Explorer allows a user to plot tracks of animals of particular species, for specific countries and for specific time frames ranging from the last 24 hours to the past year. The strength of the system is its ability to plot actual tracks for individual or multiple animals on a GoogleMaps platform. By creating overlays of multiple tracks, one can begin to build up a picture of migration corridors. Although the system is limited to tracks contained in the seaturtle.org database (which make up about 40 percent of the IOSEA metadatabase records) and could benefit from some interface enhancements, it has the potential to be a very effective tool for management and demonstration purposes.
For the Indian Ocean South-East Asia region, a system that combined the strengths of the IOSEA Satellite Tracking Metadatabase with the seaturtle.org mapping application (and its underlying dataset) could offer the most potent investigative tool of its kind.
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