Sea turtles | Ostional | Costa Rica

Executive Summary: On 3 Aug 2015, Rett Newton travelled with Dr. Ken Lohmann, UNC-CH biology professor, to the Guanacaste Region of Costa Rica to assist with research on the olive ridley sea turtle “arribada” mass aggregation and nesting event. Rett carried two Duke University Marine Lab eBee unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to construct orthomosaic maps of the nesting areas and to provide photographs of the sea approach to the beach so researchers could determine sea turtle population density in offshore areas. While much is known about olive ridley nesting ashore, many questions remain about offshore biology, ecology and behavior.

There were numerous challenges to surmount during the field season, but use of UAS technology ultimately proved to be a significant step forward in trying to answer some of the offshore questions. The trip provided an opportunity to:

  • Better understand the research environment and its impacts on UAS hardware
  • Better understand olive ridley research requirements
  • Test several existing UAS technologies
  • Develop strategies and capabilities for future research support