Issue 21
Monday, 21 November 2016
Charles Darwin University
Giant South American turtle hatchling in Brazil's Trombetas
Giant South American turtle hatchling in Brazil's Trombetas

Student hatches plan to research turtle eggs

By Katie Weiss

A Charles Darwin University environmental science student has ventured to the Amazon Rainforest to explore the impacts of climate change on turtle nests.

Master of Environmental Science student Sarah Sutcliff said her research would investigate whether changes to nest temperatures might impact on hatchling success, during CDU’s first Amazon field intensive this month.

Sarah said she planned to collect data on nest temperatures of threatened freshwater species, the giant South American turtle (Podocnemis expansa) and the six-tubercled Amazon River turtle (Podocnemis sextuberculata).

“Temperature changes within the nest of just 1°C have been shown to significantly alter the sex ratio in giant South American turtles, with warmer nests producing more females and cooler nests producing more males,” Sarah said.

“Higher and lower nest temperatures are known to cause increased embryonic death.”

She will collect internal nest temperatures over the month of an egg’s incubation, along with external temperatures at nesting beaches along the Trombetas River Biological Reserve.

“Examining the potential effects of climate change on the nesting success of these turtles will help to inform which areas require protection and what management actions will benefit nesting success,” Sarah said.

Sarah joined 15 students on the two-week field intensive, organised in collaboration with the National Institute for Amazon Research and the Amazon Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists.

Her research is supported by the Council on Australia Latin America Relations and the Turtle Conservation Fund.