Sea turtle lovers and citizen scientists have an opportunity to provide scientists at Texas A&M University with critical data to understand the distribution of sea turtles in Texas.
The iSeaTurtle app allows anyone with a smartphone to alert scientists when they see a sea turtle in Texas waters. The app was originally created by the lab of Dr. Pamela Plotkin, professor and Texas Sea Grant director, to assist with an ecosystem assessment of Matagorda bay, sponsored by the Texas Office of the Comptroller, which would aid the development of science-based solutions to benefit the economy and environment, including sea turtles. Through partnership with Turtle Island Restoration Network, the app has expanded its coverage to track turtle sightings over all of Texas’ coast.
Texas is home to five species of threatened and endangered turtles, including Texas’ official state sea turtle, the Kemp’s ridley. Sea turtles feed in Texas bays and estuaries and the Gulf of Mexico waters. They are often seen near or in seagrass, oyster beds, jetties, piers, and other hard structure-like reefs, which provide ample opportunities for sea turtles to be sighted from boats. The creation of the app was inspired by the knowledge fishermen had about where to find sea turtles. Following its launch in 2020, the app received numerous logs of sea turtle sightings from fishermen and citizen scientists alike, prompting the desire to grow the app to gather data from the entire Texas coast.