Recent Trips

Every year the HPA turtle research program—also known as the “turtle tagging” program—hosts researcher George Balazs and his colleagues from NOAA to study green sea turtles on Hawai’i Island. There are approximately 10 trips a year to turtle hotspots all over the island, while occasionally sending trips to other locations off island including other Hawaiian islands, New Caledonia, and Japan.

While the program is led by Marc Rice and George Balazs, highly trained HPA students perform the majority of the scientific research. That work includes tagging, weighing, measuring, and evaluating each turtle that they catch.

Below are descriptions of the most recent trips:

The Kapoho Trip — 4.6.15-4.10.15

The HPA program joined NOAA researcher George Balazs and four scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to capture and tag green sea turtles in Kapoho. Kapoho is located on the east side of Hawai'i Island near the easternmost point of the island chain. HPA students aided the scientists in catching, weighing, and measuring the turtles. In addition, HPA students helped the four scientists from the NIST collect blood and tissue samples from the turtles. The main purpose of this trip was the obtain those samples, while also gathering data on the growth rates, tumor rates, and behavioral changes of the turtles in this area. Over four days of the trip, the students and scientists caught 24 turtles; 10 recaptures and 14 new captures. It is common to catch a turtle numerous times over it’s lifespan. Every time students recapture a turtle they have the opportunity to see how much it has changed since it was last captured. The researchers from the NIST present a rare opportunity for students to network and interact with professional scientists in the field while also performing high level scientific research.

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Hualalai Trip — 3.15.15

This trip was led by HPA turtle research program director Marc Rice and middle school science teacher Laura Jim to the Four Seasons resort at Hualalai on the west side of Hawai'i Island. The crew caught a total of 10 turtles, 5 new captures and 5 recaptures. One goal of this trip was to attach a satellite tag to a turtle, to monitor and study turtle movement in this area of the island. The team outfitted one of the turtles with an ARGOS satellite tag. The satellite tag will update this map.

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Punalu'u Trip — 2.20.15

This trip took place on the southeast side of Hawai'i Island, over three hours away from the HPA campus. Five HPA students and Marc Rice joined 30 University of Hawaii students at the famous Punalu'u black sand beach. The team caught, weighed, and measured turtles, while also gathering samples for a UH study concerning the effects of various pesticides on intestinal bacteria. This was a great opportunity for HPA students to see what it is like to conduct graduate level research in the field. The fact that high school students are helpful in this graduate environment is a powerful testament to the level of work that the HPA turtle research program exposes HPA students to. During this trip, the team also attached a satellite tag to one of the turtles to study turtle movements in the area.

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New Caledonia — 9.18.12-9.27.12

In September 2012 four middle school HPA students travelled with Marc Rice, Laura Jim, and George Balazs to the the aquarium “Noumea Aquarium des Lagons” in New Caledonia. The project was three years in the making, requiring extensive planning and an array of researchers and government officials from New Caledonia. This project’s main goal was to attach ARGOS satellite tags to loggerhead turtles from the aquarium. The students had all participated in the turtle research program before, and were presented with the opportunity to travel abroad and apply their skills. After the students aided in attaching the tags, the turtles were released off a container ship en route from New Caledonia to Australia. This project’s main mission is to study the travel patterns and potential hazardous locations for turtles in the south pacific.

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Nagoya — April 2010

Recently six HPA middle school students and one high school student travelled with Marc Rice, Laura Jim, and George Balazs to Nagoya, Japan. The team spent a total of 10 days in Japan, four of those days working with turtles. The crew attached SPOT 5 satellite tags to 29 loggerhead turtles from the aquarium over the first four days. However, for the rest of the trip the students had a chance to experience Japan. They travelled to Kyoto, Osaka, and other cities around Japan with a local Japanese HPA student as their translator. To wrap up the trip, the students and scientists watched as the turtles set to sea on a fishing boat, to be released a few days later into the ocean, south of the Japanese main Islands. The team hopes to learn more about the migratory paths of loggerhead turtles in the North Pacific.

Learn more about this trip, and see the maps detailing the turtles’ travels

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