1 Million Turtles Community Conservation Program
By protecting freshwater turtles nests, you will become a part of an extensive network of Citizen Scientists contributing to conservation.
To get involved, you will need to first complete the training. Ready to get started? Please read through the next sections carefully and watch the provided videos.
The nest protection activity can only be carried out in NSW, SA, VIC and WA at this time. Unfortunately, we currently cannot support nest protection in QLD. Anyone keen to participate are encouraged to look into obtaining the relevant permit from the Department of Environment and Science (QLD Government). Please click here for more information and to enquire about permit applications.
With the exception of nest protection, our turtle champs from QLD may participate in all other 1MT activities such as submission of turtle sightings via TurtleSAT or the Nest Predation Survey.
Nest predation rates on turtle nests are very high in many parts of the country. Introduced foxes and pigs are the major predators that attack turtle nests.
By protecting turtle nests, you can help to manage the impact foxes and pigs have on turtles.
You will be trained as a Citizen Scientist to protect freshwater turtle nests from invasive predators such as foxes and pigs in your local region.
You will use equipment including mesh, turf pegs, and hammer (more information available in the ‘Equipment List’ section below) to protect the nests.
To become a Scientist, you need to train. Similarly, to become a Citizen Scientist, you must to do the training to understand how to protect the nests correctly and in an ethically responsible way while minimising any potential risk of injury or damage to you and any species.
The most important aspect of our training is that we cannot give you authorisation to directly touch, handle, or pick up any turtles or their eggs.
The Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes promotes the ethical, humane and responsible use of animals for scientific purposes.
Your training will include basic information about the code and how it is being applied to this survey.
You will be required to pass a short quiz before you can engage in nest protection. (you will find the link at the end of this page).
All nest protection activities are to be carried out at known nesting locations. These must be either on private land with prior access approval (or on your own land). If on public land, you will need written approval from local land management agencies (e.g., Local Council) to access and carry out nest protection activities.
However, we cannot give you permission to protect turtle nests on national parks land.
Most turtles nest in spring in Australia, but the exact time depends on your location.
November is the peak nesting season in much of southern Australia, including Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia. In WA, nesting season starts in September and continues throughout November.
No matter when you are protecting the turtle nests, it is important that you follow the recommended process which you will learn more about in this training.
To start with, we will provide you with the appropriate training to successfully protect the turtle nests.
As part of this training you will be required to the following:
It is mandatory that you watch the video on the right to familiarise yourself with animal ethics and the 3 ‘R’ Principle (4:03mins).
This training has been approved by the La Trobe University’s Animal Care and Ethics Committee, and the nest protection activity will be implemented applying the Three 'R' principle in NSW, SA, VIC and WA.
As we will be protecting turtle nests directly, there are no suitable alternatives to achieve the intended outcomes – i.e., protect turtle nests from invasive predators such as foxes and pigs.
The nest protection activity is dependent on the number of nests protected and any number of nests protected would be viewed as a success of this training.
We will be protecting the turtle nests using mesh sizes that have been used previously. This activity does not trap or capture invasive predators or baby turtles. Participants will be not be handling turtles at all times, this includes adults, hatchings (baby turtles) and turtle eggs.
Next we will progress to learn more about ‘how to protect turtle nests’. The video below will demonstrate the recommended process.
You may already have one or more equipment from the list below. If this is the case, we highly encourage you to use what you have available and only purchase what is missing. To progress, create a nest protection kit with the following:
For your personal safety
To protect the turtle nests
(Please note: the mesh will be placed over the turtle nest and the holes in the mesh allows the baby turtles to get out safely. Hence the recommended size of 5 cm height and width for the holes.)
To start, you need to have knowledge of turtle nesting spots in your region. This could also be areas where turtle nests have been found to be destroyed. You can only engage in nest protection if the nesting spots are located on private land (may be your own too) and you have prior approval to access it. If on public land, you will need written approval from the appropriate land management agencies (e.g., Local Council) no matter which state you are based in.
If it is on private land belonging to someone else, even if the landowner is known to you, it is best to always inform them and ensure that you have their approval to carry out the nest protection activity. This also gives you the opportunity to share why we are doing this and how this action contributes to saving our beloved Australian freshwater turtles. Before you know it, you may end up with a team of turtle Citizen Scientists going out to protect as many nests as possible.
If the location is on public land, first find out who is it managed by, then contact them and get the appropriate approval. Best to get this in writing.
As much as possible, always get the approval in a written format to keep with you at all times when on location protecting nests.
If you are looking for known areas where turtle nests have been found (intact or destroyed), one way to locate these areas is to look up the map on TurtleSAT.
Before you start any nest protection activity (after confirming the approval for access) you must conduct a risk assessment. This helps to keep you and the turtles safe when carrying out this activity.
A risk assessment has to be completed if you are doing this as an individual, in a group, or as a part of a land management agency. The benefits of collaborating with land management agencies or established conservation groups would be that they would have a standard risk assessment approach and would be able to assist you with this.
An example risk assessment has been provided for you in the resources download section. Please download this document and go through it on your own or with your team and update it for your local conditions. Although foxes are considered pests, intervention measures should NOT be undertaken without prior consultation, approval and/or training from the appropriate land management agencies.
When you go through the example risk assessment document (provided in the link above), you may find that only minimum changes are required. This is completely OK. Even if there are minimal changes to the risk assessment document - we encourage you to read it, make any changes as needed, sign it and email your copy to firstname.lastname@example.org
Site selection, CHECK! Access approval, CHECK! Risk Assessment, CHECK!
Next, you will need to gather the recommended equipment to successfully protect the turtle nests (see the ‘Equipment List’ section above). You may already have a number of things in the listed equipment. In this case, please feel free to use whatever you have before purchasing anything.
Before heading out to the site, cut out the mesh sheets (1 sheet = 50cm by 50cm, with 5 cm wide holes) to make it as easy as possible when you are at the location.
For safety reasons, we highly recommend a minimum of 2 people when undertaking the nest protection activity (i.e., a buddy system). Always inform someone about where you are going before heading out to protect the nests.
Also, please do not undertake this activity during extreme weather events, e.g., lighting storms, flood risks.
Ensure that your phone is fully charged and that you have downloaded the TurtleSAT mobile app on your phone. You will need the app to record the number of nests and location where the nests were protected. If you don't have reception at the location, take some photos, note the GPS coordinates and submit the record when you get home. If you are submitting the records from home, you may also use the desktop version of TurtleSAT - CLICK HERE.
What happens if there is more than one nest to protect?
It is a good idea to bring along a few extra pieces of mesh and turf pegs. As they are light, they shouldn’t add too much extra weight.
When you are at the selected location, walk around quietly to look for a nesting turtle.
Best times to look for nesting turtles
How do I know if a turtle is nesting?
A nesting turtle will have its rear pointed into the dirt, and its front half will be noticeably propped up, so that the shell is angled to the ground. Turtles that are still moving or looking for a place to nest will be flat on the ground.
Once you have spotted a nesting turtle, it is important that you maintain a distance of a minimum of 20 metres. You might want to find a nice discrete spot to hide in waiting to give the female turtle the peace and space to dig her nest, lay the eggs and cover up the nest. This process does take some time. Please expect anywhere between 2 to 3 hours for her to finish.
During this time, you may opt to wait or make a good note of the nest location to return to it later. What does ‘later’ mean? We recommend that you return no later than 2 to 3 hours to protect the nests. This will ensure that you can protect the nests in time before any predators dig up the eggs. Fox predation can happen remarkably quickly and many nests don’t survive for long. Note down as many land marks as possible before leaving to allow you to find the nest later as this can be quite difficult once the female turtle has flattened the soil.
If you opt to stay on and wait, this will also provide you the opportunity to keep the female turtle safe from any passing predators (i.e., fox) while she is laying her eggs.
If you have a pair of binoculars, bring them so that you can keep a good watch! When waiting, avoid any excitable behaviour or noise to minimise disturbance to the turtle.
Please wait until the female turtle has completely left the nesting site before heading towards the location.
Once you have located the nest (which will be covered by soil), you can start the process right away. You will notice some disturbed soil on the surface which can be used to gauge the opening of the turtle nest.
You may opt to protect the nest with one or even two mesh sheets. Two mesh offers double protection as it needs to stay intact for months when the eggs are incubating.
Before you start, please sanitise your hands. If using two mesh sheets, please make sure that the holes on the mesh are aligned to maintain the 5cm hole width size needed for the baby turtles to climb out of the nest after hatching. You will need about 6 to 8 turf pegs for every mesh sheet.
IMPORTANT: If you arrive at the spot and find that the nest has not been covered, it is likely that the female turtle has abandoned her nest. If this is the case, you do not need to protect the nest.
Under no circumstances should you dig up the turtle nests and remove any eggs or hatchlings. This is a requirement of our animal ethics approval and we rely on you to do the right thing when protecting turtle nests.
You will need about 6 to 8 turf pegs for every mesh sheet. Why?
The mesh sheet has to be secured as tightly as possible to the ground. This will prevent other animals from getting stuck in the mesh. This also prevents mowers or other equipment from getting caught in the mesh.
The mesh sheet has to be pegged tightly to the ground. Use the hammer to ensure the turf pegs are firmly secured to the ground. The pegs should be secured along the outer edges of the mesh (see image on left). Do a quick ‘firmness’ check by gently shaking the peg after hammering it in.
* Don’t worry about the baby turtles not being able to get out of the mesh. This is why it is important that the holes of the mesh used is a minimum of 5 cm. This size is a good fit for all baby turtle species.
Once you have completed the steps needed to protect the turtle nest, take out your phone and open the TurtleSAT app. In the app, you will enter data on the number of nest protected, location and the turtle species. You can also enter the data for any nests that you have seen that were intact or intact with female present but were unable to protect, and also record any nests that were damaged.
It is important that you view the video on 'How to enter your nest protection data in TurtleSAT' as a part of this training.
(Please note: If you are planning to enter the data via the website later, please make sure that you take some photos of the nest protected, note the number of nests protected, the date/time, record the GPS coordinates and the turtle species if known before leaving the site.)
If you have never used TurtleSAT before, we highly recommend that you download this app and play around with it to familiarise yourself with the interface before heading out to your location. You can also practice or enter data via the TurtleSAT website on your desktop.
You can also download and print the 'monitoring sheet' in our resources section to record data when on site. Once you have access to internet, please submit these records via TurtleSAT (mobile app or desktop version).
Once you have completed the data entry into TurtleSAT, you may leave the location. Please bring back all the equipment and materials with you.
For most turtles, it will take about 3 to 4 months for the eggs to incubate and hatch. The exception is Broad-shelled turtles, which may take up to 12 months. During this time, if possible, we highly encourage you to return to the location and check the nest protection once a month.
If you return to check after the period of incubation and hatching has passed, you might see an open hole (which was previously closed). This indicates that the baby turtles have hatched and made their way to the water. If the hole is still closed, this may just mean that the hatchlings may not have dug their way out yet or are in the process of doing so.
When you return to the nest protection location, and you have observed that the baby turtles have left the nest – please remove all equipment/materials and bring that back with you. Please note that if they have left the nest, it is likely that you will not see any eggshells above ground.
The nest protection materials can be re-used, but please clean them with a 10% bleach solution first to remove any dirt and kill any potential pathogens.
Under no circumstances should you dig up the turtle nests and remove any eggs. This is very important and we rely on you to do the right thing when out there protecting turtle nests.
You can download and use the monitoring sheet in our resources section to record any observations during your return visit. Once you have access to internet, please submit these records via TurtleSAT (mobile app or desktop version).
Hopefully, your amazing effort of protecting a turtle nest will result in 20 or more baby turtles into that water body (e.g., wetlands) by the end of this summer.
If you have:
Then, you are ready to progress with the online quiz. To start the quiz, please click on the button. The quiz has 10 questions with multiple choice options for you to select. You may attempt the quiz as many times as you want until you get all the answers right.
Once you have successfully achieved this, please email us at email@example.com with subject heading “Completed Nest Protection Training” with your full name, date of completion, and a copy of your risk assessment (if it is ready). After checking all the information, we will email you a digital certificate to acknowledge your completion (this is also an ethics requirement). Please keep this certificate with you at all times when on location, including any approval letters obtained for accessing the location to protect nests.
Are you ready to start the quiz? Click 'Take Quiz' below.
Check out this video for instructions on how to enter nest protection data in TurtleSAT
(Video length: 3:46 mins)
We have provided the following resources to enhance your learning about turtle habitat selection and nest protection.