1 Million Turtles Community Conservation Program
1 Million Turtles Community Conservation Program
By participating in the National Nest Predation Survey (NNPS), you will become part of a extensive network of Citizen Scientists.
You will setup the survey, collect and report the data that will be analysed by the 1 Million Turtles team and displayed on an interactive map.
So let's get started with your training.
Nest predation rates on turtle nests are very high in many parts of the country. Introduced foxes are the major predator. By conducting the National Nest Predation Survey throughout Australia we will develop a national interactive 'hotspot' map to determine region specific estimates of predation rates.
You will be trained as a Citizen Scientist to conduct the survey in your region. The survey will see you creating artificial nests by placing chicken eggs underground at an appropriate site and monitoring their fate.
Citizen Scientists throughout the country are doing the same thing, creating a network of geo-specific data.
To become a scientist, you need to train. Similarly, to become a Citizen Scientist, you must to do some training to understand how to implement the survey protocols correctly and in an ethically responsible way while minimising any potential risk of injury or damage to you and any species.
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 start the survey (you will find the link further down on this page).
The NNPS must be done on private land or under the guidance or approval from local land management agencies (e.g., Local Council). Ideally the survey is done near a wetland (eg river, creek, lagoon, pond), but it can be done anywhere if you have enough space.
What would be considered as ‘enough space’? A standard backyard is not enough space. You would need to have access to "acreage". However, please alert your local council or Local Land Services and alert them to this Citizen Science initiative and they may coordinate it in your suburban park or local creek.
The survey can be done throughout the year, however please avoid carrying out this survey during peak turtle nesting activity is occurring (November- Turtle Month). Your data will be reported through the TurtleSAT app. It will be visualised almost instantaneously through a "hotspot" map.
To start with, we will provide training for you successfully implement and complete the survey.
As part of this training you will be required to register and complete a risk assessment, as well as, complete a quiz to ensure competency, which is a requirement of the Western Sydney Animal Care and Ethics Committee- Permit #A1469.
Step 1 is to watch the video on the right regarding animal welfare (length - 4:03mins).
You will be conducting research that has been approved by an Animal Care and Ethics Committee and the experiment has been implemented using the Three 'R' principle.
The experiment is to evaluate predation by foxes. We cannot replace foxes, but we have replaced live turtle eggs with unfertilised chicken eggs, which will serve as a model for fox predation on turtle nests.
This is a nationwide experiment and while many plots will be setup throughout the country, we will limit the number of plots in a particular area. It is why you will only need to conduct one trial in your local area. Citizen Scientists networking through the country will provide the statistical power for this experiment.
We have refined this survey since 2014, besides improving methodologies, we have seen no sign of negative welfare impacts at any stage of this survey. You will be part of this refinement process.
Next we will move onto the survey. The video below will demonstrate the survey procedures.
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 kit with the following:
For your personal safety
To set up the survey site
If you are setting up a wildlife camera (optional)
(1#) If you cannot find the steel flags, you may also use a sturdy stick and tie pieces of flagging tape at the top. Flagging tape is available from Bunnings.
(2#) If you are setting up a wildlife camera, then you will only need 3 wooden stakes. Or you may also opt to mount your wildlife camera on existing structures such as a fence post or a sturdy tree (please see section on camera set up).
The survey is to be conducted on private land. Land management agencies may conduct the National Nest Predation Survey on public land, however the lead manager must complete the on-line training, along with all volunteers.
An example risk assessment has been provided here. Please go through it with your team and update it for your local conditions. Although foxes are considered pests, intervention by people should NOT be undertaken. All participants should upload a completed copy as part of their registration at the end of the training module.
Information for Management Agencies: Management agencies can take part in the survey on land that they manage by having all participants completing this training module. A signed letter of approval allowing the survey to be conducted at the site indicating the locations (GPS coordinates) must also be uploaded. All volunteers must demonstrate that they have completed this training module before commencing the survey. Volunteers/participants that you engage with may also be subject to your additional risk assessments/training approval processes.
NOTE: Approval will not be granted if the survey plot is located in a known nesting area and planned during the peak nesting period.
Freshwater turtles are present in most wetlands throughout mainland Australia. Ideally the NNPS is done near a wetland (e.g., river, creek, lagoon, pond). It can also be done anywhere if you have enough space and have the right permissions in place (e.g., on private land or in conjunction with local management agencies).
It is best to conduct your nest predation survey within 100m from shore. Turtles come out of the water and generally nest in habitats that are open and away from trees. Some species, like Eastern Long-Neck turtles, may walk long distances but most turtles nest relatively close to shore.
You can often find dug up nests and eggs shells on the ground while walking around your wetland. Don't forget to record those dug up nests into TurtleSAT.org.au. Sites close to these nesting grounds make ideal areas to conduct your survey.
Turtles dig a hole that is up to 30cm deep and will deposit 10-30 small eggs per nest. We will use 2 larger chicken eggs in our artificial nests. Turtle eggs will incubate underground for 2-3 months for most species, but some like the Broad-Shelled Turtle, have eggs that remain underground for up to 12 months before hatching. The NNPS can take place at any time of year, except during Turtle Month (November), to make sure we avoid encountering and disturbing turtles actively nesting.
TIP: We do not recommend setting up the survey on land with cattle present as they destroy the set up. Sheep don’t appear to do as much damage.
One site is sufficient for this survey.
It is best to have at least 2 people setting up a site. Measure out a 20m x 20m square plot using the tape measures in your kit (or you can step this out if you don’t have a measure) and at each of the four corners hammer in a small wooden stake or star post. If possible, use a marker pen or paint to number each corner wooden stakes.
Place your wildlife camera (if you are using one) on one corner star picket facing southerly towards the middle of your plot securing it with cable ties. Remember to switch on the camera before leaving your site. We recommend to set the camera to capture three still shots with a 1-minute delay. Record the GPS the location of your site. Please use decimal degrees (e.g., -34.04214, 151.05211).
Ensure you are wearing gloves at this point. You can use an auger or a trowel to create 10 holes. The holes are created randomly and are not spaced evenly (please refer to the site setup image in the 'setup visuals' section below). We recommend using an auger to create a round nest. If you don't have an auger, trowels (e.g., garden trowels) can also be used. However, if possible, please don't use a shovel as the hole may end up being too large.
Dig the hole approximately 10-15cm wide and 15-20cm deep. In each hole, bury two chicken eggs. Please ensure that you are wearing gloves at all times while undertaking these tasks. This ensures that you don't leave your scent trail on the eggs. After placing the eggs into each hole, cover them with the loose soil so that it is flush with the ground and place one brightly coloured flag (or other visible marker) at each hole.
Before you leave, go to each corner of the site and take a photo. Take as many photos as needed from each corner point while the coloured flags or visible markers are still in place. Please ensure that the photo captures sufficient details of the surrounding (e.g., clear visibility of the coloured flags and the corner stakes such as the wooden stakes) to help you identify and locate the nests when you return. Once you are done with taking the photos, please remove all coloured flags/visible markers from the nests. Again, it is important that you are wearing gloves to carry out all these tasks.
You need to return to the site in three weeks and locate the nests. Finding the nests can be difficult, this is why your photos are important. You may also opt to print out the photos and bring them along to use as a reference to help you find the nests in three weeks.
TIP: Printing the photo on A3 works the best, but iPads can be effective as they allow you to zoom in when guiding people to find nests.
Once you are done with taking the photos, please remove all coloured flags/visible markers from the nests. Again, it is important that you are wearing gloves to carry out all these tasks.
If you are setting up a wildlife camera, before you leave - ensure that it is switched on and wiped down the camera with alcohol wipes to remove any scent trails.
While natural turtle nests are underground for 2-12 months, most predation occurs within the first few weeks of nesting. We recommend returning to your sites in 3 weeks to collect data.
This requires two people. The first person will stand at each wooden stake with the relevant photo and guide the 2nd person to each nest location. If the nest has been dug up, egg shells and a hole will be present and easy to find. If it has not been dug up, it may require some time and effort to find. Once you have located all 10 nests, record how many nests have been dug up. Remove or destroy any remaining eggs within intact nests. Once you are done, collect your wooden stakes (or star posts) and wildlife camera, and don't forget to write down how many nests have been destroyed by foxes.
If you have used a wildlife camera, you need to look through all the images captured on the SD card. Please record the number of days that a fox was observed (not the number of fox images). For example, if a fox was captured 6 times in one night, it still gets recorded as a "1". Similarly, if a fox is observed once over a 24h period it also gets a "1". If no fox was observed over a 24h period, then it is given a "0". Tally the number of "1s" recorded and that will be recorded into the online survey. You will also need to record the number of nights that the camera was out there.
Before you commence the data submission process, please go through the list below for a quick data check.
Now that you have all the data, please enter into TurtleSAT mobile app or via the TurtleSAT.org.au website. We will regularly keep you updated via 1MillionTurtles.com and will be creating a National Nest Predation Survey real-time map within TurtleSAT in due course.
Please download a copy of the scientific article - How Much Long-Term Data Are Required to Effectively Manage A Wide-Spread Freshwater Turtle?. This paper is about turtle nest predation and why long-term data like this is are very important for managing turtles. We highly encourage you to have a read.
The survey is to take place on private property. You are required to conduct an appropriate risk assessment for the site. Please access and update a risk assessment here. Although foxes are considered pests, intervention by people should NOT be undertaken.
Information for Management Agencies: Management agencies can take part in the survey on land that they manage by having all participants completing this training module. A signed letter of approval allowing the survey to be conducted at the site must also be uploaded. All volunteers must demonstrate that they have completed this training module before commencing the survey. Volunteers/participants that you engage with may also be subject to your additional risk assessments/training approval processes.
As part of the Animal Care and Ethics Permit, you are required to complete a quiz based on the information on this page.
Final checks before attempting the quiz
1) A completed risk assessment (Word or PDF)
2) Management Agencies only: A letter of approval to conduct the survey on land that you manage.
3) Please read/watch all sections of this training page.
You can retake the quiz as many times until you get all questions correct. A digital certificate will be emailed to you upon successful completion. To commence the quiz, click on 'BEGIN QUIZ' button below.
Check out this video for instructions on how to dig an artificial turtle nest to place the eggs (Video length: 2:00 mins)
TIP 1: Don’t dig the holes for nests when it is raining, or after big rains. The nests tend to get soggy and don’t work well.
TIP 2: Don’t dig the holes for nests in cattle paddocks (but sheep are ok). Cows tend to knock down the remote cameras (if you are using them), and also trample the nests.
TIP 3: Don’t dig the holes for nests in places with tall grass if you can avoid it. Then the nests become really hard to find and the grass waving in the wind will set off the remote camera (if you are using one).
TIP 4: While remote cameras and star pickets are optional, the orange marker flags are absolutely necessary.
Check out this video for instructions on how to enter your NNPS data in TurtleSAT
(Video length: 3:03 mins)
Missed out on the NNPS Additional Tips and Q&A workshop 2? You can now watch the recording to catch up on all the great content and tips we covered during the session.
Missed out on the NNPS Land Managers session discussing the different ways we can work together? You can now watch the recording to catch up on all the great content and ideas discussed.